Behind the Scenes: Designing A Home
People often ask me: What is the design process? How do we get from an idea to a permit-approved set of plans? The answer varies depending the project’s location, size, and type. But there are few common denominators. Enter… drum roll please!…
Behind the Scenes! A series of posts to help you understand what I’m doing back here. You know, behind the scenes.
Phase 3: Design That House!
I could talk about this for hours. Literally. But I’m going to try to keep it quick and easily digestible. Here are the basic steps:
I’ll get your existing property into the computer (AutoCAD, yay!). For new homes, I’ll need property lines, Google Maps, and hopefully we have basic topography. For remodels, I’ll measure every inch of the house as-is. This includes wall locations (duh), window & door dimensions, ceiling heights, cabinetry, plumbing, and utility locations. These measurements will help me digitally “build” the existing condition.
2. Schematic Design (SD)
We’ll communicate back and forth until I have a solid idea of what you’d like to achieve. Then I’ll spend some time designing your schematic Floor Plans. Depending on the project, this phase may also include a schematic Site Plan, Demolition Plan, Elevations, and Sections.
These will have just enough information for you to understand the design. Minimal notation and almost no dimensions.
Then we’ll have a meeting (usually a video chat) and I’ll walk you through the space. We can talk through the plan and then you can stew on it for a little while. We’ll go back and forth with revisions until we have a design you love.
This part of the process can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years (seriously).
3. Find a Contractor & Other Consultants
If you read this article, you know I believe in getting the contractor involved very early. Sometimes even before schematic design. But usually it’s nice to have a basic design to guide your contractor interview.
I won’t go into detail on hiring a contractor because it deserves an article of it’s own. Stay tuned, that’s next time!
Along with finding a contractor, we’ll need to get our other consultants on board: structural engineer, civil engineer, energy consultant. The list is endless but don’t worry, I’m here to help figure out who we need.
Once you’ve welcomed your choices onto the team, they’ll be part of the next step...
4. Design Documents (DDs)
Now it’s time for more detail. For most projects (except the very simple ones), I’ll draw up the Site Plan, Demolition Plan, Elevations, and Sections (if that wasn’t done in SD) as well as a Roof Plan and Electrical Plan. At some point, there will also be a Dimension Plan. If you’ve hired me for Interior Elevations, we’ll get into those too.
We’ll also talk in detail about your enclosure (wall, roof, & floor assemblies), your mechanical system (HVAC), and your other utilities. We will have touched on it in SD but now it’s time to make decisions.
The contractor will get their chance to weigh in on all this and usually they provide invaluable recommendations. This is the time to ensure we’re at or below your target budget. *Many contractor do not charge for these consultations. I think that’s crazy. If they’re spending more than a few hours helping guide our decisions, they should be compensated for that time… Ok, stepping off the soap box now.*
DDs should give you a comprehensive vision of our design. Usually, they’re detailed enough for the contractor to start work on nitty-gritty pricing. But as with SD, there will be more back and forth between us until we get the details right.
Additionally, I will wrangle our other consultants’ drawings and bundle it all up into one pretty package.
For some projects, where permits are a breeze & the contractor knows what they’re doing, skip to step #6.
This part of the process can take anywhere from a couple months to a couple years (yep, seriously).
5. Construction Documents (CDs)
If you live in a place where permits are tough or the builder needs extra guidance, we start in on CDs. Basically I add a crap load of detail (technical term) to these drawings. Depending on the project, this may include Construction Details, Fire Rating Details, Exterior Material Specification, and the many little notes required by code.
Luckily, not much is required from you for this part. I retreat into my AutoCAD trance and come out whenever I have questions for you.
Depending on how busy I am, this stage can take a while. Anywhere from one month to a few months.
If you live in a place where building permits are relatively easy, usually the contractor does all the permit legwork. They’ll let me know if there are any edits or design issues.
But if you live in a place where permits are a pain in the tail, prepare yourself for a frustrating process. I’ll put together a submittal package for whoever is “processing” the permit. Usually you or the contractor. We can also hire a permit expediting company.
We submit for permit, we get comments (requests for revisions) back. We revise and resubmit for permit. Sometimes we get another round of comments. And so on. Hopefully, a couple rounds of revisions get us our permit!
Depending on your building department, this process can take anywhere from 1 month to 1 year (for real).
And that’s it! Easy right?
FYI, not every designer/ architect does it this way. I’ve spent the last several years tweaking this process and I believe it to be the most efficient for most of my projects. Not all, but most.
Has this got you thinking about your next building project? Contact me to see if we might be a good fit.
Next Step: Building Your Team