Behind the Scenes: Who Are All These Consultants?
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 on 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 3b: Build Your Team
So you’ve found a designer (Hi!) and I’ve researched your property, and we’ve started designing your house… By now, you’ve heard me talk about outside consultants and may be wondering, who else do we need to get involved?
Most (but not all) projects require more than just the Architect and Contractor. The list of possible consultants can be overwhelming. Here’s a breakdown of potential team members, when and why we might need them…
Builder or Contractor
Finding a builder is a similar process to finding an Architect. Your best options, in order of reliability: referral from a friend, referral from another building professional (Hi!), look online and in local papers. Don’t forget to call at least two other referral sources and check their insurance!
Where: You’ll need a Builder no matter where you’re building!
When: Get the builder involved as soon as you start making big design decisions. This usually happens during the Feasibility Study* or Schematic Design*. If they’re spending more than a few hours consulting on your project, expect to pay a consulting fee. It’s well worth the money in the long run.
Managing a construction project takes time, organization, and clear communication. It is so important to designate one point person who has an understanding of all aspects of the project. They are the hub of the wheel with the other consultants and tradespeople revolving around them.
Where: Many of my clients take on this role and find it takes an astonishing amount of time. If you are already short on time, if you live far away from the site, or if you’re not totally sure what you’re doing, it’s a good idea to hire a Project Manager. Here’s an article I wrote about the importance of a Project Manager. Luckily, if you live in Maine, I offer Project Management services. Yay!
When: Get them involved before Schematic Design*. At the very very beginning. The more informed they are, the better. Actually, a good project manager should be able to help you build the rest of the team and make design decisions.
They help us establish property lines, topography, and location of existing buildings on the site. (Check out this article for an interview with my dad, the Land Surveyor.)
Where: We need a Land Surveyor for most ground-up buildings, major additions, projects where we’re getting close to the setbacks, and where there are tight zoning regulations.
When: If possible, get them involved before Schematic Design*. It’s always a good idea to start designing with an accurate Site Plan in hand. If we proceed through design without it, there’s a chance we’ll have to revise the building footprint once we finally have the survey.
They design our structure. Deliverables usually include a Foundation Plan, Floor Framing Plan, Roof Framing Plan, and Calculations.
Where: We need a structural engineer for most ground-up buildings, commercial buildings, tricky remodels, and projects in cities with complicated permit processes.
When: Get them involved immediately after Schematic Design* and before progressing to Design Docs*. They may not be able to start work until we’re finished with Design Docs* but, generally, Structural Engineers are busy and we want to get in their calendar ASAP. Also, they may have some important feedback on the Schematic Design.*
Their work is closely linked to the land survey. Some larger companies offer both services. Civil Engineers design our intervention with the site including grading, drainage, and environmental impact.
Where: We need a Civil Engineer for most ground up buildings or for projects that change a large part of the building footprint.
When: Get them involved immediately after Schematic Design*. If it’s a complex or very large project, I may ask that we involve them even earlier.
They help us figure out the HVAC system. Mechanical systems have changed significantly in the last decade and continue to progress exponentially. Now we can choose from forced air (air ducts!), radiant heat (radiators & radiant floors!), baseboard heat (boiler or electric!), heat pumps (mini or multi splits!), and more.
Old buildings “breathed” but new buildings are (hopefully) air-tight which means we have to introduce fresh air and take away the stagnant air. That is A LOT of variables and while I pride myself on understanding mechanical systems, I certainly don’t know it all. Getting an expert involved could mean significant savings on initial investment and operating cost.
Where: We don’t “need” a Mechanical Engineer for many project types but they provide valuable guidance and usually have ideas to improve the health and efficiency of your home. For most projects it’s well worth the initial cost of hiring a Mechanical Engineer.
When: Get them involved during Schematic Design*. Hopefully we’ve already discussed your HVAC preferences and are already planning to include a centralized Mechanical Closet or Room to house our systems.
Lighting Design has a huge effect on the function and beauty of your home. A thoughtful and well-informed lighting designer can make a world of difference, turning the house from cold and flat to warm and inviting. I do offer Lighting/ Electrical Plans but it’s not my full time job. I love having a Lighting Designer on board to focus on the big picture lighting and the little details. Lighting Designers’ deliverables usually include a lighting plan and fixture specifications.
Where: Wherever possible. Lighting designers greatly enhance almost every project.
When: Get them involved during Design Docs*.
Building Enclosure Specialist
Like I said, new buildings should be air tight. It’s a good idea to have an enclosure specialist when we need help figuring out the wall, roof, and foundation details. The last thing we want is a leaky enclosure which often promotes mold growth or moisture intrusion.
Where: We need a Building Enclosure Specialist for some historic buildings or for buildings with a few different building materials. For example, brick on concrete with wood frame additions.
When: Get them involved during Design Docs*. They will help determine the thickness of our building assembly.
If you build a building without thought for the interior design, you’re wasting money. We’re going to design an awesome space and, without the right finishes and furniture, it will not reach it’s full potential. Interior Design includes specifying finishes, creating material schedules for the builder, space planning, and furniture specifications. You can even get help selecting linens for your bed!
Where: I offer this service for small or straight forward projects. In fact, it’s one of my favorite parts of my job. More on that in the next blog post. But if we’re getting complicated or you need additional help, a dedicated interior designer is a good idea.
When: Get them involved during Design Docs*.
Landscape Designer/ Architect
Like Lighting Design, your landscape design has a huge effect on the durability, function, and beauty of your home. Landscape Architects’ deliverables usually include a landscape plan and specifications for the softscape (trees & plants) and hardscape (walking paths, lighting, etc).
Where: Wherever possible. Landscape designers greatly enhance almost every project.
When: Get them involved after Design Documents*. When you’re pretty solid on the building’s design and location on the site.
These companies do the in-person permit “running”. I develop a permit package, they print it, become familiar with it, and take it to the town or city for permit submittal. They pick it up after it’s been processed and let us know the required revisions. Sometimes they visit the records office for us during Feasibility Studies. They can get us deed history, old permit plans, zoning overlays, and much more.
Where: If neither you nor I have the ability or time to do this ourselves.
When: During Feasibility Studies or after Permit Docs* are complete.
It can be really helpful to know what your building may sell for in the future. Realtors can help us make design decisions based on actual market data.
Where: If you’re unfamiliar with the market and/or are interested in the resale value of your future building.
When: During Feasibility Studies or Schematic Design*.
That’s it! There are other consultants but these are the people I work with most often. I hope you learned something. :)
*If you forgot, here’s the Design Process with all the fun jargon.
Next blog post: Interiors & Finishes (fun!)