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.

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Project Manager

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.

Land Surveyor

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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.

Structural Engineer

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.*

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Civil Engineer

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.

Mechanical Engineer

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 Designer

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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.

Interior Designer

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*.

@MeldrumDesign

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.

Permit Expediter

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.

Realtor

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!)

Last Month on Social Media:

This is totally safe right?? 🤣 This story is too good not to share...  I'm a big believer in reusing materials whenever reasonable. And as we build Meldrum Design HQ, I have been pricing out a new door. 🚪 Just that morning I had been lamenting the cost 💰 of the door to husband when we really didn't need anything fancy. A used door would be fine but I couldn't find one 🧐...  THAT afternoon I was measuring a client's house and I saw two doors🚪🚪just hanging out on their back deck. Clearly leftover from a recent door replacement. They were perfectly good! 👌🏻 The client agreed to sell them to me for 1/6 the price of a new door. That day, I loaded the doors (by myself 💪🏻) into my Jeep 🚙 . Not exactly made for this kind of thing but I we made it home in one piece!  Good for my wallet 💵 AND for the environment 🌲!

This is totally safe right?? 🤣 This story is too good not to share...

I'm a big believer in reusing materials whenever reasonable. And as we build Meldrum Design HQ, I have been pricing out a new door. 🚪 Just that morning I had been lamenting the cost 💰 of the door to husband when we really didn't need anything fancy. A used door would be fine but I couldn't find one 🧐...

THAT afternoon I was measuring a client's house and I saw two doors🚪🚪just hanging out on their back deck. Clearly leftover from a recent door replacement. They were perfectly good! 👌🏻 The client agreed to sell them to me for 1/6 the price of a new door. That day, I loaded the doors (by myself 💪🏻) into my Jeep 🚙 . Not exactly made for this kind of thing but I we made it home in one piece!

Good for my wallet 💵 AND for the environment 🌲!

This is a campground! 🏕 We stayed for a few nights last month. The first photo is the bathroom 🚽 / dishwashing 🧼 / laundry 🧺 building and the other photos are the community building. I can't stop gawking at the genius roof assembly and those giant see-through doors. 🤩 Beautiful in its simplicity and functionality.

This is a campground! 🏕 We stayed for a few nights last month. The first photo is the bathroom 🚽 / dishwashing 🧼 / laundry 🧺 building and the other photos are the community building. I can't stop gawking at the genius roof assembly and those giant see-through doors. 🤩 Beautiful in its simplicity and functionality.

This gorgeous blue/black brick 🧱 looks like it should pave the entry to a beautiful building. But in Old San Juan, they use it for the roads! 💙🖤

This gorgeous blue/black brick 🧱 looks like it should pave the entry to a beautiful building. But in Old San Juan, they use it for the roads! 💙🖤

Another waterfront project! 🏠 This couple hired me to design their basement renovation. He had a basic floor plan sketch ✏️ and a good idea of their goals for the space. But he quickly realized they needed professional 🙋🏻‍♀️ help to figure out the details.  I documented 🗒 the existing space and designed a schematic floor plan they love. It's quite different from his original sketch plan but his sketch laid the ground work and helped me figure out their priorities. 👍🏻 It was a very helpful place to start.  Next I'll add more detail to the drawings and we'll apply for a building permit. 📄  If your home needs some love 🏚 and your sketchy plans need some help, 👋🏻 contact me.

Another waterfront project! 🏠 This couple hired me to design their basement renovation. He had a basic floor plan sketch ✏️ and a good idea of their goals for the space. But he quickly realized they needed professional 🙋🏻‍♀️ help to figure out the details.

I documented 🗒 the existing space and designed a schematic floor plan they love. It's quite different from his original sketch plan but his sketch laid the ground work and helped me figure out their priorities. 👍🏻 It was a very helpful place to start.

Next I'll add more detail to the drawings and we'll apply for a building permit. 📄

If your home needs some love 🏚 and your sketchy plans need some help, 👋🏻 contact me.

Living in a rural place, I sometimes struggle to connect with like-minded business professionals. 🌲 The Franklin County Chamber of Commerce has been an amazing resource. 👍🏻 I love them and apparently they like me too! 😍 I'm Chamber of Commerce famous! ⭐️

Living in a rural place, I sometimes struggle to connect with like-minded business professionals. 🌲 The Franklin County Chamber of Commerce has been an amazing resource. 👍🏻 I love them and apparently they like me too! 😍 I'm Chamber of Commerce famous! ⭐️

I made the front page! ⭐️ Our local (and awesome) newspaper 📰, The Original Irregular, gave me the opportunity to write about one of my favorite subjects... the environment 🌲! It was fun to research 🕵🏻‍♀️ something other than buildings for a change. And oh how I love to talk about recycling. ♻️

I made the front page! ⭐️ Our local (and awesome) newspaper 📰, The Original Irregular, gave me the opportunity to write about one of my favorite subjects... the environment 🌲! It was fun to research 🕵🏻‍♀️ something other than buildings for a change. And oh how I love to talk about recycling. ♻️

Sometimes you just have to get on the roof to check on progress. 🏡 This is Ben 🧔🏼 the owner & Jeff 👨🏼‍🔧 the contractor at one of our biweekly site meetings. We used this perch to discuss the various vents that penetrate our main roof.... Work doesn’t feel like work when your clients and colleagues are as cool as these two. ☺️  Do you live in Maine 🌲 and need help managing your project? Give me a call. 🙋🏻‍♀️ I'm ridiculously organized and an awesome communicator, two things often missing from construction projects.

Sometimes you just have to get on the roof to check on progress. 🏡 This is Ben 🧔🏼 the owner & Jeff 👨🏼‍🔧 the contractor at one of our biweekly site meetings. We used this perch to discuss the various vents that penetrate our main roof.... Work doesn’t feel like work when your clients and colleagues are as cool as these two. ☺️

Do you live in Maine 🌲 and need help managing your project? Give me a call. 🙋🏻‍♀️ I'm ridiculously organized and an awesome communicator, two things often missing from construction projects.

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting the Kennebec Company showroom with one of my clients. 😊 Heather and James showed us around and holy cow. The craftsmanship is just gorgeous. 😍 This kitchen display at the front door caught my eye. 👁 Look at that corner detail: a glass cabinet, appliance garage, and tea drawer. Such creativity from such lovely people. 👩🏻🧑🏻

Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting the Kennebec Company showroom with one of my clients. 😊 Heather and James showed us around and holy cow. The craftsmanship is just gorgeous. 😍 This kitchen display at the front door caught my eye. 👁 Look at that corner detail: a glass cabinet, appliance garage, and tea drawer. Such creativity from such lovely people. 👩🏻🧑🏻

I'm so proud of this before and after. ☺️ We designed and permitted a gut remodel of this 4-Unit Apartment Building 🏢 in San Diego. It's in a historic district which meant lots of extra hoops to jump through. This was a tight collaboration 🤝 with the client... who was on a tight budget 💰 AND a short timeline 📆. We hustled and got it done. 💪🏻 So worth the effort.  The triple french doors let in tons of natural light ☀️ and the porches mean each unit has its own outdoor space... so rare for an apartment.  The interior is just as cool. 😎 Check it out in my gallery.

I'm so proud of this before and after. ☺️ We designed and permitted a gut remodel of this 4-Unit Apartment Building 🏢 in San Diego. It's in a historic district which meant lots of extra hoops to jump through. This was a tight collaboration 🤝 with the client... who was on a tight budget 💰 AND a short timeline 📆. We hustled and got it done. 💪🏻 So worth the effort.

The triple french doors let in tons of natural light ☀️ and the porches mean each unit has its own outdoor space... so rare for an apartment.

The interior is just as cool. 😎 Check it out in my gallery.

Check it out! We spray foamed our basement and I am SO excited about it. 😁 I have many opinions about spray foam insulation, here are a few:  First the bad news... Spray foam chemicals are NOT awesome for the environment 🌳. And spray foam can be difficult to work with if you ever need to renovate or remodel. 🏠 If you are building a new home, I would probably recommend a different type of insulation. 👍🏻  BUT, the good news, if you have an existing basement, your heating money 💰 could go a lot further with a little spray foam. Here we have 2" closed cell on the walls and 3" closed cell at the ceiling joint (rim joist) as recommended by our spray foamer. He installed the spray foam 2' below grade on all walls. (You can see how it slopes up, 📐 following the grade.)  Our guy estimates that spray foaming our daylight ☀️ basement walls will save approximately 30% on our heating bills. Cha-ching! 🤑 And as for indoor air quality; this stuff will off-gas for about a year. Not ideal. 🤷🏻‍♀️ But our guy is educated 🤓 on this and reckons we probably get worse off-gassing with the electronics 🔌 in our house. Nothing is perfect...  If you need help strategizing your project, message me. 🙋🏻‍♀️ I have LOTS of opinions and I know the right people to get it done.

Check it out! We spray foamed our basement and I am SO excited about it. 😁 I have many opinions about spray foam insulation, here are a few:

First the bad news... Spray foam chemicals are NOT awesome for the environment 🌳. And spray foam can be difficult to work with if you ever need to renovate or remodel. 🏠 If you are building a new home, I would probably recommend a different type of insulation. 👍🏻

BUT, the good news, if you have an existing basement, your heating money 💰 could go a lot further with a little spray foam. Here we have 2" closed cell on the walls and 3" closed cell at the ceiling joint (rim joist) as recommended by our spray foamer. He installed the spray foam 2' below grade on all walls. (You can see how it slopes up, 📐 following the grade.)

Our guy estimates that spray foaming our daylight ☀️ basement walls will save approximately 30% on our heating bills. Cha-ching! 🤑 And as for indoor air quality; this stuff will off-gas for about a year. Not ideal. 🤷🏻‍♀️ But our guy is educated 🤓 on this and reckons we probably get worse off-gassing with the electronics 🔌 in our house. Nothing is perfect...

If you need help strategizing your project, message me. 🙋🏻‍♀️ I have LOTS of opinions and I know the right people to get it done.