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The most misunderstood part of any project is what many architects refer to as the “Design Process”. There is usually a simple diagram with step-by-step decisions that need to be made.It looks simple, but how the design decisions are made is never clear. In reality, the truly creative design process is messy, fun, unrehearsed, exciting, very disciplined and creatively rewarding. It is a process that requires an experienced Architect who will listen to, and understand your personal story and help you translate it into forms and spaces that are meaningful to you and your family.

Our Design Process is different because it is interactive, fun and all about your dreams. It is not a list of technical drawings (that comes later), but a way to translate your dreams into reality.

  • Ideas and Dreams and Writing Your Story:
    These phases can be explored by yourself and they would apply to a kitchen remodel, a whole new home or a cabin in the woods.

  • Spaces & Places:
    This is where a skilled architect can begin to form and define the spaces (not “rooms”) that express your ideas and dreams.

  • Seeing is Believing:
    3d models are common, but are often used as selling tools and not interactive design tools. We will bring our 27” iMac to you so we can explore and understand 3d model of your home together. At any point in the process, we can email you a complete 3d model for you to walk through by yourself using a free downloadable viewer. You will always be able to review and reconsider all of you design decisions.

  • Budgets:
    We think the Budget is an important Design tool. The goal is to always get the best and most for your every budgeted dollar.

  • Building Your Home:
    Even with the best of drawings, design issues will always arise during construction and if you haven’t clearly defined your goals, decisions made during the heat of battle can compromise your dream home. The architect needs to be there to guide you through difficulties and pitfalls of the construction process.




1 - Design

Great Design:
So what is great design? Good design begins with meeting all of the Owner's physical needs and staying within the budget. But great design must capture the personal vision of the homeowner and become an expression of who they are and what they value. A truly great design, will in the end, be much more than what the Owner (or the Architect) ever imagined in the beginning.

Great design can be done in any Architectural Style and within any Budget.

The Design Team:
Creative design is a process and it begins with a Design Team that includes the Owner, the Architect and the Contractor. Like three legs on a stool, each one of these entities must do their part for a project to be successful. The design process will begin the Owner and Architect, but must include the Contractor as soon as possible.

The Owner:
The most important member of the Team! The design process actually begins the first day the Owner begins to collect ideas and images of of their home. But too often, these images prematurely become the final design rather than being the starting point of the Creative Design Process.  

The Designer:
In truth, architects vary greatly in their experience and design skills. A glossy design portfolio will not guarantee that an architect will listen to the owners needs or have the owner's best interests at heart. Will the architect simply do what he has on his last several projects? Or will he help the owner achieve a special vision of what their home deserves to be.

The Builder:
The third leg of the design stool is the Contractor. The Contractor is the one who helps determine the Budget during the early stages of the design process. This is critical because all Design Decisions need to be measured and valued against the Budget.

The Contractor can't bring the design to reality on time and within the budget without the continuous involvement of the Owner and Designer.


2 - Budget

The Importance of the Budget:
The Budget is the single most important element of the Project. It will define the the Owner's goals and the financial commitment and investment to their property. Architecturally, it will define the size and scope of the project and the quality of materials and finishes. It should not however, define the quality of the Design.

The Budget as a Design Tool:
But most importantly, if the budget is used properly it can be a very powerful design tool. To achieve the very best design, you need to know when and where to expend resources and especially when not to.

How many projects have you seen where, even with a large budget, it was obvious they just didn't spend the money in the right places? Or a project where the budget was modest, but everything was done just right and the project became something very special and was much greater than the sum of its parts? 

To achieve the best design, the designer must understand the different costs of construction and design to the budget.  

Budget vs Size of Project:
Which comes first? The Chicken or the Egg?
The questions are always the same, “How much do you want to spend?” and then “How much do I need to spend?” 
Of course you can have a contractor walk through your house and give you a guess about your remodel or you can get comparable square foot costs for a new house. But that alone will tell you very little about the budget that you need for the house you want. So how do you arrive at a budget that will achieve your needs and vision?


3 - Schedule

Every project will begin with a schedule. Unfortunately, most project schedules have only very general completion dates and lack the specific information needed to make them effective decision making tools. Or often, the Contractor views the schedule as more of a calendar to schedule the sub contractors.

In reality, when the Construction Documents are completed and submitted for permits and pricing, many decisions will often remain with regard to details, finishes and materials. These decisions need to be part of a detailed scheduled so that the budget can be refined and client design decisions made and coordinated to keep the project on schedule.

The Contractor will make and coordinate the schedule, but the responsibility of the working with the schedule belongs to everyone. Taking the time to review and update the schedule is an important task that is too often ignored.

Most architects did not graduate from architectural school wanting to design houses as their professional goal and certainly not do remodels or additions. So look for architects who also have done a variety of work-not just houses.
— Candid Comment 1

4 - Construction

Design Decisions During Construction:
Give five different Contractors the same drawings with the same client, and you will have five houses that while similar, will feel very different in their execution and level of finish. That is because no matter how complete the drawings may be, many decisions such as color and material selections will often be made during construction. This is especially true in remodels where field conditions are always unknown and often require design changes.

Unless it is a very large remodel or addition, most architects would prefer to simply give the drawings to the owner and not be involved in the construction phase of a project. This is because seeing a project through to completion is takes too much time and energy.
— Candid Comment 2

The Involvement of the Architect:
In residential construction, and especially remodels, because of budget concerns the Architect's involvement during construction is limited. This can present problems, because if conflicting design decisions are made, the overall final design will be compromised.

During the Planning and Design phase of a project there will have been many conversations and discussions about all aspects of the project. The architect's continued involvement is important so those discussions will not be forgotten. 

Remember the three legs of the Design Team stool? It is important that they be there until the project is finished.


5 - Architectural Fees

Architectural Fees:
Of all of the elements of a project, the architectural fees are the most difficult to understand and evaluate.

Unlike commercial buildings, houses (especially remodels and additions) vary hugely in style, difficulty and complexity-and so do the architectural fees.

Architectural fees vary widely by location. These are general guidelines meant only as a starting point and the amount and quality of service for the same exact fee. For more information about your home, give us a call.

Any good architect will save you more money in construction costs than any possible fee difference in hiring a ”draftsman” provided by a contractor. And you will get a much better house with a lot less headaches.
— Candid Comment 3

Calculating the Cost of Construction:
In a remodel, the Cost of Construction should be based on those area of work that the architect is involved in and responsible for. If for example, a house is re-roofed, only the portion of the roof that is part of the remodel will be included in the Cost of Construction. Additionally, the cost of unusually expensive materials will be calculated at a material cost typical to the overall quality of the project.

Not included in the Cost of Construction are carpeting, window coverings, appliances, hanging light fixtures.

Different Ways of Calculating Fees:

  • Hourly Fee:
    Architectural fees are often charged by the hour during the initial design phase after which the fee transitions to a percentage of the Cost of Construction or a Fixed Fee.

  • Fixed Fee:
    A fixed fee is typically calculated on a dollar amount per square foot of the work.Typical architectural fees range from a low of $6.00 per square foot (more of a drafting service) to a high of $20.00 per square foot for remodels and additions.

    In this economy, it is not uncommon for architectural (and construction) fees to be bid low and then additional fees attached during the course of the project. In the end, the final fee costs can be much higher with a negative effect on the overall design and construction of the project.

  • Fee Based on the Cost of Construction:
    A fee based on the Cost of Construction is more traditional and is similar to the way a contractor will charge for his services. It is especially effective for larger remodels and where design and construction solutions are not clear at the outset of the project. Fees can vary from 7% to 15% depending on the size and complexity of the project. Percentage Fees for remodels and larger projects will tend to be lower.




Why should I hire an Architect?

Hiring an architect is like hiring a personal agent, someone who will solve your problems, save you money and make your life easier. Architects have the training and experience to guide you through the entire Design and Construction process.
Design: An architect will always give you the best design that will meet your budget. 
Budget: An architect will not only provide you the best design, but will often save you more money than the actual architectural fee.
Construction: The architect with his/her knowledge of construction will help you work with the contractor to define the construction budget and during construction.

Do I need to hire anyone else?

Depending on the scope and complexity of your project, you may need the services of other professionals such as a structural or mechanical engineer, landscape designer, lighting consultant or interior decorator. An experienced Architect can perform some or all of these services, but if additional consultants are needed an architect will help you find the right one.

How far would you travel?

We currently do work in Southern, Central and Northern California. We have done work in Maui and are also doing work in Nevada where we are licensed.

Do I need a Building Permit for my project?

You may or not need a building permit, depending on the scale of your project and what your local and state building codes require. We always recommend getting a permit as a way to get proper city inspections that will meet insurance requirements and help resale values. We can answer these questions early to help you find the best strategy start your project.

Do you do 3D modeling? (seeing is believing)

Yes, we do! We use ArchiCad, an industry leading 3d Architectural BIM (Building Information Modeling) software program. Your floor plans and 3D models are built simultaneously which will allow you to see and experience your design throughout the design process. For meetings we will bring our 27” iMac to you so we can walk through your house together. Or, we can email you a 3d model (you can download a free viewer) and you can explore your house on your own.