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January 22, 2011

Architect versus our Design and Development process

Historically, architects’ work was primarily on new home construction, for developers, and commercial projects. Years ago, when existing homes needed to be remodeled or expanded, either professional plans were not required, or a basic sketch was supplied by the homeowner or contractor. Today, almost all residential remodeling projects involving structural alterations or additional space require detailed plans, sealed and certified, from a licensed architect. These plans must be submitted to the building department for approval. Then the work must be performed and inspected as detailed.


One option, in the remodeling process, is to start with an architect that will design your project for you. The first step in the process is to create concept drawings that depict the proposed remodeling project. These are general plans with little detail. This is typically presented to the client as a floor plan and a simple, exterior elevation view in black and white. There is not enough information provided in these concept drawings for a remodeler to provide an accurate and complete quote to complete the project. While budgets are discussed, most architects estimate the cost of "building" the project, not finishing it. Upon the client's approval, the architect adds the detail required for the final plans, also known as construction documents.


With these plans, a remodeler can create a detailed estimate from the information in the construction documents. Often, a professional, experienced remodeler will list additional costs typically not specified in the plans. These items can include heating and air conditioning, electrical service upgrades, work required to repair or update the existing areas to blend in with the newly remodeled areas (such as drywall, molding, flooring, siding, roofing), dust protection, painting, landscaping...etc. Other remodelers choose not to reference these items and merely treat them as "extras" when they arise. Based on changes and “extras”, the initial budget discussed can vary greatly from the actual investment. Factoring in all aspects to completely finish the project and the repair the affected surrounding areas 100%, making the space ready the family's use, the new and old budget can be as much as 25-100% apart. Because of this budget discrepancy, a large percentage of architects’ remodeling plans that are paid for by a homeowner never become a reality. These plans usually cost a homeowner thousands of dollars.


Another option is to start with a remodeler that is experienced and equipped to do design and development work for you before the project begins. In our Innovative process we start with an initial consultation that has a discussion of work scope, space, use, and a detailed estimate for the complete project including the “extras” often left out by others. During the next step, referred to as Tier-2, our staff creates a full-color computer aided design of the proposed floor plan with interior and exterior 3D elevation views. These are based upon the scope and budget discussed at the initial meeting. Also included is a detailed quote broken down by project phases and 50 task categories, plus/minus options, estimated material list, full scope of work outlined, 300+ previous clients (including phone # and address) as a list for reference, accurate price pledge, price match guarantee, and two alternate design options. At this meeting, the client reviews all and chooses what features they want and what they want changed. The suggested changes are priced immediately so the client can make a clear value judgment on each option and decision without surprises or budget over runs.


Once the Tier-2 design and budget is approved, the client advances to the Tier-3 level of development. During this step the design, colors, and selections are finalized. The client selects their allowance items from our trade partners’ showrooms with our overall management and coordination. After this Tier, we now have the agreement in place and then schedule an architect visit. The result will be architect's construction documents created from the previously agreed design and budget. Since the plans are derived from our floor plans and designs, the fees, already included in the budget, are a fraction of what they would be without our development work. This process guarantees a controlled budget. The design and budget are created in tandem and not one followed by the other. A great design that is over the homeowner's budget is just a great design. A great, interactively created custom-design within the budget soon becomes a beautiful reality to be enjoyed by the family for years.