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Architectural Services Defined: Part 1

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If you’re new to Archability, the breadth of services available to clients can be overwhelming to those unfamiliar with the field of architecture. To help clients understand the variety of services and select the best talent for their job, the next series of articles will give an overview of each service type available through Archability. Architectural services offered by contractors include: CAD, Interior Design, Specifications, Design, Landscape, Estimating, Rendering, Planning, Structural, Modeling, Urband Design, M.E.P., Animation, Photography, Web Services, Graphics, Environmental, and more.

CAD

CAD stands for Computer Aided Design, and typically consists of 2D line work (drafting) that represents a real object. Not too long ago, most technical drawings were made by hand using straight edges and pencils. Now, we have the technology which allows us to complete the same tasks in software such as AutoCAD and other similar programs. The basic premise of CAD work is that there is a need for precise, accurate line drawings that represent a real object. The drawings could represent mechanical parts, portions of a building, or anything else. Drawings are created using layers, which can control visibility, line thickness when printed and other parameters the user chooses. Common uses of CAD include floor plans, diagrams and other images which require a detailed scaled representation. For very complex projects, BIM software (Building Information Management) may be utilized. (BIM will be discussed further in Modeling). In addition to 2D work, CAD programs are also capable of completing 3D models that correspond to their 2D counterparts. Some software is better suited to this task than others, but most CAD 2D line work can be exported for use in 3D specific software if the need arises.

If you are looking for building plans, technical diagrams, or accurate detail drawings, CAD services may be right for you.

Interior Design

Interior Design focuses on space planning, furnishings and finishes. Interior design aims to ensure optimum use of space by creating efficient interior partition layouts, comfortable furniture arrangements and selecting surface finishes that will contribute to a user’s well being. Interior design takes into account the end user first and foremost, as that is who the space is designed for. The practice centers around thorough research of products and materials proposed for the space to achieve a blend of beauty, function, and sustainability. Interior designers utilize tools like CAD to create drawings of spaces and may employ the use of 3D models or physical material samples and hand sketches to convey the aesthetics they are designing. Interior designers will work closely with the client and rely on them for information on anticipated uses, number of users, and other programmatic elements. They will suggest innovative solutions to difficult problems and work to achieve the right balance for the goals at hand.

If you are looking for space planning, furniture or finish selection, interior design services may be right for you.

Specifications

Specifications gets down to the details, and complies the information on products and materials in a highly organized format. In every building project there will be a multitude of products, materials and assemblies that must be written down for purchase and installation. A specifier will compile all of the information needed to properly call out these items for a job, including their manufacturer information, finish options, and proper shipping and storage requirements. Many manufacturers supply this information, and specifiers can research the products needed and group them according to industry standards for easy reference. Compiling these information sheets into a single project binder will assist the contractor in bidding the job and provide a record of all materials included in the building. Specifications is quite technical in nature and requires a keen eye for detail to ensure the correct item is represented and works well with other specified components.

If you are looking for a compilation of items to be used in an upcoming project or need help researching and categorizing product information, specifications services may be right for you.

Join us next month as we discover the other services offered by contractors through Archability. If you haven’t yet, be sure to read all about the process and start looking for jobs or posting your projects for bids.

Brinn Miracle is an architectural intern, journalist and residential designer. She writes about architecture and design topics at her blog,www.architangent.com/blog

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Architecture and Design: Construction Documents 101

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In the next installment on understanding the role of an architect, we investigate what is included in the construction documents phase of work. We recommend starting with the first installment to get the best understanding of the whole design process. This series aims to explain all the steps of the design process in order to understand how architects add value to projects.

Construction Documents – The Basics

The process of design is often difficult to dissect and explain because each step is dependent upon all other steps in order to ensure a successful project. Design is often thought of as a continuum rather than a series of individual steps. Design, therefore, cannot be considered in a vacuum, and many parts of the design process tend to blur together. Construction documents is part of the design process that is often lumped together with materials specifications and the bidding process for the sake of simple conversation. However, specifying materials, creating a set of construction ready drawings and getting these two items priced accurately are all unique components to design. The creation of a set of construction drawings is both highly detailed and highly important, as these drawings are considered a pivotal component in executing a construction contract and getting a project built. Construction documents in a traditional sense of the term refers to the set of drawings that an architect or draftsman creates which shows the final decisions made from the steps of programming, site design, schematic design, and design development. The drawings will show things like the floor plan, exterior and interior elevations, and plenty of details showing exactly how the building should be put together. Construction documents employ the use of both graphic illustrations and technically composed sentences or phrases to convey the intention for construction. It is this set of drawings that provides a contractor or builder a guide as to how to build the project at hand. It is also the set of documents used to create final project pricing and becomes the authority on what will or will not be included in the final built product.

Construction Documents – Digging Deeper

Creating an accurate set of construction documents is of the utmost importance, as the drawings will become the authority on all future matters that arise during construction. If there is ever a question as to what materials go where, the construction documents will be referenced. Architects, designers and draftsmen must ensure that every component in their building corresponds correctly to all other components to avoid potential conflict in the field. For example, if a client requests a change be made to the location of an exterior door, the architect must verify that all drawings have been updated to reflect this change. The floor plan would be adjusted to show the door’s new location, while both interior and exterior elevations would also be adjusted to show where the door moved to. The door’s new location may create other conflicts, such as interfering with adjacent windows or requiring alteration of the roof above to provide an exterior porch or covered entry. A seemingly ‘simple change’ in design leads to a host of necessary alterations in the construction documents, and it is very important for the architect to coordinate all design elements for accuracy. This is one reason why it is important for clients to understand that changes made after approving a design development scheme can result in a multitude of time-consuming alterations in the construction documents. It is much easier to make changes during the schematic and design development phases than in the middle or end of the construction document phase. It is important to discuss how changes made late in the process will affect the designer’s fee well before arriving at the situation.

Accuracy of construction documents is highly important to the project’s success because it allows for contractors and quantity estimators to quote fair and accurate prices. A set of construction documents that is drawn neatly, clearly and correctly with an appropriate amount of details (graphic or written) assures the estimators that their prices are accurate. Poorly drawn, incomplete, or ambiguous drawing sets will cause estimators to include extra padding in their prices since they may not be certain of the efforts necessary to construct a detail as drawn, or are not confident in the drawing’s accuracy. Inflated quotes are often the result of drawings which cannot be easily interpreted and planned from.  In addition to accurate pricing, a complete and accurate set of construction documents allows for faster and more efficient construction, which saves the client time and money and allows all parties to remain profitable. If a set of construction documents is errant, or ambiguous, valuable time must be spent answering questions and providing additional drawings to clarify the designer’s intent. While it is normal to have a few Requests for Information (“RFI” – contractors will ask questions when they are unclear about something in the documents), a host of RFIs would indicate that additional time should be spent in the creation of construction documents.

Next month we will take a look at Materials and Specifications and its role in the design process. Always remember to ask lots of questions when working with a design professional. No question is out of bounds when your goal is success.

Brinn Miracle is an architectural intern, journalist and residential designer. She writes about architecture and design topics at her blog, www.architangent.com/blog

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Architecture and Design: Design Development 101

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For our next installment on understanding the role of an architect, we investigate the step known as design development. We recommend starting with the first installment to get the best understanding of the whole design process. This series aims to explain all the steps of the design process in order to understand how architects add value to projects.

Design Development – The Basics

Schematic design is all about getting ideas on paper that represent the goals outlined during programming and fit within the restraints defined through site planning. While schematic design focuses on broad goals and larger concepts, design development hones these ideas into realistic and tangible options. Think of design development as the point at which decisions are made and concepts are solidified into actions. During the course of schematic design, a client may be presented with a handful of viable options which each have various pros and cons. It is during the design development stage that the architect and client scrutinize their options and select the best one for further investigation. Once a schematic design has been identified as the best solution for the given problem, the project begins to take much clearer form. Design development is the part of the process which forces all decisions to be evaluated for their practicality and execution. This step requires extensive product research and logistics evaluation.

Design Development – Digging Deeper

During programming, goals were set out for the project and they were refined and evaluated during schematic design. In the design development stage, these goals begin to translate from a conceptual standard into tangible physical products and material choices. Materials for the exterior and interior are evaluated for their beauty, durability and price. Each component that will go into the building is considered in relation to the goals set forth during programming and to the parts it will join with. Design development often unearths a myriad of considerations that must be prioritized in order to make selections and keep the project on track. For example, an early programming goal may have been to use materials that are sustainable. The idea of sustainability encompasses a wide array of topics, from life-cycle impact to occupant health concerns. When sustainable products or finish materials are suggested for use in a project, the architect must weigh things like recycled content, product availability, durability, proximity to the job site and health impact. If the architect wants to specify a wood floor, it becomes a challenge to determine whether a locally sourced wood or an exotic wood is the best choice when considering sustainability. The locally sourced wood may reduce the carbon emissions from shipping, while the exotic species may grow more quickly than the local tree and replenish the supply faster. Likewise, the exotic species may be better for outdoor applications because it is naturally resistant to insects or weather while the local species is more cost effective. Design development is the step of the design process which forces the architect and the client to decide the final priority of their goals and refine their tastes to align with them. For many clients, the budget is the top priority, while for others, aesthetics will win hands down. It is up to the architect to research products and suggest suitable solutions that meet as many of the goals as possible. It is up to the client to remain flexible and understand that there will be a need for compromise for many decisions.

The design development step is also one in which logistics are carefully considered. As each product and material is researched and selected, thought is given to how it will impact the actual construction and implementation of the project. In an architectural project, each decision affects a host of other decisions and components. Increasing the width of a window can affect the material choice on the exterior as joints and alignments will now shift. Selecting an expensive interior wall finish may result in a lower budget for other materials later on. Designing a complicated detail where a window meets a wall can have an impact on the speed at which it will be installed. It is important that the design development stage is not rushed so that as much forethought can be given to the project as possible. Planning and forethought drive design development and has a great impact on the construction documents from which the project is built. For architects who practice a design-build business model, this is often the step at which the construction company will begin to get involved, offering preliminary cost estimates and advising on the refinement of the initial ideas. For some architects, they both design and build their projects. For others, they hire another company to construct their project but choose to involve them earlier in the process than a traditional design-bid-build method. A design-bid-build method waits to involve contractors until the entire drawing set is complete then asks several construction companies to estimate the cost of the project. It is easy to see that involving the construction team early can help shape the project to be efficient and cost effective.

Next month we will take a look at Construction Documents and its role in the design process. Always remember to ask lots of questions when working with a design professional. No question is out of bounds when your goal is success.

Brinn Miracle is an architectural intern, journalist and residential designer. She writes about architecture and design topics at her blog, www.architangent.com/blog

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Architecture and Design: Schematic Design 101

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For our third installment on understanding the role of an architect, we investigate the step known as schematic design. You can start with the first installment to get the best understanding of the whole design process. This series aims to break down the design process into smaller steps in order to understand the role of an architect and how they add value to projects large and small.

Schematic Design – The Basics

After the initial programming and site design phases, the designer will compile all of the required and desired elements into a set of conceptual sketches. As the word ‘schematic’ would suggest, these conceptual sketches aim to show the relationship between parts in an informal and loose manner. The schematic drawings may include a number of different iterations or schemes, each having a unique feature or focus. For example, schematic design concepts for an office building may show one option that features windows oriented towards sweeping views while another concept depicts windows arranged for maximum solar efficiency. Each schematic sketch or drawing will respond in some way to the list of programmed spaces, the qualitative goals, and the site on which it will be located. During the schematic design phase, many ideas will be brought up, discussed, reviewed and refined. It may take several attempts before arriving at a particular concept which seems to best embody all of the goals and requirements. Throughout the schematic design phase, the needs and goals of the client will be re-evaluated in connection with how they will best develop into real spaces. Sometimes program requirements or goals are in conflict with what is spatially feasible, and may require some adjusting. It may even be necessary to re-draft the program after making a first pass at schematic design to ensure that expectations are clearly stated based on any new design criteria discovered in schematic design.

Schematic Designs on Trace Paper

Schematic Designs on Trace Paper

Schematic design is the stage that is often the most exciting for clients. They can begin to see sketches and quick physical models of their dreams coming to life. Sometimes, clients will be inspired by the designs presented to them and consider increasing their project scope. While some schematic designs may indicate a change in scope is necessary, it is always important to refer back to the original program to ensure the project stays within the guidelines of needs, goals and budget requirements. As the project is visualized through sketches, models and inspiration images, clients can quickly get an idea of how their building will start to look.

Schematic Design – Digging Deeper

Schematic designs may consist of approximated floor plans, simple elevations, quick 3D views and conceptual rough sections. Floor plans will be drawn to scale and may include suggested interior arrangements including furnishings or finish options. The drawings will indicate the general location of fenestrations (windows, doors) in addition to any big ideas the concept was based on. Accompanying drawings which help the client visualize the main features and really ‘sell’ the concept will be included as well. For example, if a driving concept for a house was to provide abundant natural light, the schematic design would clearly indicate the window placement and possibly include perspective drawings of the windows, doors and any amazing views. These drawings could be hand drawn or provided as a 3D ‘mass model’, either virtually or in person. Mass models are a good way to understand the relationship of volumes in the vertical plane, similar to the way that floor plans help us understand the relationship of rooms in the horizontal plane. Mass models consist of simple geometric forms that represent designated areas and spaces. A mass model that shows a two-storey living room may be constructed as a tall box with a triangle roof, which could indicate a lofted ceiling underneath.

The Axis - mass model - design by Brinn Miracle

The Axis – mass model – design by Brinn Miracle

Many times, architects and designers will meet with a client multiple times during this phase. The architect or designer will present several concepts to the client, and they will discuss the merits of each. Listing out the pros and cons of each concept will help inform the refinements necessary to reach a finalized schematic design that the eventual building is based on. After several ideas have been reviewed, revised and carefully considered, the best concept is selected for design development. For some, it may be easy to select a clear ‘winner’ among the schematic designs from which to develop the project. For others, it may take many weeks or months before arriving at a conclusion. Sometimes it can even be a combination, where an overall concept is selected early, but a portion of the building is revised and debated further. In this stage of the process, the architect often has a firm understanding of how a concept will come to fruition based on their ability to conceptualize and their past experience. They will guide the client towards the best solutions and steer them away from costly or awkward concepts. It is important that communication is open and clear throughout the schematic design phase so that there is a solid foundation to build from in the next phase.

Next month we will take a look at Design Development and its role in the design process. Always remember to ask lots of questions when working with a design professional. No question is out of bounds when your goal is success.

Brinn Miracle is an architectural intern, journalist and residential designer. She writes about architecture and design topics at her blog, www.architangent.com/blog

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Architecture and Design: Site Planning 101

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For our second installment on understanding the role of an architect, we investigate site planning and design. You can read the first installment that explains programming, the basis for designing architecture. As we break down the design process into smaller steps, you’ll have a better idea of what an architect can do for you and how they add value to projects large and small.

Site Planning and Design – The Basics

For any new project, a site must be selected before any real design work can get under way. Architecture is a unique blend of art and science, and each building is designed to respond to its immediate environment. A building in the mountains that receives lots of snow will look much different than a building designed for island living. Selecting an appropriate site for your program is very important to ensuring your goals are met. While an architect can work with almost any property presented to them, it is recommended to engage an architect prior to purchasing land on which to build. An architect will research the zoning (if applicable) and give you an idea of whether the property is sized appropriately to meet your programmatic needs. An architect will show you where required set back lines exist, which may influence what you are able to build on the property. It is especially important to consult with an architect if the project is within city limits, as additional restrictions may apply to the property. Tighter regulation may exist for aesthetics, parking, setbacks, or land use. Urban infill properties also pose design challenges, as they are usually much smaller and require expert design to make everything fit efficiently on the land. An architect is also helpful in identifying properties as contenders for rehabilitation and re-use for those wanting to give new life to an old structure.

After purchasing the property, architects review the survey in detail and begin to prepare site-specific bubble diagrams that respond to the program. During this phase of the design process, the architect or designer will consider many influences that may have an impact on the design. The slope of the land can greatly affect the cost of construction, and as a general rule, the steeper the slope, the more challenging the design and budget will be. Next, one must consider neighboring structures. The new design must be sensitive to surrounding neighbors and respond to their height, style and proximity. A skilled architect or designer will take into account the views one will have inside and out. Another aspect of site design is evaluating the vegetation, and deciding the most strategic placement of the building on the site to save existing plant life. Strategy may involve avoiding steep slopes, saving mature trees, or maximizing the enjoyment of a natural feature such as a stream or lake.

Site Planning and Design – Digging Deeper

While it may seem easy to select a piece of property and position a new building on it, there are details that impact the design further. For example, one may purchase property that has little to no slope, with the idea that it will be ‘easy to build on’. However, soil analysis must be done to ensure a proper foundation is designed. Dirt may rest at the surface, but under it may be rock, clay or a high water table. Each of these presents issues when it comes time to drill piers, set foundations or dig out a basement. In addition to soil type, architects must consider flood plains and potential drainage issues. Consideration must be given for how water moves across the property, and care must be taken to avoid sending additional run off to neighboring properties. For urban sites in low-lying areas, it is important to anticipate future development which may cause additional runoff to collect on the site.

In additional to immediate natural features or hazards, an architect must consider the type of structure in relation to common natural disasters. Buildings in seismic zones must have proper structural bracing to withstand earthquakes which may add to the cost of the project. Buildings in hurricane-prone areas must be built to withstand the forces of wind and driving rain. The climate also plays a role in deciding on material choices, which in turn impact the aesthetic of the building. Hot and humid climates will receive different material treatments than climates which are very cold or very dry. The architect or designer will evaluate the path of the sun across the site, as well as any prevailing winds or consistent breezes. For those interested in creating a sustainable design, taking advantage of a site’s natural features is the best way to achieve sustainability.

An aspect many new property owners neglect is access to utilities. While this is rarely a problem in urban settings, it can add cost to rural project that require extensive new infrastructure. Urban projects have their own difficulties, in that utilities can become obstacles that buildings must go around. Each utility has set back requirements that prevent structures from getting too close. Providing proper room around existing utilities is vital for future maintenance and construction safety.

Finally, architects will guide owners through the permitting and review processes. Too often, people try to save money by creating drawings too quickly and without proper review, only to be denied building permits later on. An experienced architect will know when to bring consultants on board and will have drawings reviewed by appropriate departments so that the final drawings will go through the permitting process efficiently. For challenging sites that have many restrictions or potential problems, it is always good to consult the local planning department early in the process.

Next month we will take a look at Schematic Design and how it relates to the design process. Always remember to ask lots of questions when working with a design professional. No question is out of bounds when your goal is success.

Brinn Miracle is an architectural intern, journalist and residential designer. She writes about architecture and design topics at her blog,www.architangent.com/blog

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Archability CEO talks Job Hunting on Fox23 News

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Let’s face it, times simply aren’t what they used to for job seekers.  Changes abound from how work is now being delivered to how employees are sought after.

What sets today’s job environment different from previous ones?  How can new grads make the most of today’s evolving marketplace and gain employment? Archability CEO, Livingstone Mukasa, was recently invited to sit down with with Fox23 NewsStephanie Grady to share some thoughts.

Here’s how it went:

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Archability Launches @ DEMO

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As you may have noticed, things have been rather quiet here at Archability. The past several weeks have been devoted to rolling out our new look and some new features, but most importantly, we’ve been gearing up for our public launch, which we’re please to announce was last week.

Archability was invited to join a pool of 70 companies – with the passion, fortitude and insanity of launching a startup – to launch at the DEMO Sping 2012 Conference, in Santa Clara, California.  This bi-annual event, held at the Hyatt Regency – Silicon Valley,  gives startups the opportunity to launch their products in front of an audience of innovators, influencers, investors, and journalists.  For us, this is a not only great launchpad but a way to meet other smart, striving entrepreneurs who’ve taken similar journeys.  Needless to say, we’re thrilled to have received the golden ticket to DEMO Spring 2012.

The atmosphere exuded at the three day event was unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. The crowd was overwhelming in more ways than one.  We certainly felt the love during our presentation, and at our demonstration station. Thanks to all who popped by to speak to us and let’s all keep in touch!

Sadly, we didn’t get to do much sightseeing in Silicon Valley, but we did have a lot of fun putting the finishing touches on the new product and practicing the demo that was unveiled to a very receptive audience.

Once on stage we had six minutes to wow the crowd of venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, journalists and tech enthusiasts. We weren’t too sure if a guy with a big cane would walk out and yank us off if we went over our allotted time, so the choice was made to frame Archability within the context of a short personal story.

Here’s how it went:

Let us know your thoughts.  We are excited to share what we have. We believe we’ve created a product that widens the accessibility of architectural services.  And in doing so, provides where those with these skills can access a steady flow of projects.

We’ve gathered loads of feedback from all of you amazing folk about what you’d like to see, and what you’d like improved.  Your opinions are important.  We will continue listening and working hard behind the scenes to make Archability more relevant and useful.

“DEMO remains the premier launch pad for new information technology products, presenting carefully vetted, market-changing products to an audience of media, investors, early adopters, market thought leaders, corporate acquirers doing M&A work and senior IT buyers from the enterprise,” says DEMO Executive Producer and VentureBeat Editor-in-Chief Matt Marshall in his Archability invitation to Demo at DEMO.

DEMO is produced by IDG Enterprises in conjunction with VentureBeat.

Archability DEMO Spring 2012 Media Release.

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Creating from Chaos: Turning your Design Project into Reality

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Most people who visit the Archability site and read the blog have at least one design project they would like to implement either now or in the future. The type of project may include a newly landscaped backyard with defined outdoor rooms. For some, it might be a kitchen or bathroom remodel project that includes simple updates or complete gutting. Others may have the desire to add another room or floor to an existing house. Still others may have dreams of designing and building a custom home on a new piece of property.

Whatever the design project may include, each one has a unique set of challenges and obstacles that must be addressed and overcome to see the project through to fruition. These challenges can often become overwhelming for an untrained layman, and may frustrate even the most determined homeowner to the point of giving up on the dream entirely. Whether a lack of vision prevents progress or unforeseen obstacles spring up during the course of implementation, a project is at risk of failure without the proper tools and team in place. To ensure your next project becomes a reality, enlist the assistance of a trained and educated design professional.

Often times when a project is intimidating, it is a sure sign that you’re in over your head. This is an indication to consult a trained design professional who can guide you through the details of your project. Whether the designer serves as an occasional advisor, or manages the project from start to finish, they can ease any insecurity you may have. A talented designer can view your project from a fresh perspective and provide educated solutions that are both creative and functional. Most designers are able to create a design response once thought impossible due to their expert knowledge and experience. These design professionals can find order within chaos and turn your lemons into lemonade:

Landscape architects are experts in creating inviting outdoor spaces. Through the proper use of scale, proportion and appropriate plant species selection, they can turn a patch of dirt into an oasis. If your backyard is looking bleak, sign on with a landscape architect and watch your dull dirt get transformed into your perfect paradise.

Interior Designers can refresh an outdated space and make it feel new with ease. They can reinvent and repurpose existing objects so that budgets are met and waste is done away with. If your home’s interiors are stuck in the last millennium, bring in an interior designer to give your home a make-over.

Architects, remodelers and building designers can evaluate current use patterns and habits and tweak them to improve efficiency of space. Even a small spatial change can translate into a huge impact on the way we live our lives. If you feel that your spaces just aren’t working well, sit down with one of these professionals to evaluate how some changes will improve functionality.

Architects and building designers can create a custom house design tailored to the way you live. By balancing current habits with needs and wishes, they can produce a creative and beautiful solution that meets both expectations and desires. If your dream is to build your own home, consult with an architect or residential designer to discuss how your dream can become a reality.

Professionals across all these disciplines view design problems and challenges as a framework for their solution. While it may appear to be a daunting task or impossible obstacle to the average person, a designer thrives on creating within limitations. Hiring a design professional to tackle your next project will open up a world of possibilities. Larger projects outside the scope of residential design may enlist the services of design professionals across multiple disciplines. For a guide on choosing the right design professional for your job, be sure to read our previous article detailing the process.

 

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