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Architecture and Design: Construction Documents 101


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


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


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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Archability CEO talks Job Hunting on Fox23 News


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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Architecture and Design: Programming 101


Architecture is a broad field that encompasses a wide variety of professionals. For those hiring a design professional, it can quickly feel overwhelming when presented with a list of available services. Having a basic understanding of what architects do and what services they can offer will help you engage in a meaningful dialogue and ask the right questions. Over the next few months, we’ll dive deeper into what architects do (and don’t do) and what each step of the design process entails so you’ll feel comfortable using the terminology and will be better prepared to discuss your next design project with a professional.

For architecture projects, the steps of the process can be broken down in several ways. For the sake of simplicity, we’ll take a look at the broad steps that lead from project inception to completion. The main phases of a project include:

  • Programming
  • Site Design
  • Schematic Design
  • Design Development
  • Construction Documents
  • Materials & Specifications
  • Bidding
  • Construction Administration

This series aims to simplify a process that is highly complicated, with each step integral to the others. Keeping that in mind, the order of the process may fluctuate or repeat depending on the project or specific needs of the client. A design professional with experience in architecture projects can help you understand which steps in the process are likely to play a larger role in your specific project. It is also good to note that code review studies, zoning/regulation studies and budgeting/feasibility studies are integral to the entire process and will occur throughout the beginning of the project timeline.

Programming – The Basics

The first step in design is referred to as programming. Programming entails discovering the client’s needs and goals and getting them down on paper in either written or graphic format (or both). For example, a client may need a new home designed to accommodate their growing family. An architect or designer would discuss the needs the client has in terms of number of rooms and size of rooms from a quantitative perspective. They would also ask questions from a more qualitative perspective to understand how the client envisions these rooms. The qualitative discussion might center on issues of natural light, views to the outdoors, noise concerns, or proximity to other rooms in the house. The balance of quantitative and qualitative components allows the architect or designer to understand the client’s needs in terms of hard numbers (square feet) and emotional expectations for how the space will feel and function

During programming, it is important to have an open, honest conversation with your architect or designer about budget, space requirements and overall expectations. Often, clients will discover that some of their desires or needs are in direct conflict with their budget or other goals. Talking about the types of materials you want to see in the design, the size of the house, and the way your current home meets or fails to meet needs will give insight as to how your project will come together.

Programming – Digging Deeper

On the surface it seems easy to come up with a list of rooms and general sizes required for each. However, effective programming will also seek the reasons behind each requirement so that if two requirements are in conflict with one another, the architect or designer can make the best decision to achieve the intended outcome. There is often a need to ‘translate’ perceived needs into actual needs. As an example, a client requesting a new house may say they need a walk-in pantry. They may also say that they need a 20’x20′ bedroom. During the programming process, it is important to ask ‘why?’ for each need or goal. While the client may request a walk-in pantry, what they actually need is a pantry that is easily accessible. An easily accessible pantry does not always translate into a separate room with a door. In fact, a designer who understands the clients true needs will be able to come up with a better design than if they are limited by perceived needs that are narrowly defined. Likewise, a 20’x20′ bedroom may be a ‘need’ simply because the client wants to accommodate a sizable collection of furniture in the room. Talking about how the furniture is used, when it is accessed and the preferences for where it is located can free the designer to reduce the size of the bedroom and accommodate the furniture in other places. These freedoms will provide the designer with more opportunity to create a space that is not only beautiful, but will meet the true needs of the client. It is often helpful to walk through the client’s existing space (whether home, office or another building) and observe how the space is actually used – making note of successes and opportunities for improvement. An exercise known as “a day in the life” is often helpful, as it goes through the paces of a typical day to discover the underlying needs and goals of the client. It is important to be honest about whether needs are true requirements or if they are preferences. The difference can determine whether a designer is allowed the freedom to create an efficient and effective design solution.

A large part of programming investigates the proximity of spaces while considering whether their proximity will meet the goals laid out for each space. For example, a client may request that their kitchen be close to the dining room and that both spaces have views to the outdoors. For the architect or designer, this means the spaces could be immediately adjacent and share a single, common view to the outside. Alternatively, these same spaces could be visually separated from one another and each have their own view to the outdoors. As with any other goal or need laid out during programming, it is important to understand the ‘why’ behind each decision. Is it important the kitchen has windows so that herbs are easily accessed, or are the views mainly for the enjoyment of the chef? A single question such as this will help determine where the windows are placed. For proximity studies, it is important to recognize the difference between adjacency and absolute positioning. It is wise to approach the design in terms of adjacency, which stipulates relationship of spaces with terms such as “near”, or “close to”. Absolute positioning severely limits the design solutions with terms of “must be to the right” or “in the center”. While some elements can be designated in absolutes, it is rare to create a successful design with more than a few absolute requirements. Absolute space positioning can result in budget concerns, inefficient spaces and failure to meet multiple goals. This is why it is important to think critically and analytically about why spaces will be located next to one another.

Finally, effective programming will not only examine the current needs of the client, but will seek to anticipate and prepare for future needs. A talented professional will recognize areas that may pose a problem for the execution of goals and will recommend solutions to accommodate future needs. This facet of programming can often be difficult, as it is the most abstract and unknown. Balancing unknowns with set budgets or property locations can be a true challenge. Often, a solution to future needs can be achieved through flexible spaces (spaces that serve more than a single purpose) and allowing room on the site for expansion.

Bubble Diagram

Bubble Diagram

A tool that architects and designers use for representing programs visually is a bubble diagram. A bubble diagram represents spaces with simple circles or squares that are sized relative to one another. Lines can connect the spaces to represent corridors or hallways, and the shapes can be grouped together quickly in multiple arrangements to see which layouts achieve the needs and goals of the client. In addition to bubble diagrams, lists of spaces with quantitative and qualitative notes will be provided as a basis for the design solution and as a metric for success.

Bubble Diagram

Bubble Diagram

Next month we will take a look at Site 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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Architecture: Product or Service?


Before you engage an architect or designer for a new project, think about what you expect to get out hiring a design professional. Beyond understanding how to choose the right design professional, there needs to be clarity in what an architect or designer does. While it is easy to simplify their job into buzz words like ‘plans’ or ‘construction drawings’, design professionals are unique in that they blend art and science together to create a finished product. One of the biggest misconceptions and points of contention within a project is whether architects provide products or services. By understanding the process a designer goes through, you’ll have a better understanding of when to hire a designer and what to expect from your interactions.

Consumers often incorrectly assume that architects merely provide ‘blue prints’ or a set of finished drawings. The problem with this assumption is that it leads consumers to believe that all drawing sets can be completed quickly and easily. There is also an assumption that drawings can be mass produced and changes will be minor because it will only involve ‘simple tweaks’ of an existing drawing. Let’s take a look at how a set of construction drawings are made to understand why these misconceptions lead to arguments over fees, misunderstandings on scope of work, and more.

To create a set of construction drawings, an architect or designer must research, study, and analyze a myriad of contextual criteria. These criteria include everything from site constraints like building set back lines and soil studies to ensure a proper foundation, to building code compliance and historic preservation rules and regulations. These examples usually require the architect or designer to meet with other professionals across many disciplines, costing the designer time and effort just to ensure that your project is even feasible to start with. After the designer has concluded from their due diligence study that your proposed building and plot of land are compatible, they can then proceed to the schematic and design development stages of the process.

Schematic design requires the architect or designer to be regularly engaged with the client as they work out a list of goals, needs and desires. While it sounds easy enough to compile a ‘wish list’, the designer carries the burden of interpreting phrases such as “I like rustic” into a spatial response that not only embodies a particular aesthetic or style, but also takes into account practical considerations like budget and material durability. Each ‘wish list’ item must be translated from the client’s thoughts (however poor or articulate) into a practical and aesthetically pleasing design solution. This requires the designer to evaluate not only the client’s wish list, but also the site’s context, the client’s deeper values, and even his or her own design philosophy. Good design will appear easy and simple – as if anyone could replicate it – but it was only accomplished through complex and thorough thought processes. Adding to the complexity of the project is the wild card: creativity.

Creativity cannot be forced, and is a process. The creative process that will eventually lead to a design conclusion and a final product (i.e. a set of construction documents and eventually a finished building) may take any length of time. This uncertainty often sets consumers on edge because most people don’t like the unknown, especially when it relates to money. This is where good communication is essential, so that both client and designer are comfortable and have a mutual understanding of the project goals and how they will be accomplished. Establishing trust early on is vital to the success of the project, so that if there is a case where more time is needed to arrive at the best design solution, the client is willing to rely on the designer’s best judgement. In the end, that trust will allow the client to receive a beautiful product and will allow them both to enjoy the service that is being provided. The level of involvement on the designer’s part to ensure a quality product explains why good designers refuse to ‘draw a set of plans’ based on someone else’s preparations. A good designer understands that not only will their reputation be staked on the project, but also their liability. The best designers will only accept work which includes their service of overseeing a project to ensure the highest level of quality.

This leads to the second misconception about architects and designers: architects provide only a service. Assuming architects exist to cater to your every desire creates a conflict of interest. The architect was hired to create the best design possible, but they cannot do that if the client prevents them from exercising their expertise and talent. The architect or designer hired for a project is there to serve – as a consultant. Too often, clients assume that the design professional is just there to take orders or follow instructions. However, this under utilizes the designer, as their expertise is wasted. Because good design appears effortless and obvious, many clients assume that it is easy; this fallacy of logic leads some consumers to think they are able to design anything for themselves and only hire an architect to perform a ‘drafting service’ of their ideas. While many clients have great ideas that can be incorporated into the project, few are experts. For this reason, it is best to rely on the expert you’ve hired for your project: the design professional.

As an example, architects must earn accredited degrees, complete a minimum number of professional work hours in multiple project types and complete a series of rigorous exams before earning their license to practice as an architect. These credentials, along with aptitude for design and practical experience qualify an architect to make decisions for your project. Clients who undermine their architect because ‘they know better’ are losing value. Imagine it this way: would you hire a top notch lawyer to represent you in court, then tell him to step aside as you argued your own case? It seems like a waste, and a foolish decision. It is highly recommended that you take the time to carefully select the right design professional for your project so that when they rely on their expertise and credentials to make decisions, you can rely on them as a professional in charge of your project.

Another point of contention is that clients often demand unrealistic deadlines. This stems from a lack of understanding of how the post-conceptual process works. A seemingly simple change such as “move the light over three feet” has cascading effects which are unseen by the client. A change such as moving a light fixture involves revising not only the drawing that shows the light fixture, but also how that light fixture is controlled by switches, whether the change will affect other ceiling components like the structure or air ducts, and whether the change requires additional materials that may not be available in time for construction. Not only this, but every drawing which referenced the light fixture must be updated to reflect the change. While some programs can automatically adjust several drawings at once, not all firms use these types of software, nor does it preclude human error or coordination errors. Time must still be allotted to careful coordination to ensure that all changes are carried through all affected portions of the project. Don’t be shocked when a ‘simple’ change costs a lot more than you expected. A good designer will explain the ramifications of each design decision and walk you through expectations as part of the service they provide.

In the end, architects and designers provide both a product and a service. It is a balance that requires excellent communication, mutual understanding and a common goal: to ensure the project has value and integrity.


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Creating from Chaos: Turning your Design Project into Reality


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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Writing an Effective Project Brief


Once your project is posted, it will get exposure.  But that exposure will not necessarily translate into interest from providers.  Getting the best results for your architectural or design projects, and generating optimum interest from providers is often determined by how best you describe your project.  The best projects are borne from briefs that are open enough to inspire ideas, while being specific enough to feel workable.

Whether you are a designer or a client, an effective project brief is the single most critical factor in ensuring a successful collaboration .  A project brief is a document focused on the desired results of project.  It should primarily focus on the results, outcomes as well as other objectives of the project.

Why Provide a Project Brief?

  • The purpose of the brief is to get everyone started with a common understanding of what’s to be accomplished. It gives direction and serves as a benchmark against which to test concepts and execution as you move through a project.
  • The ultimate responsibility for defining goals and objectives and identifying audience and context lies with the client. Another benefit of the brief is the clarity it pro¬vides you as the client about why you’re embarking on the project.

Writing An Effective Brief

The goal is to provide as much detail as possible.  You will need to come up with a list of requirements and include all relevant information meet your requirement.  After you’ve posted your project with your brief, it is quite possible that further questions will arise form provider try to get further clarification.  Below are a series of items you should be prepared to provide:

Who are you? What do you, or your business do?

A description of yourself often provides important information regarding the services and type of product you require.  Do not assume that the providers will know anything about you or your company.

What are the project goals?  Why?

  • What is the overall goal of the new project?
  • What are you trying to communicate and why?
  • How does the project differ from anything else out there?

Is there a targer market other than yourself? If so, who?

  • What are your target market’s demographics & phychographics? ie. the age, gender, income, tastes, views, attitudes, employment, geography, lifestyle of those you want to reach.

Tip: If you have multiple audiences, rank them in terms of importance.

What additional images/files/documents are needed?

  • What pictures / photographs / diagrams etc need to be used? Who is providing these?

What are the specifications?

  • What size is the design going to be?
  • What are the critical elements required?
  • Are there any limitations?
  • Where is it going to be used?

Tip: Unless you must, Don’t prescribe solutions.  You are paying for professional skills and ideas, so avoid the temptation to tell the service provider exactly what to do. Instead, be clear about what the project needs to achieve, so the designer can explore ideas. This is where you need the designer’s expertise.

Have you got a benchmark in mind?

  • You should provide the provider with some examples of what you consider to be effective or relevant results. This will set a benchmark for your provider.
  • Provide a list of things not to do, and things you do not like or wish to see in your project. This will give the provider an idea of what to avoid and will avoid disappointment on your behalf.

What Is Your Budget?

  • Providing a budget prevents providers wasting valuable time and  resources when trying to maximize your budget.
  • Providing the budget upfront also allows designers to know if the project is going to be worthwhile to complete. Make sure you are worth their time.

What is the timeframe / deadline?

  • Give your provider a detailed schedule of the project and set a realistic deadline for the completion of the work. You should take into account the various stages of the design project such as consultation, concept development, production and delivery.

Tip: Mistakes can be made if a complex job is pushed through without time to review, however, there are times when a rush job is needed, and in these cases you should be honest and upfront about it.

How will the project be delivered?

  • What Delivery Mechanisms do you prefer? If any require additional costs, make sure the provider is clear that this is covered in your project budget.
  • Describe any formatting issues you have with electronic media.

Remember, the more clues you give about your design tastes, the more likely your provider will be able to produce something close to, or even beyond your goals.

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When to Call in an Architectural Services Professional


If you’re visiting this site, there’s a good chance that you’re either an architectural services professional hoping to bid on jobs or you’re planning a project at your home or business and think you may need the assistance of someone in the field, but may still have some doubts.

I may be able to provide some guidance for visitors in the latter category as I have over 25 years of experience in commercial and residential construction management. During that time I have constructed new homes, renovated existing homes, finished basements, and been involved in home additions. I have also built professional and retail buildings, remodeled existing structures, and done numerous tenant build-outs during my lengthy construction career. What does this diverse collection of projects have in common other than featuring me as the construction manager? They all involved the services of an architectural professional in some capacity.

I consider myself to be very knowledgeable about construction practices, labor and material budgets, and working with customers and sub-contractors, but I’ll never have the flair for creative design that most architectural services professionals can bring to the table. I can recall many examples from over the years, but two that stand out took place about 15 years apart.

I had a customer in 1992 who wanted a Christmas shop retail building and because she was a major Department 56 retailer – she wanted the new building to have a Dickenseque design. I spent hours attempting to arrive at a concept the customer liked and thought I might lose the job due to her frustration at my inability to comprehend her wishes. I finally decided to take her over to visit a local draftsman I knew (this was before the Internet was popular) and within an hour he had done several sketches she liked.  The job proceeded to working drawings and the building ended up being one of the most attractive in town. Its unique design caused it to become a local landmark and it still is today.

Jump forward to 2007 when I was hoping to build a new home for a Vice-President of a very large and famous Internet company. The family had lived in Manhattan where the company had offices, but he was retiring and they were relocating to Virginia to be near their daughter. The only thing holding up the deal was their lack of confidence in my design abilities, so I employed the services of an Interior Designer with a local architectural services company. There is no doubt in my mind that their finished home will always rate as the nicest I have built. The Interior Designer offered suggestions for the project that I would have never thought of on my own.

The point of these stories is that an architectural services professional can offer input to your project that your builder or even you may miss. Whether you’re planning a large custom home, just finishing your basement, or adding some retail space – you owe it to yourself to discuss the project with a design professional.

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Archability: Not Just for Architects


If this is your first visit to Archability, you may think that you’ve stumbled into a world where a Degree in Architecture is a requirement for entry. It’s true that one of Archability’s primary functions is providing assistance to Architects searching for qualified professionals to join their teams on various projects. The site also provides a location where Architects can read about and bid on future work that may be on the horizon.  However, these services are just a small part of what Archability is all about.

Architectural Services Professionals

There are a lot of highly trained professionals working in the architectural field who don’t have a Degree in Architecture. Architectural illustrators, cad operators, designers, and many other skilled professionals provide invaluable services to Architects and can also help customers with projects not requiring a professional license. Archability is a site where Architectural Services professionals can discuss latest industry trends, building code interpretations, and bid on upcoming projects.

Archability for Homeowners

Recent economic conditions have hurt the remodeling and home improvement industries, but they haven’t ground to a complete halt and may even be showing signs of beginning a recovery in some markets. Families continue to renovate their homes, finish basements and attics, and in many cases are deciding to add on rather than move up a larger home during a difficult real estate market. Remodeling Magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value survey found that for 2010-2011 the average national cost for adding a family room was about $85,740. Creating an attic bedroom can cost you about $51,428, and if you want to add a master suite to your home, you may spend about $108,090 before you have a chance to relax in that new Jacuzzi.

When you’re spending that kind of money, making sure the job is done right the first time is important and starting with a good set of working drawings is the first step. Archability provides a platform where you can post your project and receive bids from qualified Architectural Services professionals. Just a few of the reasons for hiring a trained expert to do your drawings:

  • Creating a design with the most efficient use of space
  • Providing stamped drawings for permits
  • Proper sizing and placement of doors and windows
  • Ensuring that local and national building codes are met
  • Proper sizing of structural members

If you’re adding on to your home, an Architect or Drafts-person can design the addition so it flows into the existing structure rather than always standing out as an afterthought.

Archability for Business Owners

As the economy continues to recover many business owners may begin thinking about an expansion at their existing location or perhaps having a new building constructed. Depending on the size being considered, the location of the business and the use group classification it falls under, you may be required by your local building officials to have drawings provided by a licensed Architect.

Archability allows you to post your project and connect with Architects, Interior Designers, Landscape Architects, and others experienced in providing drawings for your type of business. You can solicit proposals from and hire from our talent pool for just the drawings or reduce your stress level by having them manage the entire project.

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