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Advice

The Architectural Registration Exam (ARE)… the ARE is the professional licensure examination adopted by the 50 states of the United States, the District of Columbia, and three U.S. territories. The ARE attempts to assess a candidate’s knowledge, skills, and abilities required for providing competent services in the practice of architecture. A lofty goal.

During my early employment in architecture firms, the seasoned architects often spoke of their ARE ‘war’ stories. Prior to 1997, those taking the ARE were required to take nine divisions over a four-day period and the exam was only offered once a year in major cities across the United States. The exam was via ‘paper and pencil’ in a studio like setting. To me that sounded much like architecture school and a lot of fun! It also seemed to be an accurate representation of what an architect does, or will be doing. Working under pressure, having to produce, produce accurately, and within deadlines.

However, I didn’t take the exam until the early 2000’s, and by then the exam was in the midst of various revisions and became computer based. While the ARE was becoming more streamlined, it was also becoming more of a task to be completed rather than a test of ones’ competency. I mistakenly assumed I required a lot of ‘real world’ experience such that I could be tested on my abilities of being an architect. As such, I learned as many aspects as I could about the profession. I studied real world examples of the AREs’ ‘testing’ divisions. I spent far too long thinking I needed more time to ‘learn’ to be an architect before I could take the ARE. I was wrong, very wrong. The ARE was merely a task to complete along the way to becoming an architect. It seemed to have lost the aspect of a ‘test’ of ones’ abilities to practice architecture. It was a task that one had to master to pass. It wasn’t a true test of any sort of skill or competency; it was a task of memorization.

When I was studying for the ARE, materials were readily available that had much of the ‘test’ and questions verbatim for one to memorize. I’m guessing this remains true. It was a ‘test’ about being able to know how to ‘test.’ No matter test or task, there is information within the ARE that needs to be known. One needs to demonstrate the ability to know such. However, while the ARE is an important step to becoming an architect, it’s not nearly as important as you think it is prior to passing.

Being years removed from the ARE, I’m not sure the current state of the ARE. I’m going to assume it’s become even more of a task. If I’m wrong and the ARE has reverted back to being more of a test, then I’m happy to be mistaken. Either way, my advice is the same… complete the task as soon as you can such that your relevant and real testing in the profession can begin. Do not let the ARE intimidate you. Study for the task, complete it and move on. Don’t overthink it. Once you’re an architect, you’ll be tested continually with real consequences. You’ll be far more proud of yourself and these tests then the task of the ARE.

 

Design Task On,

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* This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects select a topic and the group all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs and read varying takes on the topic. This month’s topic is ‘The Architectural Registration Exam.’ To read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:

 

Matthew Stanfield – FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
What is the Big Deal about the ARE?

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
what A.R.E. you willing to do

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Take the architect registration exam, already

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
ARE – The Turnstile

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
the architect registration exam

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
I forget

Drew Paul Bell – Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
The Architecture Registration Exam

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
What is the Benefit of Becoming a Licensed Architect?

Kyu Young Kim – J&K Atelier (@sokokyu)
Every Architect’s Agony

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
To do or not to do ?

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Passing the Test

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Part 3!

Ilaria Marani – Creative Aptitude (@creaptitude)
How to Become a Licensed Architect in Italy

Jane Vorbrodt – Kuno Architecture (@janevorbrodt)
Seven Years of Highlighters and Post-it Notes

There are very few words that I actively try not to use. However, ugly is one of them. It’s far too easy to say “I don’t like that house, it’s ugly!” It’s difficult to say “I don’t like that house because…” Much like beauty, ugly is in the eye of the beholder and is extremely subjective. However, there are a few objective things to address when designing your house to curb potential ugliness. Well, actually… they’re border line subjective as well.

ug-ly • [uhg-lee] • ADJECTIVE

1. very unattractive or unpleasant to look at; offensive to the sense of beauty; displeasing in appearance.

2. disagreeable; unpleasant; objectionable.

3. offensive to the sight.

No two clients have the same needs or wants for their house and each house has its own unique set of circumstances that need to be resolved or addressed. However, a few ‘rules’ are omnipresent- materials, massing, scale, and proportion. These are means/methods available to an architect to assist in the development of their designs. Addressing them will go a long way to creating an aesthetically pleasing house. Keep in mind, these ‘rules’ are typically broken and remain successful. However, one must first know the rules in order to bend/break them successfully.

Materials should be limited to three (3) on the exterior of a house. Materials should be appropriate for their use- don’t wrap columns in vinyl siding. Not counting the foundation, no more than two (2) wall materials should be visible on the exterior of a house. This stems from simplicity and ease of construction. Use of more materials creates an aesthetic of fragmentation and no sense of overall design cohesion. This in turn leads to visual distraction. The use of fewer materials allows focus on the composition of the design and is typically an indicator of a confident architect. Employ fewer materials executed to a higher degree of proficiency.

Massing should be simple. No matter the aesthetic of a house, the massing should be composed of simple forms. This will typically translate to building shapes that are efficient and sensible. There should be a hierarchy of massing. Most houses are composed of more than one single mass. The most important, or most public part of a house, should be the most prominent mass of the house. The massing of a house should rapidly and clearly show two things- the main ‘body’ of the house and the location for people (not cars) to enter the house.

Scale refers to how one perceives the size of the house elements or spaces in relation to other elements and spaces. Both building scale and human scale need to be addressed. Building scale is how the size of building elements relate to each other. Human scale is how the building elements and spaces relate to the human body. Two differing scales can be used simultaneously, and an architect can alter ones perception by use of scale. There are no hard-fast rules for scale, but a designer must be aware of both building and human scale in order for a successful design.

Proportion refers to the relationship of one element to another in terms of quantity, size, or number. It’s the comparative relationship of differing parts to the whole. There are various proportion ‘devices’ developed over the years to aid architects and guide them in their designs… the Golden Section, Modular Man, the ‘Ken’…etc. Various proportions can be found throughout nature. It makes sense to design a house in harmony with proportions that naturally occur in the world. Proportion applies to all aspects of the design of a house. Proportion should not be used arbitrarily; simple harmonious proportions should be used throughout the design of a house.

It’s beneficial to know why you don’t like something so you don’t repeat the same thing. The next time you find yourself thinking/saying a house is ugly, rather than say it’s ugly, try and describe what it is you find displeasing about the house. It’s highly likely you can trace it to a lack of understanding of materials, massing, scale, and proportion.

 

Design On,

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* This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects select a topic and the group all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs and read varying takes on the topic. This month’s topic is ‘Ugly.’ To read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:

 

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
ugly is ugly

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Ugly Architecture Details

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
unsuccessful, not ugly: #architalks

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Ugly is in The Details

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
Ugly

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Ugly, sloppy, and wrong – oh my!

Eric Wittman – intern[life] (@rico_w)
[ugly] buildings [ugly] people

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Is My House Ugly? If You Love It, Maybe Not!

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
the ugly truth

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
A Little Ugly Never Hurt Anyone

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Ugly or not ugly Belgian houses?

Ilaria Marani – Creative Aptitude (@creaptitude)
ArchiTalks #30: Ugly

Larry Lucas – Lucas Sustainable, PLLC (@LarryLucasArch)
Die Hard: 7 Ugly Sins Killing Your Community

Within ‘employment,’ moonlighting means working a second job. In particular one after normal business hours in the evening or night. Since the work is typically performed at night, when the moon is out, it’s known as moonlighting. I didn’t do any research, but I’d guess you could tie a strand of the terms history back to moonshiners… working on something prohibited under the light of the moon. The thought of an architect moonlighting to garner clients and recognition in hopes of striking out on their own will forever be within an architects’ psyche. Moonlighting in architecture connotes a romanticized notion- the ‘gifted’ architect being able to do as they please for a client without the constraints of their employer. The reality is far from that.

I’m not an advocate for an ‘architect’ moonlighting as an ‘architect’. If you do it a few times throughout your career, no big deal. However, if it’s something you regularly do, then it’s not okay. Architecture is a tough profession, it shouldn’t be taken lightly or attempted in a few nighttime hours after your day job. It demands focus. You change when you moonlight- your attention span is reduced, your energy levels go down, the quality of your work suffers, your relationships with others aren’t all they could be, your stress levels rise, etc. You’ll also create convoluted liability issues. You can try to convince yourself otherwise, but the truth is the truth. The reality is moonlighting is not fair to you, your employer, or the people you’re moonlighting for.

Regardless of my personal thoughts, the lure of moonlighting for an architect is typically too much to resist. Architects will continually be tempted and many will moonlight. If you choose to moonlight as an architect and you’re currently working for/as an architect, I offer these suggestions:

1. Confirm your employers policy on moonlighting, most are very strict on such practices- meaning they don’t allow it.

2. Be sure you’re moonlighting client is aware that you alone are responsible for the project and they indemnify your current employer for any and all- have it part of your contract.

3. While you’re on your employers ‘clock,’ do not work on your moonlighting project at any time, not even during a lunch break- no sketches, doodles, phone calls (even on your personal phone), no site visits, no nothing.

4. Do not use anything of your employers for your work- no pens, paper, plotter, computer, no nothing.

If you’re regularly busy with your own moonlighting clients, take the plunge and strike out on your own- you’ll have much more freedom than the moonlight hours grant- and all your previous changes will revert back to your normal self.

 

Design On,
(hopefully during daylight hours)

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* This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects select a topic and the group all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs and read varying takes on the topic. This month’s topic is ‘Moonlighting.’ To read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
The Ironic Blasphemy of Moonlighting and what Architects are Missing Out On

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
moonlighting more than an 80s sitcom

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Moon(lighting) changes with the seasons

Collier Ward – One More Story (@BuildingContent)
Moonlighting

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
hustle and grind: #architalks

Michael Riscica AIA – Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
Moonlighting for Young Architects

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@BuildingsRCool)
Architects do it All Night Long

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Starlight, moonlight – tick tock

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Is Moonlighting Worth It? Probably Not, But We All Try.

Kyu Young Kim – J&K Atelier (@sokokyu)
Dancing in the Moonlight

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
Moonlighting: or Why I Kept My Dayjob.

Tim Ung – Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
An Alternative to Moonlighting as a Young Architect

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Architalks 28 Moonlighting

Gabriela Baierle-Atwood – Gabriela Baierle-Atwood (@gabrielabaierle)
On Moonlighting

Ilaria Marani – Creative Aptitude (@creaptitude)
There is no moolighting. It’s a jungle!

Jane Vorbrodt – Kuno Architecture (@janevorbrodt)
Crafted Moonlighting

 

“I’m not paid to be a role model. I’m paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court.” – Charles Barkley

Those that know me personally would probably revise Barkleys’ quote to:

I’m not paid to be an architectural mentor. I’m paid to solve the clients’ design problems, provide clear and concise construction documents, and be profitable while not compromising the client/project goals.” – Keith

Truth is, as an architect I provide mentorship whether or not I consciously choose to or not. If someone seeks me for mentorship, I will assist wholeheartedly. I’m blatant that my ‘style’ of active mentorship is along the lines of ‘tough love;’ I don’t baby sit nor hand hold. That’s a waste of my time and does nothing to truly educate the mentoree. For those that don’t actively want to be mentored, it happens anyway via redlining their work and participation in meetings, site visits, etc. So what is mentorship, mentorship is:

1. Figuring out the best way to achieve a given a task/end goal. It’s not being given a task/end goal and every step/process along the way to achieve such.

2. Looking for, and experimenting with, steps/processes to follow to achieve a particular goal; asking a lot of questions. It’s not being told the steps/processes to follow nor is it looking to ask one specific question in hopes that answer catapults you to the end goal.

3. Presenting various solutions/information for review and discussion. It’s not presenting a single solution and asking “Is this what you wanted?”

4. Reviewing/red-lining your own work prior to having someone else review- if you can find your own mistakes, chances are you won’t make them again. It’s not simply handing your work over for others to find your mistakes/omissions.

5. Learning and learning how to learn. It’s not about being definitively told what to do and most importantly, not being told specifically how to do it.

Keep in mind; this occurs while I (or your mentor) keep a loose ‘tab’ on you. It sounds a bit harsh and even vague, perhaps it is. You’ll be allowed to err, but not in an abysmal manner to the project/client. The end goal of a successful ‘mentorship’ is an individual who can think for themselves and not rely on others to decidedly inform them of all they need to do.

Learning and growth are stagnated when one is sheltered in their comfort zone and need to be instructed on every task and how to achieve. If that’s your belief of being mentored, congratulations you’re on your path to being a draftsperson. If that’s what you want, fine, they will always be needed in the AEC profession. However, if you want to be an architect, you’ll need to be able to think for yourself and not rely on others to explicitly inform you of your tasks/means/methods; the quickest way to achieve such is through mentorship.

 

Design On,

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* This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which Bob Borson of Life of an Architect selects a topic and a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs. This month’s topic is ‘Mentorship’– to read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
This is NOT Mentorship

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
ArchiTalks: Mentorship

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
Mentors, Millennials and the Boomer Cliff

Mark R. LePage – EntreArchitect (@EntreArchitect)
Influence

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
ArchiTalks: Mentorship

Collier Ward – One More Story (@BuildingContent)
Mentorship

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
teach them the way they should go: #architalks

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Bad Mentor, Good Mentor

Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
The Top 3 Benefits for Architects to Mentor and to be Mentored

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
I’ve got a lot to learn

Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia)
Gurus, Swamis, and Other Architectural Guides

Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
The Lonely Mentor

Drew Paul Bell – Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
Advice From My Mentor

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Mentoring with Anecdotes vs. Creating a Culture of Trust

Samantha R. Markham – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
Why every Aspiring Architect needs SCARs

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
Mentorship : mend or end ?

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
My Mentor

Tim Ung – Journey of an Architect (@timothy_ung)
5 Mentors that are in my life

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Mentorship

Gabriela Baierle-Atwood – Gabriela Baierle-Atwood (@gabrielabaierle)
On Mentorship

Ilaria Marani – Creative Aptitude (@creaptitude)
Mentorship

I’m going to keep this simple, because… well… it’s actually this simple. If you’re anticipating constructing a new house or renovating your existing house, I’m offering some advice. While this is geared towards residential projects, the same holds true for almost any building project. My advice is:

Hire an Architect- An architect’s value is problem solving, addressing your needs/ wishes/ budget/ schedule, and complying with local building and zoning codes- all while designing an aesthetically pleasing efficient house. Architects help you design/discover a house that works for you and fits your individuality and preferences. The value of our services is occasionally related directly to cost savings. However, typically our value is in questioning, planning, clarification, detailing, and ‘solidifying’ numerous moving ‘parts’ into an efficient cohesive design- which ultimately results in cost savings to you.

Actively Participate- When it comes to designing your house, as an architect I will have strong preferences and recommendations. However, ultimately it will be up to you to make decisions. An architect will not force a design on you which you don’t want; if they do try, than you didn’t follow my series about ‘Hiring an Architect.’ We will make recommendations; present differing options, and offer our professional opinion- which is why you hire us. However, if you’ve seen something you like, show it to me… think something can be done a better way, challenge me… keep open dialogue flowing; your project will benefit from such. Ultimately you make the decisions- we work for you.

Be Honest- If you’re not honest with yourself and all involved with your project, you’re setting up for disappointment. Money doesn’t magically appear in a project, if you cannot afford something, don’t need something, don’t like something, or don’t understand something… speak up and have it explained/ clarified. It’s tough, but above all else, you need to be honest with your budget. You’re paying for the project and you want the most value you can get, having honest discussions is crucial to achieving such.

Have Trust- I can’t state this enough, you need to TRUST your architect. You need to be comfortable in talking honestly with them… see previous advice. You should be able to envision having meals with this person and inviting them to a party- architects love parties! You don’t have to be best friends with your architect; you do need to like them though. You need to have confidence in their integrity and skill set as an architect, that they are your advocate, and have your best interests at the forefront.

Actively working with an architect you trust and can be honest with, will allow you to make well informed decisions about your project. Architects will listen to your needs/wants and in the end you’ll have the house you wanted because your architect was able to assist you in bridging the gap between your vision and reality. You’ll end up with a house that fits you and your lifestyle.

 

Design On,

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* This post is part of the ArchiTalks series in which Bob Borson of Life of an Architect selects a topic and a group of ‘blog-ing’ architects all post on the same day and promote each other’s blogs. This month’s topic is ‘Advice for Clients’– to read how other architects interpreted the topic please click the links below:

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
ArchiTalks: Advice for Working with an Architect

Jeff Echols – Architect Of The Internet (@Jeff_Echols)
Advice for ALL Clients

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
advice to clients

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
ArchiTalks: Advice for Clients

Collier Ward – One More Story (@BuildingContent)
Trust Your Architect

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Advice List — From K thru Architect

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
advice for clients

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
A Few Reminders

Jonathan Brown – Proto-Architecture (@mondo_tiki_man)
Your Architect is your Advocate

Eric Wittman – intern[life] (@rico_w)
[tattoos] and [architecture]

Emily Grandstaff-Rice – Emily Grandstaff-Rice FAIA (@egrfaia)
Changing the World

Drew Paul Bell – Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
Advice for Clients

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Questions to Ask an Architect in an Interview: Advice for Clients

Samantha R. Markham – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
Dear Client,

Kyu Young Kim – J&K Atelier (@sokokyu)
Advice for Clients

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
Advice for clients

Rusty Long – Rusty Long, Architect (@rustylong)
Advice for Clients

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
Advice for Clients

Gabriela Baierle-Atwood – Gabriela Baierle-Atwood (@gabrielabaierle)
What I wish clients knew

I never had any great desire to become a sole-practitioner architect; it came out of survival instincts. The economy was bad and my daughter likes to eat and have clothes. So a few fees here and a couple of forms there and I had my legal entity to officially practice architecture. I was off and running to secure my own work. ** cue wavy dreamy sequence*** Ah, that was 2009… seems like yesterday… but I digest. I know, I know sounds awesome… well for the most part, it is! So what are my top +10 for being a sole practitioner, here you go:

+1. I get to resolve all the ‘bad’ issues that arise- it’s the best learning experience.

+2. No random principal comes to me at the 11th hour saying “I’m not sure I agree; let’s give this scheme a try.”

+3. I can refuse projects that aren’t a good fit.

+4. I rise and fall… I get credit for both!

+5. I get full authority on creativity… as well as veto power!

+6. I can go mountain biking or mow the lawn whenever I have to clear my head.

+7. When I take pens and trace from the office, no one knows but me… shh.

+8. All my days-off for vacation requests are approved.

+9. I’m in control of where my practice goes… such as my design value menu concept.

And the final, and best reason I enjoy being ‘da man’…

+10. It allows me to be more actively present in my daughter’s life, attend martial arts classes, field trips, volunteer at school, etc.

With all the positives, much like everything in life, there are also negatives to being a sole practitioner. However, the majority of negatives can be resolved relatively easily. Here are my 10 for being a sole practitioner:

1. When I have a lunch and learn I have to buy lunch and be the teacher.

2. No big firm resources- books, software, supplies, etc.

3. No one to bounce ideas off of or offer constructive criticism (Facebook and Instagram comments don’t count).

4. I’m the architect, receptionist,  business development guy, PR department, admin department, good cop, contract writer, AR/P department, educator, bad cop, night cleaning crew, IT guy, intern, model maker, lackey, CAD/BIM manager, CA guy, marketing department, general whipping boy, spec writer, etc.

5. I have to buy trace, scales, and sharpies.

6. No intern to pass grunt work off to mentor.

7. No Friday morning **insert favorite breakfast here** paid for by others.

8. Nobody to foot the bill for the annual holiday party.

9. Firm retreats are extremely lonely.

And the final, and reason I don’t like being a sole practitioner…

10. No room for advancement within the firm unless I take a pay cut and demote myself first.

Much like a battery, in order for things to run well you need both a positive and a negative. As long as the +/- tend to weigh slightly more to the +, it’s most likely worth doing. It’s tough working on your own and it’s not for everyone. There are days I question it. However, if you do go this route it will be extremely rewarding!

 

Design On,

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I deal with homeowners in various stages of projects for their homes. I’m either dealing with a client that is constructing a new home and trying to sell their current home or one who is renovating/adding on to their existing home but thinking towards the future and re-sale value. Inevitably they always ask for advice as to projects they can do to their existing home to increase its chance of selling quickly now or in the future. Keep in mind, home buyers want to see how great a home looks; they don’t want to hear what it could look like with work. Meaning, these projects actually need to be done for them to add any value to your home. Here are my top 5 projects that pay off when selling your home- as well as refreshing the current home you live in:

1. Paint- For the cost, nothing comes close to the dramatic effect a new coat of paint or color change can have on a home’s interior or exterior. My advice, always paint the ceiling a bright white- I’m not a fan of colored ceilings as they tend to ‘compress’ the space. I’m a big fan of having an accent wall in a few spaces- one wall painted a differing color than the rest of the space. For the exterior, I recommend 3-4 colors. A color for the main body of the house, trim color, accent color for the front door (and possibly some other key pieces of the home), and possibly another color for a secondary material that is prominent on the house. Keep in mind, most of this is mute when dealing with modern homes and exterior materials that are left in their natural state. A well designed modern home can have various natural materials that can create a great composition of texture and color.

2. Flooring, Fixtures, Faucets, + Accessories- A rule of thumb, anything you actually touch should be of good quality and in working order- i.e. door knobs, cabinet pulls, toilet handles, etc. This doesn’t mean you can ignore unseen items, it just means a ‘touched’ item adds more to the perceived value of your home. Worn-out flooring surfaces are a turn off. Replace/clean/repair/refinish flooring throughout the home. Replacing old faucets, sinks, and toilets, can significantly increase the perceived overall value of the home. Cabinet pulls can have a dramatic effect on the perception of the quality of cabinetry. Consider replacing, or adding, cabinet pulls. Cheap and dated lighting fixtures should also be replaced.

3. Additions + Renovations- If you’re planning on selling in the future, but need additional space currently, be sure to plan wisely. An addition that appears ‘tacked on’ with no thought, hurts a home’s value and cheapens the overall impression of the home. Working with an architect is of great value when anticipating a major project on your home. An architect will be sure the overall ‘scale’ of the project is in harmony with the existing and not over, or underwhelming. The current ‘style’ of the home will be examined and addressed as appropriate in the new work. The ‘flow’ of spaces will be planned and laid out efficiently- may not seem like a big deal until you walk through a bedroom to get to a bedroom- yup, I’ve seen that… too often. An architect will address these and many other issues that can increase the value of your home.

4. Kitchens + Bathrooms- These rooms historically have had the best return on investment and continue so. The kitchen has long outgrown its place as merely for cooking, it’s now typically the gathering spot for families. Kitchens have become the focal point of many homes and quality materials/appliances have become the norm. However, keep your homes price range in mind and don’t overdo it with high end items that future buyers aren’t willing to pay for. When it comes to adding a bath or remodeling, be sure to include ample storage and quality (doesn’t have to equate to expensive) fixtures. Ceramic tile is still a good choice for flooring and wall surrounds in bathrooms. The addition of a bath or powder room can greatly increase the value of your home.

5. Landscaping- The exterior of your home plays an important role in the overall first impression of your home. Landscaping can have a dramatic impact on the overall look of your home. Consult with a qualified individual who can provide you with an overall plan for your yard.

Keep personal ‘style’ to a minimum. Infuse your personal style with furniture, accessories, artwork, window treatments, etc. These can easily be reworked by another, such that they can make the house their own. When selling your home this may entail removing personal items such that potential buyers can envision themselves living in the home and not feeling that the home is ‘owned’ by you.

So that’s my broad sweeping list of what’s worked for my clients over the years. What has worked for you? What other projects/advice do you have to share?

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted June 18 2013, edited/revised per date above- See what I did there… 5… Value… V… Roman Numeral 5.

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Ideally I would provide full architectural design and administration services for every project. Let’s be honest, that’s the want of every architect for every project. However, for several reasons, I realize this is not always an option, nor is it always necessary. Cost is typically a primary issue on every project, and usually the first thing to be eliminated is the professional services of an architect. However, as a client you need to be aware of options that do not eliminate the services of your architect.

The primary means of reducing the design fee is to reduce the level of service provided. However, that in turn will result in more responsibility for you and it becomes crucial (even more so) to have a competent contractor. Obviously, the greater amount of detail included in the drawings, the clearer the procedure for construction. The design drawings are vital in assuring you that your house is built the way you want it. The more detail in the drawings the more control you have over the resultant house. Anything not included in the drawings is at the discretion of the contractor. You’ll have less control over the final outcome of the house because you have given the contractor fewer instructions/information to follow.

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In this installment of the ‘Hiring an Architect’ series, I address typical levels of service available from an architect. Keep in mind not all architects are willing to work on a project where their services are limited- and there are some projects I won’t either. However, it does afford potential options to a client who is not in a position to hire an architect for full services, but does realize the value of an architect in the design of their home. Outlined below are differing Levels of design service available to you:

LEVEL 1: SCHEMATIC DESIGN DRAWINGS

This level uses an architect’s special training to problem solve, but the task of producing drawings for permitting and construction is the responsibility of others and is hired by you. This level is appropriate for simple designs. This level of service is appropriate if you want a house designed for your particular needs, but want to either draw the plans yourself or to have the builder, or a drafting service perform the drawing creation.

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These drawings are by no means enough for permitting or actual construction. The drawings indicate the design intent of your home. Prior to building, you will need to hire someone to think through how the house will be constructed, and to document those decisions in a set of drawings, suitable for obtaining the permit and building the house. This approach is appropriate if you wish to have standard finishes and details. Services typically include the following phase and associated deliverables:

Schematic Design (SD)

Schematic Design Drawings provided. Room sizes will be indicated but not dimensioned. The Schematic Design Drawings will be formatted at a size of 11×17, hand drawn, and consist of the following:

– Floor Plan(s)

– Roof Plan(s)

– Exterior Elevations- at each exterior façade

 

LEVEL 2: SCHEMATIC DESIGN + SCHEMATIC DESIGN RESOLUTION PACKAGE

This level of service is appropriate for those seeking a house with standard construction and finishing details. Like Level 1, this level of service is recommended for simple designs, where everything is straight forward. This level of service is the same as previously described in Level 1. However, once a design is agreed upon, a Schematic Design Resolution Package is provided.

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The Schematic Design Resolution Package contains additional information to lessen the burden on someone else completing the drawings. Even though you will still need to hire someone else to complete a set of drawings, suitable for obtaining the permit and construction, major dimensions will have been determined to aid in the creation of drawings. Services typically include the following phases and associated deliverables:

Schematic Design (SD) + Schematic Design Resolution Package

Includes services and deliverables as indicated in Level 1 , in addition, a  Schematic Design Resolution Package is provided. The Schematic Design Resolution Package will be formatted at a size of 24×36, created via AutoCAD/BIM software, and consist of the following:

–   Floor Plan(s)

–   Roof Plan(s)

–   Exterior Elevations- at each exterior facade

–   Two (2) Building Sections

–   One (1) Wall Section

 

LEVEL 3: SCHEMATIC DESIGN + DESIGN DEVELOPMENT DRAWINGS

This level of service is the same as previously described in Level 2. However, once a design is agreed upon, a set of Design Development Drawings is created. The Schematic Design is developed so it more precisely fits your desires and needs. Preliminary materials are indicated/selected for your house.

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The Design Development drawings illustrate and describe the refinement of the design of your house. They establish the scope, relationships, forms, size, function, and aesthetic character of the house. These documents will outline the major materials and the building systems proposed. While these drawings are still not suitable for permitting and construction, they do start indicating additional information that assists in alleviating the contractor making assumptions. Services typically include the following phases and associated deliverables:

Schematic Design (SD) + Design Development (DD)

Includes services and deliverables as indicated in Level 2, in addition, Design Development Drawings will be created. The Design Development Drawings will be formatted at a size of 24×36, created via AutoCAD/BIM software, and typically consist of the following:

– Preliminary Architectural Site Plan in CAD (plot plan provided by Owner)

– Floor Plan(s)

– Roof Plan(s)

– Exterior Elevations- as needed

– Building Section(s)

– Preliminary Wall Sections and Details

– Preliminary Electrical Plans- locating outlets, telephone and cable only

– Preliminary Ceiling/Lighting Plans- locating lighting and switching only

– Preliminary Schedule Sheet(s)- including door and window schedule, interior finish schedule and interior elevations as required

– Preliminary General Specification Sheet- major materials and systems and establish their quality levels

 

LEVEL 4: FULL SCOPE OF ARCHITECTURAL SERVICES  (psst… psst…this is the one you want)

This level of service is the same as previously described in Level 3. However, once Design Development is complete, a set of Construction Documents is created. These drawings are also used for obtaining a building permit and for construction of your house. All of the information obtained throughout the previous phases of work are incorporated and coordinated to create a set of drawings and documents that set forth in detail requirements for the construction of your house. This also includes structural engineering of your house.

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This level of service offers you the greatest amount of specificity regarding your house, and consequently the greatest amount of control over the end ‘product.’ The resultant home will reflect who you are and how you live. Services typically include the following phases and associated deliverables:

Construction Document (CD)

Includes services and deliverables as indicated in Level 3 , in addition, Construction Documents consisting of Drawings and Specifications setting forth in detail the requirements for your house, including Drawings and Specifications that establish the quality levels of materials and systems required for your house, will be created. A typical Construction Document set will include:

– Cover Sheet

– General Specification Sheet(s) or Book Specifications

– Architectural Site Plan

– Foundation, Floor, and Roof Plan(s)

– Exterior Elevations

– Building Sections, Wall Sections, and Details

– Electrical Plans- locating outlets, telephone and cable only (circuitry by electrical subcontractor)

– Ceiling/Lighting Plans- locating lighting and switching only (circuitry by electrical subcontractor)

– Schedule Sheet(s)- including door and window schedule, interior finish schedule and interior elevations as required

– Selection sheets indicating what fixtures, appliances, lights, etc. that you need to select.

– Structural Framing Plans and Details as required (services provided by a structural engineer)

 

CONSTRUCTION OBSERVATION

This is the construction phase of your project. Basically, we are involved during this process to see that the builder is following the Construction Documents during construction. Ideally, at a minimum, visits to the site would occur at; Foundation and Footings, Substantial Completion of Framing, Pre-Electrical, Before Drywall, Trim work approximately 50%, and Substantial Completion. This service is only provided if Level 4 is selected. There are far too many liabilities to be involved with the construction unless we are the author of the Construction Documents.

 

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HOURLY CONSULTING

For any other services not indicated, and for any situation where our experience in residential design and construction would be of value, we are available on an hourly basis.

Ideally you would select Level 4. However, even limiting design services, there remains inherent value in employing the services of an architect. As a future client, you need to be aware of the options available such that you can realize your dream home. If you are considering/making such an investment, why not hire an architect to assist you in getting what you want? If you want your home to reflect who you are and how you live, hiring an architect is something you cannot afford not to do.

All of the previous posts in the ‘Hiring an Architect’ series can be found here:

Hiring an Architect: Part 1- The Search

Hiring an Architect: Part 2- Q&A Yourself

Hiring an Architect: Part 3- Ask the Architect

Hiring an Architect: Part 4- What? Me… hire an architect?

 

Armed with this series, a residential client should feel at ease about hiring and working with an architect. Architects will listen to your needs/wants and in the end you’ll have the home you wanted because your architect was able to assist you in bridging the gap between your budget, your vision and reality. You’ll end up with a home that fits you and your lifestyle. If you still have reservations or questions fell free to comment below or send me an email!

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted January 21 2015, edited/revised per date above- Even limiting the services of an architect will bring value to your home, it won’t come with large fries or a super size drink, but it will be added value.

A succinct post with a hefty question to address- Is there a difference between a house designed by a builder and one by an architect? Rather than a long diatribe, I submit two images:

 

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What is The Best House for you? Still not sure of which is best? Tally the votes, counting visible ‘digits’ I see a 5:2 lead, hmm… Talk to an architect and begin the journey, it’ll be a great experience!

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted May 9, 2012, edited/revised per date above.

A repeated discussion every architect has with residential clients is why do they even need an architect? The client will cite that their brother in-law had a builder designed house built and it turned out fine- just like the other 7 that look like it on their street. Or their nephews’ friend once took a technical drafting class at a community college 15 years ago and she can draft something over the weekend with some software from Staples for someone to build. Or better yet, they themselves took an art class in college and love math! I compose myself and begin the discussion…

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For years I would try and explain an architect’s value with grandiose terms and concepts- an aesthetic that reflects the modernity of their beliefs, villa this, axis that, concept of nothing being everything, datum, beaux arts that, white is not always white, machine for this or that, gables, we don’t need no stinking gables, etc. Then one day while going off on one of these rants, the client offered me some cake… mmmm cake. An epiphany occurred; I could see the delicious tree from the Black Forest! From that point on I simplified the explanation of an architect’s value in terms easily understood, cake! Who doesn’t love cake?

I found it easier to compare architect designed houses to non-architect houses as tier cakes from a bakery vs. grocery store bought sheet cake. One can typically stomach a sheet cake. However, is that what you expect from your cake? The sheet cake is just there… lying… like a sheet. There may be some ‘thing’ jammed in the center of the cake that all the kids are raging about, or a gel food coloring message. If you do dare eat it, your teeth will crackle and cringe from the 1,896 grams of sugar per slab, not including the so-called frosting. You’ve seen a sheet cake before, whoo hoo, looks like every other one you’ve seen. You walk past and ignore it. Lying there in the display case of sheet cake suburbia for mass consumption. Sheet cake, no thought, just doing what was done before.

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However, a tier cake from a bakery is, well, it’s prepared for your specific tastes. You’ll meet with the baker to discuss cake flavor options, fillings, combinations, aesthetics, frostings, colors, fondants, how many stories, size, shape, etc. In short, it will be customized for you. It won’t be too small nor too big, it’ll be just right. People will take notice and sense a good cake. They may not know why, but they’ll know it’s better than a sheet cake. One bite and you’ll know it was worth it- first a blast of chocolate, than a quick cool of raspberry, a touch of coffee notes in the frosting, are those white chocolate chunks? You won’t be able to imagine the day without the cake. It’ll be just what you wanted and will even have some delightful surprises.

Hungry? Go grab yourself a slice of tier cake and enjoy. Your tier cake will be the envy of all at the party. If you eavesdrop, you may hear guests saying “Can you believe we put up with sheet cake for so long, what were we thinking?” Trust me, they’ll be taking about your cake for years to come, and it won’t be because of indigestion! So go hire yourself a baker and enjoy some tier cake- and by baker I mean architect and by tier cake I mean a house designed for YOU!

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted November 15 2012, edited/revised per date above- If these are copyrighted cake images, send me a cake sample for proof and I’ll promptly remove the images!