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Design Process

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

It’s always a thrill when meeting a potential client for the first time. Excitement. Nerves. Possibilities. That’s how I feel as the architect. Once I’m in their house I don’t get on the sales pitch soap box. The great thing about the modern ‘online world’ is that clients can do vast amounts of research before calling an architect. They’ve seen my work and know what I can do. I don’t need to sell myself at this point… well, I’m always selling the virtues of an architect, it’s just covert at this point.

We start walking through the house. The clients go on and on- in a good way- talking about their project. I spend most of the time listening shaking the dog off my leg, checking out their medicine cabinets and nodding my head… after all it’s their project that they wish to share with me. I see the glitter in their eye as they discuss wishes and goals for the project. Really good clients have binders full of images they like. The best clients can describe why they like them. Finally they’ve exhausted themselves. Then it happens. They turn to me and ask, “So what’s the answer? What will it look like when it’s done?” They seem to be waiting for me to snap my fingers, toss my cape back over my shoulder (I really should start wearing a cape) and exclaim “A-ha, I’ve got it!” However, my typical response is “Yes. No. Something. I don’t know.” To which I’m greeted with a blank stare for two minutes… than a nervous laugh… then the client says “ No, really, what’s it going to look like?”

Sometimes it’s a bit of a let down to the client that I don’t have an initial grand vision for their project. If I did, it would be my vision and not theirs. I don’t work that way. The bad thing about the modern ‘online world’ is that clients want answers instantly. I explain how I approach each project by striving to define the inherent design issue(s) at hand. I need to figure out how they ‘live’ life on a daily basis and what is or isn’t currently working for them in their house. I don’t approach a project with a preconceived notion of an aesthetic- style if you wish. I strive to absorb a client’s beliefs and wishes and respond with an appropriate design. This doesn’t happen at the first meeting. Occasionally, I have them fill out a questionnaire in an attempt to further solidify their goals and wishes for the project. Then it happens. They look at me and exclaim “A-ha, so we’re going to be involved more than we thought. We have a say in what this will look like, nice. This sounds like a lot of fun!” Trust me, it’s a barrel of monkey’s kind of fun.

My initial meeting with a client involves a vast amount of listening, looking, and investigating the root of the design issue(s) at hand. Good design is listening and investigating, only after doing such can an architect respond appropriately. I suspect a majority of architects would agree.

A client’s project starts as theirs, but if it’s successful it doesn’t end that way. I like the give and take between architect and client, it makes for a rewarding experience and project for both of us. The most successful projects start as a client’s project and end as our project. It never becomes my project. So take on me (see what I did there) as your architect and we’ll come up with a project that’s not yours or mine, but ours.

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted April 16 2014, edited/revised per date above- Come on a-ha and a barrel of monkey’s… in one post… never done before, couldn’t have been..

The Design Process of an Architect Series is aimed at potential clients, with the goal of addressing the typical design process of an architect. De-mystifying the design process for the client affords them the understanding of what it is we as architects do, how we do it, and the value of our services. I believe that an educated client is the best client. Prior posts in the series covered Programming, Schematic Design, Construction vs. Project Budgets, Preliminary Construction Cost Estimate (PCCE), Design Development, Construction Documents, and Permitting and Bidding.

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There is the never ending debate about Construction Administration (CA) and the architect’s role and whether or not he/she is even involved. As an architect you need to be doing CA; and as a client, you want your architect doing CA. Simple and clear- no debate. You’ve engaged an architect to design your home and prepare construction documents for such. It’s a significant investment of your time and money. Why not ensure the construction documents are followed? My role as your architect should not be limited during construction. I authored the drawings and have the most knowledge of them, I should- and as a client, you want me to- be the one interpreting them.

You wouldn’t represent yourself in a court of law, would you? Maybe you would if you’re on Judge Judy- but that’s not real court. You don’t self-diagnose and then perform your own surgery, do you? If you do, stop reading, put the scalpel down and walk away. So why would you think you could represent yourself during a construction project? The construction process is inherently complicated. As a client, you need someone representing you and your best interests. Who better for that role than the author of the design/documents? A contractor can ‘read’ the drawings but they cannot correctly interpret them as they are not the author.

blog_23_04What is CA? This is the construction phase of a project. The term CA refers to the role of architect during construction, which is to administer- and sometimes enforce- the agreement between you the client and your contractor. Basically, the architect is involved during this process to see that during construction the contractor is following the construction documents. An architect is also available to both the contractor and client to answer questions, mediate any disagreements that may arise, and in general serve as a resource for the project. During construction, there will almost always be questions, unforeseen circumstances, etc. The ability of the client, contractor, and architect to work through these events as a collaborative team will have a significant effect not only on the final product, but also on the client’s level of stress throughout. It’s important to note that CA not only occurs at the site, but also in the architect’s office as he/she reviews, prepares clarifications, responds to questions, etc. regarding the project.

blog_23_02To protect the incompetent, no names will be used. This did happen on a job of mine, I didn’t make this up- although I wish I had. Picture a freestanding garage under construction. Floor slab plan indicates a slope to the garage door of 1/8” per 1’-0; standard stuff. Driving past the site one day I glance over and what I see nearly causes me to wreck my truck. What was witnessed can only be described as a prototype ramp for an ‘X-Games’ event- one involving the reincarnation of Evel Kneivel. Long story short, formwork was put up at a slope ratio of 18” per 1’-0. We weren’t contracted for CA on the project- client felt he could do it himself. However, we were morally obligated to inform the client and contractor. You can ponder what would have happened if that wasn’t caught by the architect- i.e. me, named because I’m competent. A blatant error and easy to catch. However, all issues are not always so obvious. There are numerous things, big and small, that can go wrong during construction.

I believe in providing flexibility to our clients and their needs/wants. However, there are certain CA services I feel we must provide to feel confident that the desired end product will be achieved and the client’s best interests are kept in check. In addition, things don’t always go as planned in the field. As the architect, you need to be involved to confirm that the design intent is maintained. Below is a typical schedule of our minimum level of CA service- I rarely accept a project if we do not perform this basic CA:

Pre-Construction Meeting Prior to construction, this is a meeting between the client, contractor, and architect to review drawings, assign points-of-contact, discuss construction schedule, etc. This is done to establish a good working relationship, to make sure the drawings are understood and answer any questions about them, and in general to head off any potential conflicts.

Site Visits

1. Foundation and Footings- Site visit after excavation and prior to foundation/footing work. Site visit before framing starts to ensure foundation and footings have been done according to the drawings.

2. Substantial Completion of Framing- Site visit prior to any subcontractors moving too far ahead on their portion of the work. It is easier to make any field framing adjustments when they are not complicated by mechanical, plumbing, or electrical in the walls.

3. Pre-Electrical- Site visit to perform an electrical/lighting walk-thru with the client and the contractor, finalizing locations for switches, outlets, fixtures, etc. Boxes in-place for review, but not wired.

4. Before Drywall- Site visit before drywall is installed to review rough-in work of subcontractors, as well as insulation and sealing.

5. Trim work 50%- Site visit while trimming is ongoing to help resolve any issues in the field while they are there.

6. Substantial Completion- This is the point of construction when the project is sufficiently complete, so that the client may use or occupy the building project for the intended purpose, without undue interference. We will do a walk-thru with the client and contractor. The purpose of the walk-thru is to generate a punch list. The punch list indicates items of work requiring corrective or completion action by the contractor- a list of discrepancies that need to be corrected by the contractor prior to issuing final payment.

Keep in mind; this is the basic CA that we perform. There are various other optional CA Services we can provide. As part of CA, after ALL site visits, a field report should be issued to all involved parties.

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Still not convinced you need an architect during CA? Fellow architect Lee Calisti, author of the blog think | architect, has a post addressing CA as well. Listed below is his summary of ‘10 myths why you don’t need an architect during construction:’

1. The contractor will work it out, it’s their job

2. Contractors don’t want architects on the job site

3. They should be able to figure it out from the drawings

4. The contractors know what will meet code

5. The client is paying twice if the architect and contractor are both there

6. The owner will be there to oversee the construction

7. Contractors always read the drawings

8. The subcontractors read the drawings

9. The contractor’s opinion of equivalent is the same as the architect’s

10. The owner can build this on their own and be their own G.C.

Be sure to read Lee’s full post here -> 10 myths why you don’t need an architect during construction on think | architect.

A successful design and construction project is a team effort. The team is comprised of the architect, contractor, and client. Would you bench a team player at the moment in time you need him the most, specifically to interpret the ‘plays’? As a client, do yourself a favor and retain your architect for CA

 

Design On,

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* Architect… it does CA good!

The Design Process of an Architect Series is aimed at potential clients, with the goal of addressing the typical design process of an architect. De-mystifying the design process for the client affords them the understanding of what it is we as architects do, how we do it, and the value of our services. I believe that an educated client is the best client. Prior posts in the series covered Programming, Schematic Design, Construction vs. Project Budgets, Preliminary Construction Cost Estimate (PCCE), Design Development and Construction Documents.

blog_22_01The Permitting and Bidding Phases of work are the final planning phase or “pre-construction” portion of your project. This phase can be viewed as approvals and costs. Simply put, this is where the construction documents are submitted for permit approvals from the local building authorities- giving you ‘official’ permission to construct your project- and for final pricing or bids from the contractor(s). Depending on local requirements, the permit application can be filed/ applied for by the owner, contractor, architect, or a permit expeditor. However, I recommend the contractor performing the work be the one responsible for obtaining the permits.

Typically the same construction documents are used for both permitting and pricing, in which case the same sets of documents would be sent concurrently to the permit office and applicable contractor(s). However, it is possible that for a multitude of possible reasons, such as expediency, sets of drawings with differing levels of detail may be prepared and sent to the different parties on differing dates. The process will also differ if you have already selected a contractor. In this instance, the formal bid process described below would be by-passed for a final contract negotiation process with your contractor.

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In a typical bid scenario, while drawings are ‘in’ for permit, we invite two or three general contractors to bid on your project based on the completed set of construction documents, including a bid form to be completed by each contractor. This helps ensure we receive comparable bids. Bids would be due on a set date. As your architect, bids are sent to our attention for review, inquiry and clarification; and then to you. From these bids, you would select a contractor. Keep in mind, we will assist you in evaluating their qualifications, reviewing their bids, and in negotiating a contract for construction. However, to obtain valuable input as your project develops, we generally recommend that you pre-select and hire the contractor early in the design process. A good design-build partnership with a contractor will help clarify the design intent, develop a solid approach to construction, establish good details, reduce redundancy, and help reduce overall costs. You and your architect will benefit from their resources and construction knowledge.

blog_22_03As your architect, we can add peace of mind by helping you obtain an accurately estimated bid contract. While we provide valuable assistance in the selection process, remember, the final choice is up to you. You will be working with the selected contractor for a long time, and a comfortable relationship with the contractor is very important. It should be emphasized that reputation and trust are extremely important factors in choosing a contractor. It is not uncommon for an owner to select a contractor other than the lowest bidder due to factors such as schedule/availability, experience, and/or personality.

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When you have selected a contractor, executed a construction contract and received necessary permit approvals, you are ready to start construction. Rest assured that we will assist you throughout the construction of your home. The term Contract Administration (CA) refers to our role as architect during construction, which is to administer (and sometimes enforce) the agreement between you and your contractor. We are involved during this process to see that the contractor is following, and interpreting correctly, the construction documents during construction. We are also available to both the contractor and you to answer questions, mediate any disagreements that may arise, and in general serve as a resource for the project.

blog_22_05It is important to note that the construction process is inherently complicated. There will almost always be questions, unforeseen circumstances, etc. The ability of the owner, contractor, and architect to work through these events as a collaborative team will have a significant effect not only on the final product, but also on your level of stress throughout. A successful design and construction project is a team effort. The team is comprised of the architect, contractor, and you, the client. Would you bench a team player at the moment in time you need him the most, specifically to interpret the ‘plays’? As a client, do yourself a favor and retain your architect for CA.

 

Design On,

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* You’ll  not save money by not engaging your architect during construction… you’ll actually pay more money and increase your frustration.

The Design Process of an Architect Series is aimed at potential clients, with the goal of addressing the typical design process of an architect. De-mystifying the design process for the client affords them the understanding of what it is we as architects do, how we do it, and the value of our services. I believe that an educated client is the best client. Prior posts of the series covered Programming, Schematic Design, Construction vs. Project Budgets, Preliminary Construction Cost Estimate (PCCE), and Design Development.

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The Construction Documents (CD’s) consist of both drawings and written specifications. Detailed drawings/ diagrams illustrate the quantities and relationships of the work required to construct your project. Written specifications document the levels of quality to be met in materials and workmanship. The specifications can either be incorporated as a sheet(s) bound with the drawings, or in a separate book format. During the CD Phase we compile all the information obtained throughout the previous phases of design and create a thorough set of CD’s. The CD’s document all the decisions made to date so they can be incorporated into the built project. These documents set forth in detail the requirements for the construction of your project. CD’s are typically formatted at a size of 24×36 and consist of the following:

1. Cover Sheet

2. Specifications

3. Architectural Site Plan

4. Perspective(s)

5. Floor Plan(s)

6. Roof Plan(s)

7. Exterior Elevations

8. Building Section(s)

9. Wall Section(s)

10. Details

11. Interior Elevations

12. Schedule Sheet(s)- including door and window schedule, and interior finish schedule

13. Electrical and Lighting Plans- locating outlets, telephone, cable, lighting and switching

14. Structural Plans/ Details

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While a significant investment- in both time and money- a complete, concise set of CD’s saves time, money, and frustration during construction. The CD’s are the vehicle through which all information is communicated to those constructing your project. Additionally, it provides information to jurisdictional authorities for obtaining a building permit- we’ll address permitting and bidding in the next post. This is also the phase when the work of applicable consultants is reviewed/ coordinated- structural engineer, interior designer, landscape architect, etc.

Your contractor will use the CD’s to establish the actual construction cost, and to build the project. The CD’s become part of your contract with the general contractor and establishes his contractual obligations. Anything not contained in the CD’s is left to the contractor’s discretion and may potentially lead to additional charges for you. Since most decisions have been made before construction begins, a thorough set of CD’s affords you fewer problems, fewer hidden costs, more accurate cost estimates, and reduces the likeliness of costly delays during construction.

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It is important to note that the construction process is inherently complicated. Inevitably there will be questions, unforeseen circumstances, etc. The ability of you, your contractor, and your architect to work through these events as a collaborative team will have a significant effect not only on the final product, but also on your level of stress throughout construction. A thorough set of CD’s can facilitate such and reduce the amount of ‘unknowns’ about your project.

Typically, your role as the client in this process, is to simply review the CD set. You are encouraged to review and comment on your set of CD’s. You don’t need to have an in-depth understanding of your CD’s, but you should have a basic understanding of all the information and why it’s provided. The documents are typically straightforward and can be understood if taken the time to study. As your architect, I am always available to answer any questions you may have or to explain a particular drawing and/or document.

blog_21_04CD’s are more than graphic representations. They are a wealth of knowledge and are backed by a solid thought process. Architects offer a service in which drawings are a tool to reach a conclusion… a conclusion that ultimately brings value to your project. Drawings are a product; architects provide a service, a valuable service!

 

Design On,

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* Keep in mind this is how my firm works. Other firms will differ. However, in general, most architects will adhere to a similar design process. If they don’t, well… they’re just wrong.

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There’s no little turn on the cat walk, no sexy shirt, no tush shake, and no Right Said Fred- oh yes I did! However, there are some words of advice. If you’re working with an architect and there are no models in the office, slowly drop your gaze and retreat to the exit. Grab some magazines, markers, trace, whatever you can hold, and get out now! Go, Go, Go! How can you entrust someone to craft ‘space’ for you if they cannot themselves craft a representation of it?

 

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I am not referring to virtual models- these inherently have a disconnect with the client and the process. Virtual modeling does have its place in the design process, and we use it as well. However, I am talking about Real, Physical, Touchable, Breakable, MODELS! There’s a unique dialogue that occurs when you pass a physical model around and discuss. Sure you can set up views and walkthroughs of a virtual model, and it does have its’ place in the design process. However, the keyboard becomes the gatekeeper for the process; it doesn’t ‘flow’ well. The importance of physically crafting a model is every bit as important to the design process as the idea itself. An architect needs to be able to craft form to the idea. Modeling is every bit as important as sketching.

 

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Our projects typically begin with loose sketches indicating the distribution of the program as it relates to the site. Once those relationships are established, form is developed via model(s). Clients often participate in the creation/ re-creation/ destruction of the model. Models don’t need to be museum quality, in fact we rarely do a ‘final’ or ‘presentation model.’ Rather, we employ many ‘design models’- models that are built, examined, ripped apart, glued back together- models that are design ‘tools’ in the architects’ arsenal.

 

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Now’s the time to stop reading, go build a model- chipboard, #11 blades, bass wood, cuts, glue, bleeding, etc. Seriously… go… build it… who knows, if you build it maybe Ray Liotta will show up!

Do you model? If not, why? Is it part of your process, or part of a final presentation?

 

Design On,

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If under 18, please consult an adult prior to using a #11 blade, we assume no responsibility for severed pieces. Originally posted May 03, 2012 edited/revised per date above.

Anyone that reads this blog will know that I am a firm believer in actual physical models. However, I also realize the benefit of virtual models. I use SketchUp quite a lot. While BIM is the final presentation model, SketchUp is the down and dirty study model. I equate SketchUp to the electronic version of chipboard. In a previous post I covered the basics of SketchUp, you can read that here SketchUp 101.

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I’ve had numerous requests to provide more info on using SketchUp. As such, I thought it would be a good idea to go over a few of the basics in a bit more detail. I know some may be saying, “What the heck, this is basic info who needs a post on this?” There are plenty of resources/manuals available for SketchUp, however, I believe my perspective affords insight into real world implementation as an architect (whoa, settle down, those were big words). Keep in mind, there are people learning the software for the first time every day, so if I can make it a bit easier for them than I’ve done my part helping the world visualize in the third dimension!

With any luck I’ll continually add to my SketchUp resource and hope that others can benefit from it. Note that this post is based upon SketchUp version 8.0.16846 and may differ slightly from the most current Trimble version; it is also not meant as all encompassing, but rather a broad overview of some general tips and information.

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With that I bring you SketchUp 102, Groups and Components! When modeling in SketchUp, make use of Groups and Components, they will become your friend. Go back and read that sentence again. SketchUp is inefficient if Groups/Components are not used, especially when trying to select entities. So what is a Group vs. a Component:

Group: a combination of several objects together into one ‘piece.’ For example you can create a window that is comprised of a frame and a piece of glass. You can than make a group out of the two ‘pieces’ which than makes it easier to edit and move it within the model. Groups can be copied and edited.

Component: a type of group that when copied and repeated, if one component is edited all of the other components will change as well. This is useful for windows that are used repeatedly and is very helpful when creating units for multi-family buildings. For instance, you could create a Double Hung window unit and place it 40 times in your model, if you than edit one component to be a casement window, the other 39 update as well- however, there is the option to make any one, or several of the components ‘unique’ such that their editing does not alter the other copies- perhaps a future post on that topic. Components can also be mirrored using the Flip command. The mirrored components retain their definitions, and are updated whenever an un-mirrored version is updated.

Creating/Editing:

1. To create a Group or Component, select all the objects that you want included, right-click the mouse and select Make Component or Make Group, it’s also found under the Edit drop-down menu at the top of the screen. You’ll also have the option of naming the Group/Component.

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2. Groups and Components can be edited by double clicking them. If you have Groups/Components nested within each other, you’ll have to double click the appropriate amount of times to get to the Group/Component you wish to edit.

 

Window Assembly Example:

Window 1: I’ve created a window frame and sheet of glass, each of which is composed of separate faces and planes. Notice when you try and select it only one line or plane is highlighted (keep in mind you could hold the shift key to make more than one selection, however that’s not the point of this example).

Window 2: The window frame and sheet of glass have each been made into separate Components. Notice when you try and select it the entire frame/glass is highlighted.

Window 3: The window frame and sheet of glass have been composed into a single unit and a Component created out of the two pieces. Notice when you try and select it the entire assembly is highlighted. Materials have also been applied to each of the window assembly Components.

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Group Example: Edit a Group and all copies of that Group remain as they were.

The window Group (the window on the ground) has been copied and placed within a wall. Note that the window Group has also been copied and flipped about the horizontal and vertical axis for one of the windows. This example is comprised of 4 copies of the window Group:

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I’d like to see what it would look like if the windows had a ‘window box’ surround. If I edit the window Group on the ground- for simplicity I’ll just extrude the frame- you’ll notice that only that window Group is updated, none of the Group copies update:

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Component Example: Edit a Component and all copies of that component update, regardless of flipping the copy about the horizontal/vertical axis, or mirroring the copy. Keep in mind, any copy of a Component can be edited and all copies of it will update.

The window Component (the window on the ground) has been copied and placed within a wall. Note that the window Component has also been copied and flipped about the horizontal and vertical axis for one of the windows. This example is comprised of 4 copies of the window Component:

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I’d like to see what it would look like if the windows had a ‘window box’ surround. If I edit the window component on the ground- for simplicity I’ll just extrude the frame- you’ll notice that all copies of the window component update automatically, even the window that was flipped about the horizontal and vertical axis:

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While this window is a simple example of Groups/Components, it’s evident that this is a powerful feature for modeling in SketchUp. For example, I’ve worked on numerous Multi-Family projects and my method is to create the individual units off to one side and then assemble the building from the units, which are Components. This makes it much easier to work on, units are able to be flipped and mirrored as need be and I only need to create one of each unit type:

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Armed with this information one should feel comfortable using Groups/Components while modeling with SketchUp. For regular users, hopefully this serves as a refresher. Once you start using SketchUp on a consistent basis, you’ll realize that there is a lot more you can do with Groups/Components- i.e. you can nest Groups/Components within each other, you can make Groups/Component unique, etc. However, you’ll also realize how efficient using Groups/Components will make your modeling. SketchUp is an invaluable design tool and should be in the ‘toolbox’ of every designer.

If you’re looking for a reason to start using or try something new with SketchUp, look no further than the 5th Annual Life of an Architect Playhouse Design Competition This year SketchUp will be funding the construction of one of the playhouses. In addition to their financial support, they have contributed an awesome prize pack! This is a fun thing to do and the end result could be that your playhouse gets constructed and raffled off to benefit needy children. I’ve entered in the past and will be entering again this year.

Click here to read more about the playhouse competition and how to enter–> 5th Annual Life of an Architect Playhouse Design Competition

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So what tips/advice do you have for using Groups/Components in SketchUp? Post them in the comment section, I’d love to learn some new tips and read how others use Groups/Components SketchUp.

 

Design On,

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* Go download SketchUp and start modeling, it’s addictive! Originally posted January 14, 2015 edited/revised per date above.

I Use SketchUp quite a lot. While BIM is the final presentation model, SketchUp is the down and dirty study model. I equate SketchUp as the electronic version of chipboard and BIM as electronic basswood. Anyone that reads this blog will know that I am a firm believer in actual physical models. However, I also realize the benefit of virtual models- a chipboard model is tough to attach to an email. Typically I’ll create Schematic Design entirely in SketchUp, except for the floor plans which I’ll hand draw or use 2d CAD. You can create the floor plans in SketchUp, however, I’ve never been satisfied with how long it takes to achieve a decent ‘graphic.’ With the SketchUp model, I’ll generate elevations, roof plans, sections, and various perspective views. It’s a quick and a great tool for visualizing in three dimensions. I’ve been using SketchUp since, well… um… let’s just leave it at beta.

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I’m often asked about how to use SkecthUp, or more typical, part of a discussion about the fear of learning Sketchup- it’s one of the easiest programs to learn. SketchUp is an invaluable design tool. As such, I’m offering up some tips and general information for those looking to get started in SketchUp or those who want a brief refresher. Note that this post is based upon SketchUp version 8.0.16846 and may differ slightly from the most current Trimble version; it is also not meant as all encompassing, but rather a broad overview of some general tips and information.

The Basics

1. Resources:

a. There are numerous resources online to learn SketchUp, Start at the Help Center, here you’ll find numerous tutorials and information: http://help.SketchUp.com/en

b. From within SketchUp, Instructor teaches how to use a tool when you select it- Go To: Window>Instructor

c. Click here to download a PDF-> Quick Reference Card for SketchUp

2. Toolbars- these are the basic toolbars that should be in your workspace:

a. Getting Started- Go To: View>Toolbars>Getting Started

b. Large Tool Set- Go To: View>Toolbars>Large Tool Set

c. Styles- Go To: View>Toolbars>Styles

d. Layers- Go To: View>Toolbars>Layers

e. Shadows- Go To: View>Toolbars>Shadows

f. Standards- Go To: View>Toolbars>Standards

g. Views- Go To: View>Toolbars>Views

3. Large Buttons, makes toolbars easier to read- Go To: View>Toolbars>Large Buttons

4. Axis- each axis has a solid line on one side of the origin and a dotted line on the other, the axis lines orientation is:

a. Solid Blue line extends up from the origin

b. Dotted Blue line extends down from the origin

c. Solid Red line extends East from the origin

d. Dotted Red line extends West from the origin

e. Solid Green line extends North from the origin

f. Dotted Green line extends South from the origin

5. Shortcut keys- when using the drop-down menus at the top, pay attention to commands that have a letter to the right, those are shortcut keys that you can use from the keyboard.

Setting Defaults and Saving Your Own Template

1. Open a new file and set all settings below to your own liking.

a. Setting the location and solar orientation

i. Go to: Window>Model Info>Geo-location * You’ll have the option to geolocate or manually locate the model, geo-locating is more precise. Also note, location should be updated per a specific project location.

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b. Styles

i. Go To: Window>Styles select the middle tab Edit and the first box Edge Settings, confirm the Display Edges box is checked, turn off all other options.

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c. Face

i. Go To: Window>Styles select the middle tab Edit and the second box Face Settings, confirm the Front color and Back color are set to white. Confirm the Enable transparency box is checked and set to ‘Nicer.’

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d. Background

i. Go To: Window>Styles select the middle tab Edit and the third box Background Settings, set the Sky and Ground colors to your liking.

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2. Saving your own template

a. After selecting the settings above, save the drawing.

b. Go to: Windows >Preferences>Template and Browse to find the file you just saved. Once this is set, whenever you open a new file, your settings will automatically be set in the model!

Modeling Basics

1. Always use the axis to draw Everything. Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to lock directions. The up and down arrows will lock the blue axis. The right arrow key locks the red axis and the left arrow key locks the green axis.

2. Make use of Groups and Components (I’ll discuss Groups and Components in more depth in a future post).

a. Creating a Group is simply a way to combine several objects together, into one ‘piece.’ For instance you can create a window that is comprised of an upper and lower sash as well as glass. You can than make a group out of the ‘pieces’ which than makes it easier to edit and move it within the model. Groups can be copied and edited.

b. A Component is a type of group that when copied and repeated, if one component is edited all of the other components will change as well. This is useful for windows that are used repeatedly and is very helpful when creating units for multi-family buildings. For instance, you could create a Double Hung window unit and place it 40 times in your model, if you than edit one component to be a casement window, the other 39 update as well. Components can also be mirrored using the Flip command. The mirrored components retain their definitions, and are updated whenever an un-mirrored version is updated.

c. To create a Group or Component, select all the objects that you want included, right-click the mouse and select Make Component or Make Group, it’s also found under the Edit drop-down menu at the top of the screen.

d. Groups and components can be edited by double clicking them.

3. When drawing shapes and lines, you can key in actual dimensions, look at the bottom right of the screen for the dimensions dialogue box.

4. The basics of modeling are to draw shapes, select from the toolbars or Go to: Draw drop-down menu. Than you manipulate the shapes by the Push/Pull tool and various others selected from the toolbars or the drop-down menus.

5. Linear Arrays create multiple copies of entities or geometries (use it for posts at an on-center spacing, siding, beams, etc.) To create an array:

a. Select the entity to be copied

b. Select the Move tool, press and release the CTRL (PC) or Option (MAC) key, the Move tool icon should now have a ‘+’ sign.

c. Click on the selected entities to copy and move your mouse to copy, easiest if you key in dimension spacing, click destination point.

d. Type a multiplier to create additional copies, i.e. typing 4x will create a total of 5 copies, the original entity and the 4 copies.

e. There are several other ways to create linear arrays, as well as radial arrays, search online or use the SketchUp help forums.

6. Use Layers, they make it easier to control the visibility with-in the model and group similar ‘pieces.’ From with-in the Layers dialogue box select the ‘+’ sign to create a new layer and name it as you wish. From this box you can also select which layer is ‘current’ and all modeling is currently being placed in.

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7. Use the Tape Measure tool to create drawing guidelines, it can be accessed either from the toolbar button, Go to: Tools>Tape Measure, or by pressing ‘T’ on the keyboard. After a while your model may have a lot of guidelines, you can delete them by, Go to: Edit>Delete Guides

8. You can import files to use as site plan or floor plan references, Go to: File>Import and select the type of file to import. You can scale the imported file by using the measuring tool to measure a known dimension and scale accordingly using the Scale tool.

9. The Follow Me tool is a great time saver for creating moldings. The tool will take any multi-sided plane (e.g., a section through a piece of molding) and extrude it along a line or curve. Draw the shape you want to extrude. Then select the Follow Me tool, click on the shape and drag it along the path you want it to follow.

Draw the shape you wish to extrude:

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Select the Follow Me tool, click on the shape and drag along path of extrusion:

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Complete the paths loop:

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10. A lot of time can be saved by using models/components others have created. Go to: File>3D Warehouse>Get Models and search for what you want. Once imported into your model, they can be edited as you like. You can also share models/components you create, Go to: File>3D Warehouse>Share Model

11. To apply a material, Go to: File>Window>Materials, the Select button should be highlighted, from this dialogue box numerous standard materials can be applied by selecting a material and then using the paint bucket to select the model pieces to receive the material. Be sure to select the Shaded With Texture button in the Styles toolbar or you won’t see the material.

a. Once a material is placed it can be edited, Go to: File>Window>Materials, the Edit button should be highlighted, from here you can edit the color, scale, and opacity of the material. You can also use your own images to create materials or images from a manufacturer’s website.

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b. After placing materials, you can edit them in the model by right-clicking on the material and selecting Texture>Position (if you right-click again there are some additional options). Four colored ‘pin’ tools appear that allow you to modify the position and scale of the material. The two most commonly used are the Green ‘pin’ which allows scaling and rotating of the material and Red ‘pin’ which allows moving of the material. Using these ‘pins’ allows scaling of the material to match a known dimension and placing the material at a ‘starting’ point.

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Views and Animations

1. Once you determine vantage points that highlight your model, you’ll want to save the views (called ‘Scenes’) for printing, exporting, or creating animations. To create a scene, Go to: View>Animation>Add Scene, a new tab will be created at the top of the work area. Right clicking the tab allows you to update the scene to the current view. Right clicking a Scene tab also allows you to open the Scene Manager, from here you can rename your Scene and choose which properties are to be saved in the Scene. You also select if the selected Scene is included in an animation or not.

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2. Animations can be created from a selection of Scenes, Go to: View>Animation>Settings to set the Scene Transition and Scene Delay times. To play the Animation, Go to: View>Animation>Play or right-click a Scene tab and select Play Animation. Note, Animations will play the Scenes from Left-to-Right. If need be Scenes can be re-organized by either right-clicking a Scene tab and selecting Move Right or Move Left, or from within the Scene Manager Dialogue Box.

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Plugins and Scripts

1. There are several plugins/scripts that can be downloaded to enhance the use of SketchUp. A few of my favorites are:

a. Windowizer- allows you to create windows from a shape.

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b. Stairs- there are several available to quickly create stairs

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c. Roof- allows you to create various roof configurations

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d. Joists- creates floor or roof joists

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Styles

1. Styles apply filters to your model to give them various looks, such as a hand-drawn look. To apply a style, Go to: Window>Styles> select the left tab Select, now you can view various styles and apply them to your model. From here you can also create your own Style. With a slight bit of research, you can find numerous Styles to download for your use.

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The following images were created from the same file and view; various styles were applied for the differing ‘looks.’

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Armed with this information one should feel comfortable using SketchUp, even if you’ve never used it before. For regular users, hopefully this serves as a refresher of the SketchUp basics. Once you start using SketchUp on a consistent basis, you’ll realize that there is a lot more you can do with SketchUp and a lot more tools/ information to learn. You’ll also realize that there is almost nothing that you can’t model in SketchUp. SketchUp is an invaluable design tool and should be in the ‘toolbox’ of every designer.

If you’re looking for a reason to start using or try something new with SketchUp, look no further than the 5th Annual Life of an Architect Playhouse Design Competition This year SketchUp will be funding the construction of one of the playhouses. In addition to their financial support, they have contributed an awesome prize pack! This is a fun thing to do and the end result could be that your playhouse gets constructed and raffled off to benefit needy children. I’ve entered in the past and will be entering again this year.

Click here to read more about the playhouse competition and how to enter–> 5th Annual Life of an Architect Playhouse Design Competition

 

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So what tips/advice do you have for SketchUp? Post them in the comment section, I’d love to learn some new tips and read how others use SketchUp.

 

Design On,

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* Go download SketchUp and start modeling, it’s addictive! Originally posted January 15, 2014 edited/revised per date above.

As a former member of my neighborhood Architectural Review Board (ARB), I saw a vast array of projects for review. One such submittal prompted this post. The submittal was for an in-law suite addition to an existing single family home. Now, before you start sending me emails and such, I am well aware of the differences in requirements for an ARB submittal and Construction Drawings. However, the actual construction documents were submitted for the ARB review.

To reiterate, the information discussed is not needed for an ARB review. However, the actual Construction Drawings were submitted and prompted this post. I will not post the original drawings. However, I do provide diagram sketches of the construction drawings. The diagrams aren’t that far off from the ‘construction’ drawings. After review, the following questions/comments come to mind about the proposed addition, as it was lacking/missing from the drawings- this is going to be long, but please read through in its entirety:

1. What is the property zoned?

2. Provide a site plan indicating setbacks.

3. Provide a site plan indicating how run-off will be contained during construction and the extent of the silt fence.

4. What code(s) apply?

5. Do you have any general specifications or quality/procedures expected of the GC?

6. What is the project schedule and the payment draw schedule?

7. Are any allowances provided to the owner? If yes, amounts and descriptions?

8. Provide a demolition plan.

9. Provide information as to how construction debris will be contained/minimized from entering the existing portions of the house during construction.

10. Provide a foundation plan.

11. Is a vapor barrier required in the crawl space?

12. Does radon gas need to be addressed in the new foundation?

13. How do the new foundation walls and footings tie into the existing?

14. Provide a first floor framing plan.

15. How does the new floor structure interact/tie-in to the existing?

16. Is it a vented crawl space? If yes, where are the vents and vent calculations?

17. How does the new foundation impact the existing foundation in terms of ventilation?

18. Is it a sealed crawl space? If yes, provide details.

19. How is the crawl space accessed?

20. How is the existing gas fireplace vent addressed, it currently vents on the exterior wall where the new addition abuts.

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21. The new bedroom shares a wall with the existing family room- do you anticipate soundproofing that wall?

22. The new bedroom shares a wall with the existing family room- do you anticipate a Solid Core door accessing the new bedroom to lessen sound transmission?

23. The first floor exterior wall is in-line with the brick foundation below. Has the brick been designed as load bearing? If so, provide details. If not, provide floor framing details addressing the bearing of the framed wall above.

24. What are the floor finishes?

25. Provide door specifications/schedule.

26. Provide window specifications/schedule.

27. Provide hardware specifications for both doors and windows.

28. Is any casing anticipated for the doors and windows? If yes, provide specifications and details.

29. Is any baseboard and/or shoe molding anticipated? If yes, provide specifications and details.

30. Provide toilet specification.

31. Provide bathroom sink specification.

32. Where is the existing waste line and where is the new piping run?

33. Is the millwork shown in the bathroom field built or standard cabinetry? Provide specifications.

34. Provide bathtub specification.

35. Bathtub is indicated as ‘accessible’ but there is no accessible path/clearance to tub, please clarify.

36. Provide interior elevation drawings of all walls in the bathroom.

37. Is the millwork shown in the bedroom field built or standard cabinetry? Provide specifications.

38. Provide bedroom sink specification.

39. Provide interior elevation drawings of all walls in the bedroom.

40. Is any flashing anticipated for the windows? If yes, provide details.

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41. Is any insulation anticipated for the floor, walls, and ceiling? If yes, provide specifications and locations.

42. Provide building section drawings.

43. Provide right side exterior elevation drawing.

44. Provide wall section detail drawings.

45. Provide floor assembly detail drawings at both bedroom and bathroom.

46. Provide a roof plan.

47. Provide a roof framing plan.

48. How does the new roof structure interact/tie-in to the existing exterior walls?

49. How is the new roof vented?

50. Provide roof vent calculations.

51. Provide soffit/eave details.

52. Are gutters, downspouts, and splash blocks anticipated?

53. Provide exterior material selections.

54. Provide interior material selections/schedules.

55. Is any flashing anticipated for the roof? If yes, provide details and locations.

56. Is any electrical provided? If yes, provide power and switch location drawings (indicate any switched receptacles).

57. Is any hard-wired lighting provided? If yes, provide lighting and switch location drawings.

58. Are any smoke detectors provided? If yes, show on lighting drawing.

59. Is there a new HVAC system for the addition? If yes, where are the supply and return locations, and duct run layouts?

60. Are you tapping into the existing HVAC system for the addition? If yes, where are the details, supply and return locations, and duct run layouts? Have load calculations been done to confirm that the existing system can handle the additional load?

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There are more questions/comments but point made. As a client are you willing, or even capable of making these decisions? Do you want to make and be responsible for these decisions? As a contractor, are you willing to assume the additional responsibilities and risk associated with making these decisions? I assume the answer from both client and contractor is “No!” – at least it should be. So, who do you expect to figure this out? A good, competent Architect, that’s who. Architects figure this stuff out, that’s what we do- it’s where our value lies.

Keep in mind, aesthetics haven’t even been discussed. In addition (pun intended), this is to be an in-law suite. The associated issues with designing for ‘aging-in-place’ have also not been addressed. Issues such as- lever hardware, rocker switches, removable cabinetry, wheelchair access, install heights, etc. All of the questions/comments, design aesthetic, and aging-in-place issues would have been discussed with the client and addressed in the construction documents prepared by an architect. It wouldn’t be left to chance, the client, nor the contractor.

As an architect, I face, and resolves, a myriad of issues on each and every project every day. In pointing out what we as architects do, my hope is that potential clients begin to further understand the value we bring to a project. Our value is occasionally related directly to cost savings. However, typically our value is in questioning, planning, clarification, detailing, and ‘solidifying’ numerous moving ‘parts’ into a cohesive, aesthetically pleasing, well designed house- which ultimately results in cost savings to the client.

Starting to see an architect’s value?

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted February 06 2013, edited/revised per date above- edited to enhance the original point of the post.

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The prior posts of the Design Process of an Architect Series, covered Programming, Schematic Design, Construction vs. Project Budgets, and Preliminary Construction Cost Estimate (PCCE) – click the links if you missed them.

The goal of this series is to address the typical design process of an architect. De-mystifying the design process for the client affords them the understanding of what it is we as architects do, how we do it, and the value of our services. I firmly believe that an educated client is the best client to have. Clients are not typically as involved with Design Development as they were with Schematic Design. However, as the client, you’re not off the hook- there are numerous decisions to be made and your input is crucial for a successful project.

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Refining the Design- Design Development

Anybody can create a Schematic Design (SD), it’s not that difficult…there I said it. Whew, I feel better. However, not everyone can follow through and create Architecture, not even some architects. Design Development is where true architecture begins- one needs to take the SD and begin to establish how it will be constructed while also maintaining the overall vision of the project, regulatory requirements, structural issues, budgetary concerns, etc. Schematic Design establishes the concept. However, if the follow through misses, or just can’t be built, than whatever great concept one had is useless. Design Development is the follow through and where the magic happens!

Design Development is the phase of work where the overall design is refined in greater detail- basically we’re answering, “How do we actually build this while maintaining the budget and vision?” We discuss design character, major materials to be used- the budget is checked, revised, and checked many more times- and matters like interior finishes of each room (i.e. interior trims, crowns, wainscots, etc.) are discussed. Drawings are hard-lined, typically via CAD software. This is also the time to make adjustments as needed- cheap on paper, costly once under construction. Design Development can also be viewed as preparing an outline for the Construction Document Phase- the basics of the story are established but the plot (intended pun) details need to be worked out and refined for a compelling read.

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Your involvement in the Design Development Phase of work usually commences with meeting your architect. For the meeting, I will typically provide hard line plans, sections, and elevations at ¼” scale, interior/exterior perspectives and sketches of major rooms, furniture plans, electrical/lighting plans and the beginnings of the interior finish schedule. These drawings will be more refined, and based upon, the approved SD. You will start to grasp the multitude of decisions you will need to have input on or make. Some prefer to make all the decisions on their own… some feel they could use some additional help… some don’t want to make any decisions at all- no matter what your stance, as your architect, I am able to assist.

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It’s important to understand where interior architecture services end and where interior design services begin. For example, in our typical role as architect, we will identify a floor area for carpet, or hardwood flooring, or tile. However, we do not choose your carpet, floor stain, or tile color. We will identify where vanity cabinets and countertops should be installed. However, we do not choose the manufacturer, color, stain, door style, material, etc. We will identify which walls are drywall. However, we do not choose paint colors and textures. This role is typically performed by you, with or without the assistance of an interior designer. An interior designer can also help you identify and price new pieces of furniture you may need for your new space. They can also help you identify the best locations for furniture you already own. If you desire to engage the services of an interior designer, I can assist you with selecting one and will coordinate with them as needed. That being said, we can, have, and are more than happy to do so (we actually prefer this route), provide interior design services for our projects… see another choice. Even if you choose to have an interior designer, as your architect, we will have strong opinions about all of the finishes/selections for your project- interior designers love it!

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Whether or not an interior designer’s services are obtained, it is important to highlight that you will need at minimum to consult a kitchen/bath designer for cabinetry, fixture, and appliance layout. In most cases, these services are provided free of charge by those from whom you purchase your cabinets. The layouts prepared by us- in part due to the significant matters of personal taste involved- typically do not include the level of detail required to purchase specific cabinetry types and accessories. We will have prepared the overall design/layouts and can be consulted with during selections. However, if you wish, we can make the final specifications.

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As Design Development progresses, drawings and documents will be refined and further developed- you will see the initial loose sketches from SD translated into more defined/detailed drawings. At the end of this Phase, the project scope and material selections will be defined so they can be detailed and put in a proper format for permit and construction drawing submittals. Major decisions will have been made and we have a fairly complete set of documents that closely resemble Construction Documents. However, we’re not done yet. Next up, Design Process 106- Construction Documents, stay tuned.

 

Design On,

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* Originally posted October 04 2012, edited/revised per date above- Keep in mind this is how my firm works. Other firms will differ. However, in general, most architects will adhere to a similar design process. If they don’t, well… they’re just wrong.