An Architect’s Value- 60 to Contemplate

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.


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.


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?


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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