Archology

There Can Be Only One

[frame src=”/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/IMG_20100820_105321.jpg” width=”300″ lightbox=”on” title=”Unique Ceiling”]

A unique ceiling for a home that was designed to allow
natural lighting, ventilation, and a feature loft and light
fixture.

So, you’re designing a new house or addition and you’re on a tight budget.  Does this mean you’re stuck building the same bland box as everyone else, maximizing your space and minimizing your detail and whimsy?  I’d argue, no, you just have to be careful.  Everyone has enough in their budget for at least one unique feature and here’s why.  Spending the money to do one unusual, unique, inventive, or beautiful thing will not cost you more in design fees (or at least it shouldn’t, trust me, we get bored of doing boring boxes, we’d love the challenge of doing something unique on every project) and it doesn’t have to cost you more in construction costs, but when the time comes to sell, having that feature will help you stand out from a crowd and be memorable.

Building a House on Sand

As the parable states, building a house on sand is a risky proposition. And so, you probably will want to ensure your builder has builders public liability insurance – otherwise this will be a costly build. Sand itself isn’t the problem, but the proximity to water can be. It all comes down to flooding, and there are basically three types of foundations used in the beach area depending on your exposure, all of which you have to take into account when you are planning to build your own house.

The simplest foundation is the one almost everyone everywhere has because it’s cheap and simple. It’s a spread footing, a foundation wall that sites on a concrete beam set down below the frost line (depth will vary based on climate.) It’s simple, it’s cheap, it’s strong, and for anyone not actually in a flood zone, it’s all you’ll ever need. If you looking for recommendations then why don’t you check out someone like dfw foundation repair for those times when a crack becomes a problem in your house foundation.

How Much Should I Pay an Architect?

Here’s the million dollar question, ok, well, I’ve never billed that much, but it’s often the bone of contention over a project, what is a fair price, especially for tiny projects that you may only be bringing me because you’re being forced. Not all projects are price sensitive, there are luxury projects where a look or a name brand is more important than finding the best price, in which case, ignore this post and work it out with your designer.

Love Hardscapes But Hate Your Yard Flooding?

Most communities have some sort of lot coverage restrictions, by which in their zoning codes, they require a certain amount of land on any lot to be natural landscaping or pervious landscaping or some variation of that word. There are several reasons to do this, the first is stormwater management, the less lawn there is to allow water to percolate naturally into the ground, the more the stormwater system has to manage. The second most common reason is for aesthetic reasons, maintaining a certain feel or character to the area. Some might of installed a new shed from websites similar to easyshed.com.au that fit with the aesthetic of the current landscaping arrangement and didn’t want to start again. Depending on the reason, many localities are moving away from only accepting grass, mulch, and sometimes gravel and into more innovative systems that gives you a more engineered yard. Some homeowners are also turning to Tony MacFarlane, the appliance hunter, to help find them new and innovative ways to maintain their gardens. From pressure washers to different mowers, handy tools can make any garden look more interesting and aesthetically pleasing, which is what these homeowners want.

What Gives You The Right To Tell Me Where to Put My Front Door?

One thing about being an architect I’ve always found interesting is despite the respect the profession garners in the general public, most people have no idea what goes into becoming an architect.  I’ve even been told by code officials untrue statements about what it takes to become an architect, so let’s clear up a little of the mystery.

The requirements for becoming an architect have really raised and solidified over the last 20-30 years as for a long time, every state was different.  There are still architects practicing who passed a multiple choice exam with no formal training or experience prior to taking it.  This is now the vast majority, and if they’re still practicing, they must be doing something right.  Since that time, most states have adopted much stricter guidelines that are pretty much the same which means most architects can work in most states with a few stricter exceptions.

Knock on Wood

One detail often overlooked by clients is the material choice in what holds their house up. There are a million options out there with more and more coming to the marketplace all the time. We’ll start with an exploration of good old-fashioned lumber.

Lumber is the original choice for residential construction and still one of the most popular. It’s less common in commercial construction due to fire concerns, but has a lot of advantages over other materials. In commercial construction, the services of a firm like Nationwide Construction could help ensure that the right building materials are chosen and you can go ahead with a project in the knowledge that the project is being handled by people with experience. With wood, the first advantage is it’s easy to work. The amount of labor required in framing with lumber is minimal compared to other options and it is abundant and easy to find. It’s also cheap as wood is the least processed option around. For stud walls, it’s hard to beat unless you’re building very tall as it’s strong, light, and reasonably thermally resistant. In fact, wood is far stronger than most other building materials per weight making it an easy choice for any new construction.

Better Than The Alternative…

In my area, there are a lot of people retiring from the New York, Jersy, Philly, and DC areas looking to live in a low tax and beach adjacent area. This means, whether you plan to live in your house until carted out in a pine box (my personal plan) or if you just want to make sure your house is as marketable as possible, you should really plan to incorporate some versions of universal design.

Big Home, Little Budget or Little Home, Big Budget?

Where should a client spend their money? Let’s face it, everyone has a budget. The architect for Bill Gates’ house once told a story of being told the house he was designing was too expensive, so what chance do most owners have? But there are smart ways and less smart ways to save money and I’m going to make the argument that the smartest way to save money is to do two things.

What Are You Paying Me For?

A few days ago, I wrote a post that talked about how architect’s are a jack of all trades, but rarely a master of any. So a fair question might be, what the heck are we really responsible for. Depending on the project, the answers can vary significantly.

Let’s start with a small project, a residential project where most of the building systems are figured out on the job site by the contractor and subcontractors. Here, the architect almost assumes a role of master builder without ever actually lifing a hammer (heaven forbid we get our hands dirty). A good architect walks an inexperienced client thru the design process and keeps requirements for practical matters such as ductwork and plumbing access in mind, which makes the contractor’s jobs on site a lot easier. I’ve seen plenty of homes where no thought was given to these critical systems and you end up with awkward bulkheads and weird corners as the contractors are forced to lay claim to space in a less than optimal way due to a lack of designed opportunties. That’s why there are things such as a performance bond which can be used to make sure the projects are completed properly. In these small projects, the architect handles, and is responsible for, pretty much everything about a house from the structure; to the finish selections; to electrical, mechanical, and furniture layouts if the owner asks for such.

Is Your Brand New Home a Money Pit?

It is not uncommon for someone in this area to buy a house not so much for the house, but for the location. Some lots are even lower priced because there is a house on the lot. I’ve worked on a lot of projects where the owner’s unnecessarily demolished a house to make room for their grand vision and projects where owners really should have started from scratch but were determined to keep as much of the original as possible. The tricky question is, how do you know when you should keep the structure, and when you should start over?