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  • Writer's pictureCheryl McIntosh

How Your Architect Designs Your House

Updated: Apr 4, 2023

IIn collaboration with you and your family an Architect is trained to think about your house in an integrated and systematic way. An Architect also brings a sixth sense for light, space, your land, and your family’s needs. Architects are trained to think deeply about “home”. They seek to reach you to unlock and learn ways you will use space, to synthesize many design influences including land, topography, environment, the neighborhood and the context that will support your house; the seasons, sunlight, wind and weather, the climate, a local design aesthetic, appropriate and contextual materials and finishes, your needs and your budget.

Your search for the right Architect has led you to a person you feel you can trust with something as important and as expensive as your home. If you are collaborating on a design for a house you are one of very few in our world who can afford the time, expense, and professional interaction that yields a unique and personal environment for you.

The Architect begins the process of design with you by collecting information about the context in which your home will reside. The land, grades or slopes, access, local land-use codes, design standards, the neighborhood, and the environment are important in defining your house. Your Architect will research and understand local building codes and code enforcement processes and standards.

Using a series of meetings and a questionnaire, Architects work with you to discover what you expect in a house. Architects map your expectations and needs both quantitatively (the number of square feet, rooms, types of spaces, number of cars to be parked, special areas within the house, total size, number of stories, your expected or affordable budget) and qualitatively (your special desires, your need for light, how you want to use large and small spaces, your ability to be mobile or special physical needs, the relationship between the spaces you will use, individual dreams that you and your family may have about the house, the importance of light at different times of the day and for various activities, how the seasons and seasonal use may affect the design and layout of the house. An Architect can bring a beautiful synthesis of all of these factors to a design based on years of training and experience.

At Rhodes Architecture we create two unique guides to designing a house. A “program” which captures types, sizes, and locations of space and spatial relationships and a preliminary “proforma”, a document that estimates the costs of building your house. The construction cost, the cost of labor and materials is one part of the costs of building a house. An experienced Architect estimates ranges of construction cost, permitting fees and utility fees, the taxes that will be charged on the construction and the costs of professionals who will be required. A well-planned building benefits from a licensed Architect, Structural Engineer, Landscape Architect, and potentially a Civil Engineer to plan utilities, grading, drainage, roads and walks.

Utility fees and planning fees, for example a registered survey to define your land, slopes, trees, and environmental features, may be very prudent or mandatory to meet the requirements of your city or county.

An Architect is not a magician who can perfectly estimate the cost of your home; these planning tools are guides utilizing ranges. The builder you work with (who is essential) together with an Architect and your direction, will determine construction costs including the costs of excavation, foundations and structure, utilities and utility fees, materials and finishes, building labor and a builder’s overhead and profit. These costs will vary with the construction demand in your area, your specific building location and land, and a region’s cost inflation. The Architect will create a cost guide direct a process where a builder, usually a licensed general contractor, solicits bids from many subcontractors and ensures quality and competitiveness of those trades who will build your home.

After a preliminary discovery and definition phase that yields a general agreement between you and your Architect defining the size and shape of your house, the planning of your house will progress through five stages. Architects are versed in conducting this process, starting with a wide view of the house and your needs and continuing through refined definition of the finished home.

Schematic Design is a process of generally defining the overall size and shape of the building and locating spaces, openings such as doors, windows, and skylights. Schematic Design develops the indoor and outdoor spatial relationship, access, the plan of the land and environment around the house as well as general components like doors and windows, materials and finishes.

Design Development further elaborates materials and finishes, systems (such as heating, ventilation, air conditioning, plumbing), appliances, lighting, and special attributes such as shading, passive and active solar systems, decks, terraces, balconies, and landscape features. We extensively use three-dimensional modeling (SketchUp and Revit Software) in both Design Phases.

Permit Documents is the production a set of drawings and notes based on your instructions that define your house and contain the required building and land use code information that a building department will use to review and issue approval for your house to be built.

Construction Documents are a more detailed set of instructions of how to build your home provided to a builder or general contractor.

Critical to the services that an Architect guides a careful client through is a final phase, Construction Administration. During the construction of your house you and your Architect are the authorities on what you expect to be buying and building. The documents that an Architect produces are a s

et of instructions. The accuracy and the quality of the construction as well as the ability to solve unforeseen issues as they arise are crucial reasons to continue a collaboration through construction with the Architect you trusted to design and documents your house during the construction process.

A house is the most expensive, the most elaborate and the most personal material object in the lives of our clients. It can lend meaning, safety, and shelter to you. The ability to guide and to create a beautiful place that is central to your life is a natural and an experiential ability and the passion behind what we do as Architects.

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