Architectural Services

What type of services can JFA Architecture, P.C. provide?

Most everyone understands that architects design things, and they prepare drawings to convey their ideas to their clients and builders. But that is as far as the understanding goes. Also, people can have misconceptions about even these two basic concepts. The truth is, architects provide their clients far more than only preparing designs and drawings, and every one of these services will result in you getting a better project, and with better cost control. Following is a very brief summary of these services, how you could expect to work with our firm, and how the service can benefit you.

Site Design

If you have not selected an actual building site already, we can help. Most people do not realize that architects are trained to analyze site conditions, and can help you choose a site that is best for your needs. We can review the site to make sure that it is the right size, that the soils have the proper characteristics, that it does not have easements or other problems that would make construction difficult or impossible. Beyond the nuts-and-bolts issues, we can help you analyze a site to determine the best placement of your home on the land. Positioning your home properly can certainly optimize views, but can also permit the house to function more efficiently by making good use of prevailing breezes, solar orientation, shading from trees, and other environmental concerns that can make your home actually function smarter and more efficiently. We can help you by reviewing a site for its potential, or can explain the opportunities and constraints of several sites that you may be considering, in order for you to make the smartest land purchase.

Building Design

Regardless of whether we are going to design an entirely new home for you, or a simple renovation, the basic process is the same. First, we listen to your needs and goals for the project. We can quickly ask you questions about these goals, offering you additional issue to consider. The odds are that this is the first, or maybe the second time you have done this. We can raise additional options for you, and can quickly resolve problems that you may not have considered, based solely on our past experience.

Once we have worked with you to flesh out your actual goals for the function and design of the project, we will prepare preliminary drawings for your review. The content of these drawings will vary based on the actual project, but they could include a conceptual site plan, floor plans, and exterior views of the building. Generally, we will provide you with a few different options to consider. If this is an addition or renovation project, we will have taken an additional step in the process – we will have taken initial measurements and analysis of your existing home, and drawn the existing conditions, so that we can effectively do the new design work.

We will discuss these options with you in a “design review meeting”. Often, at the end of the meeting, we will have developed a plan that has evolved, and may incorporate bits of all of the options shown. We will take this input, and prepare a revised set of preliminary design drawings for your review. For relatively simple projects, this process may happen only once. If we are designing a larger project, or a completely custom home, this process may be repeated several times. But eventually, we reach a set of preliminary design drawings that outlines your project.

After the preliminary design is agreed upon, we will prepare more detailed drawings, sometimes called “working drawings”, and written specifications to more fully describe the work. Together, these drawings and specifications are often referred to as the Construction Documents. These are the documents that the building permit application will be made with, and that the project will be built from. Typically, they will include a dimensioned, scaled site plan; floor plans; exterior elevations; cross-sections showing the makeup of walls, floors, and roof; framing details, layouts of cabinetry, and other details. While still a very detailed set of drawings, the working drawings for a residential project are generally a bit less comprehensive than drawings prepared for a commercial design project. They usually leave a bit more of the final details open-ended, to be resolved between the homeowner and builder. Most sets of residential working drawings will include the “general” drawings, and electrical layouts, but the site utility work, HVAC and plumbing designs are generally provided by the installing subcontractors.

Cost Estimating

One of the greatest values that an architect can offer to clients is cost estimating services. Based on past experience and knowledge of current trends in the construction industry, your architect can give you good estimates of the cost of your project long before construction quotes are actually received. Remember, he will have had the details of your project in his head long before it gets completely detailed on paper. And this is not only important at the end of the design process. Probably even more importantly, your architect can keep you continually aware of the probable costs of various options during the actual design process. Your architect’s estimate is also a good way to gauge competitive bids prepared by builders, to see if the bids look unreasonably high or low. While almost always requested on commercial projects, many residential clients prefer to not retain the architect for this service. To be honest, this is not a very smart decision, as the information that you can find out upfront, before drawings are complete and bids are received, can save the clients far more than the additional architectural fees.

Construction Bid Phase Architectural Services

There are hundreds of builders in the Yellow Pages. Some of them are very good, others not so good. How do you tell one from the other, and who is a good match for your project? Lots of factors come into play, ranging from basic questions of business stability and experience, to more intangible aspects. We have worked with many different builders, and can offer you a wealth of assistance in selecting one. Not only can we offer referrals to contractors that we know, we also have the experience and tools to check on builders that are not familiar. We can help cut through the industry jargon and qualifications of several builders’ proposals, and set up a real “apples to apples” comparison for your review. We can give you additional pointers in making the final selection of a builder, which can save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars over the course of your project.

Construction Phase Architectural Services

Here is a simple truth that most people do not understand: it is simply not possible to completely and perfectly detail a three-dimensional object like a building, by using two dimensional drawings. There will always be parts of an architect’s design that stays in his or her mind, and can never be translated to paper. Some people may not like this, but it is true. For this reason and a few others, it is very important to meeting your design goals that your architect be involved in the project during construction phase. By the time your project begins construction, your architect will have spent many hours designing your project, and will be more knowledgeable about its many overlapping requirements than even you will be yourself – and will certainly know more about the project than the builder, who has to pick up “cold” where the architect left off, if not hired to provide construction phase services.

In addition to interpreting the drawings, an architect is experienced in reviewing the acceptability of construction work. During construction, your architect is on the jobsite to be an additional, professional set of “eyes and ears” to make sure that the intentions of your project are actually being carried out, and in a proper manner. Your architect is trained to review contractor’s pay requests for correctness and accuracy, as well as making sure that you get appropriate lien waivers to help protect your property from future mechanics’ liens.

If all of these services sound time-consuming, you are right. Doing a proper job of designing your project, and providing construction-phase architectural services takes a fair amount of time, and of course, time translates into money.