It occurred to me, as I was sitting down to write this post this morning, that I did not specify exactly what I was doing for a project! This project is a new home complete from the ground up, nothing there currently.  It’s a 20 week design project!  Is that a magic number? No.  This is the schedule that worked for my current workload and the clients schedule. Today I am actually going to talk about how projects get de-railed, modified, and extended.  Because, even though I had originally projected that this week would be a meeting week with the client, the client is out of town.  It happens, projects get put on hold for a week, two weeks, a month, a year, or indefinitely.  At the end of this 20 weeks I hope to put together a client worksheet that details decisions that need to be made at each phase of design and construction. My business advisor suggested this to me months ago.  He stated how helpful this would have been when he was designing his home.  He reminded me, that for the homeowner, it can be an overwhelming process.  There are so many decisions to be made that you get overwhelmed and become unable to make any decisions at all.  For that reason I started this 20 week blog in hopes of giving some clarity to what the Architect is doing, and what stages of the project the homeowner needs to make what decisions.

Typically week 8 would be a meeting week.  As I plan out the schedule for a project and create a pipeline of work that needs to get done over the coming months, I will estimate weeks for meetings, weeks for drawing, and weeks that are used for coordination of trades (think structural engineer, surveyor, kitchen designer etc.).  So when I planned out this project, week 8 was a meeting week.  However, while meeting with my clients and getting closer to week 8 we realized that they would be out of town for several weeks for a wedding.  At this point I can do one of many things.  If I’m far enough along in design I can really start cranking out some drawings.  Elevations, Sections, and detailed floor plans to move from schematic design into design development. I can take advantage of the time my clients are gone to really start putting together a solid design development package.  When you work by yourself I find that having maintained relationships with other architects that I trust and respect can be invaluable. I often use this time to have them look at my project.  Not everyone will subscribe to this idea, but I think its a brilliant plan to have another architect peer review my projects.  I find it’s nice to have a fresh set of eyes take a look at my plans.  I haven’t seen everything and done everything, so another set of eyes looking at my work often creates a better project.  It’s one of the great things about working in a studio style architecture firm that does not happen when you work alone.  For that reason, and several other reasons, I keep in contact with a few other architects that I bounce ideas off of, have peer reviews with, and generally enjoy spending time with periodically throughout the year.  And the last, and least valuable thing I do when a project needs to be modified, is push the schedule out and work on other projects.  This is the least palatable solution because it means I may not meet my deadline, or that I have other clients waiting on my time that I will not get to when I said I would. True I could work on those projects now, instead of later, but if it’s a large project, I don’t want to start it now and then run out of time to finish it before this project picks back up.

I ended up doing a hybrid of things for this particular project.  I did research because we were not far enough along to just into design development. The project is on a lake, which means complicated zoning and shore land requirements.  The house we are designing is behind the 100′ flood plane, but the homeowners wanted to know what all the options would be regarding renovating the existing house instead of building a new house.  So instead of spending time detailing a house that we may or may not build, I took the time to dive into the research. I called the code officer to find out first, can the homeowner even renovate the house that is currently there.  Answer:yes.  Okay, so what are the requirements: Well the rules changed and they can now add 1000Sf if they are within 75′ of the lake.  They can add 1500SF if they are between 75′ and 100′ and they can cover 25% of the lot if they build behind the 100′ setback.  However, they can not add a foundation, it must be a slab on grade. They must keep 50% of the existing structure. And they can not add a bathroom, kitchen, or any type of plumbing to another structure planned behind the 100′ line (i.e.: no extra living quarters above a garage).  People always look at me funny when I tell them they can’t just do whatever they want with their property.  Town zoning tells you if you can have a single family or two family dwelling on your property.  It will dictate if you can have an in-law apartment and where you can put your house.  So it’s extremely important to know what the rules are on the piece of property you are building on.  Don’t laugh, I knew what the rules are for behind the 100′ setback, but I met this client through a builder who had already convinced them to build behind the 100′ mark.  What I should have done was ask questions in the very beginning to find out whether they had considered all the options.  But alas, this is the time to find out what all the options are, before you put together a beautiful set of construction documents and then find out that maybe they want to keep the existing house.  Lesson learned – ask more questions!

Thanks for tuning in – see you next week in week 9 to find out what i’m doing then!


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