The following are a collection of articles designed to guide the client through the building process. They provide insights and strategic advice on preparing for the design consultation, effective communication with the architect, and avoiding stress. Also featured are inclusive checklists for the permit process, construction costs, and architectural and professional consultants’ fees.
How to Begin
POTENTIAL CLIENTS: HOW TO BEGIN
If you are interested in becoming a client:
1. Read “Choosing an Architect”
2. Answer the “Client Questionnaire”
3. Call the Blue and Green Architect to notify us that you have sent us an email.
4. We will contact you to arrange a free 15 minute phone consultation to briefly discuss your project.
5. Next we will arrange a free 15 minute in-person meeting at Marilyn’s office to get to know each other discuss each other’s experience and decide if we are compatible.
6. If both parties decide that we want to work together, we will set up a paid consultation meeting (two hour minimum) at your property to brainstorm designs, strategies, etc.
7. If you decide to proceed with Marilyn’s design team, we will both sign a contract for preliminary design services and then begin the design process.
You may want to check out the gallery section of this website and the videos on the YouTube channels, TheBlueArchitect1 and EcoDevelopmentKit to see if Marilyn’s personal and professional style is right for you.
Explore the client participation guide. If you start feeling sincerely interested in full custom architectural services, contact Marilyn and one of her associates will enter you into the Client-Project Contact Management System.
If you are looking for lower cost options, Marilyn has creative solutions to make her expertise more accessible including master planning using prefabs and “mini-consultations”, for getting those crucial pieces of expertise to keep your project moving forward.
If you are preparing to start a new project, there are many things you can do to familiarize yourself with what may be involved, how long your project may take, and how to go about turning your dreams into reality — with a minimum of time and cost.
Included here are the tools and guidelines to help you reach your project goals: To begin, read “Prepare for Your First Design Consultation Meeting”. Here you will learn about what to expect from this meeting and how you can best prepare for it.
As you begin to delve into the design process with Marilyn, it is best to get a broad view of the entire project chronology, so that as your project progresses you know what to expect and how to prepare. From there, check out the preliminary data gathering guide to assist you in compiling the essential information needed for the project to begin. After Marilyn has designed the preliminary plans, you can help the project by gathering data for the permit. Both guides show you how to cut down on planning time and expenses. Time should definitely be allotted to consulting the documents on project costs, so the project manifests without going over budget.
Also of value is the “Green Consultant Team List” which reviews all of the consultants that you may need to work with throughout your project. Related to that is the “Contractors Communications Guide” which gives pointers on how to best go about preliminary conversations with contractors, teaching you how to achieve clear, effective communications, and starting off on secure footing for moving ahead.
Before you get too far into your project, remember to review some of the following guides on “Stress Reduction” and how “Haste Makes Waste” in order to avoid some common problems that can arise during a building project.
If you are interested in working with Marilyn, please copy and paste the following questions into an email and answer them as best as you can. After you have emailed us your responses, give us a call to notify us that you have sent us an email. That way we can review your proposed project, and set up a preliminary consultation. See “How to Prepare for the Consultation Meeting”.
Provide a short description of your project:
Is it residential, commercial, industrial, or other?
Is it new construction, remodel, addition, demolition, reconstruction, or other?
How big is your lot in square feet or acres?
What is the project address and what jurisdiction (city or county) is it in?
SIZE AND STYLE
How many rooms and/or approximate square footage do you want to build/remodel?
What style do you want it to be? (I.e. Victorian, Mediterranean, high-tech, etc.)
What kind of green building features do you want? (Check all that apply.) Healthy/non-toxic building features
Solar hot water
Solar ovens and cookers
Integrated water management
Methane power from composting
HydoVoltaic power storage, and generation
Site preservation/restoration features
Low or no carbon score
Integrated optional off-grid utilities
What is your total project budget (includes constructing the building, site improvements, landscaping, permits, engineering and architect fees, and furnishing and finance fees)?
When will the funds be available?
Where will funding come from?
Do you anticipate that you will want the architect to do all of the following architectural services? If not, what services do you want the architect to provide?
Design, consultation, and green assessment
Consultation to real estate buyers
Jurisdiction communications and permit applications
Preliminary design/masterplanning/feasibility phase
Preliminary estimates of probably construction
Assembly and management of green design consultation team
Specification of green building material products
Building material quantity estimates
Administration construction period overseeing and communications
Detailing and color-board services
Do you want to participate in the project?
List what duties and responsibilities you’d want to do, if you know (i.e. permit administration, documentation legwork, construction, etc.)
What is your desired project time schedule?
Desired plan completion date?
Desired permit approval date?
Desired end of bidding period and decision of which general contractor?
Desired start of construction date?
Desired completion of construction date?
List any other building projects that you’ve worked on, if any, including what, where and when.
How did you find out about Marilyn?
Preparing for the First Design Consultation
The first design consultation is a two hour collaborative meeting between you and Marilyn that promotes “property visioning” and creative brainstorming. It is an opportunity for you to explain your needs and desired outcome to an architect. You may want direction and guidance during design counseling, or you may just want ideas for curb appeal, getting increased rent or greater appreciation. Whatever your reason, you will receive useful information, education, and design ideas that can turn your vision into reality. During design counseling, you will gain insights into consultants, contractors, building codes, permits, financing, and architectural designs. The client should be prepared when they meet with Marilyn. Ideally, schedule the meeting at least a month ahead so you have ample time to prepare. The more idea gathering you do before the consultation, the more productive the meeting will be. At the very least, gather the information below and have it ready to share for the first meeting.
1. Make a written list of what your goals and objectives are about the project. What kind of rooms do you want, how do you want the rooms to function, what are the particular needs of your business or family?
2. Go on a book and magazine visual quest, either making Xerox copies (black and white is okay) or bring in the actual book and magazines with Post-it notes to show Marilyn what design ideas inspire you. Consider finding images for all the design elements that you care about, like the kitchen, bathroom, fireplace, etc. If you are interested in color, find color samples. The more visual ideas you can bring to the table, the more Marilyn can do for you.
3. Bring in existing building drawings, including survey maps if they are available. You should try to get building records from the County Tax Assessors Office since only the owner can see these records. If there are existing buildings, find out when they were built so that Marilyn can see what materials and technologies were used in constructing that building. With all of his data, Marilyn can start drawing ideas on the spot and the client can take copies of what transpires. If you want to be further prepared, check out the “Preliminary Data Gathering List” for a more comprehensive list of information that you can gather to save money and expedite the design process.
Ideally, everything that needs to be done during design counseling can be accomplished in a single meeting. Marilyn holds nothing back during this counseling phase. Professional, comfortable, and eager to get down to business, Marilyn brings all of her professional tools as an architect to bear on your plans and goals, and a willingness to listen and fully understand your particular questions and problems, all before seeking answers and solutions. Payment is due prior to the meeting by check or Pay Pal. Additional follow up services are available such as a written summary of the consultation, or communications with pertinent consultants and government offices to initiate and develop a preliminary permit strategy. At this point, you can decide if you would like to continue working with Marilyn. If you both agree to work together, Marilyn will determine the next course of action—usually the preliminary design phase and researching answers to any questions that came up during the design consultation.
Data Gathering for the Permit
1. Make prints of site plan at printers:
- One set for you to use at jurisdiction while talking to various offices
- One set for soil engineer
- One set for civil engineer
2. Jurisdiction Building:
- Go to the Jurisdiction Building and bring a copy of the site plan plus the architectural plans with you. You will not leave any copies this trip, just question asking.
- Take notes. Write the date, name of department, and name of person you spoke with, on a separate piece of paper for each department. Write down in the notes exactly what they told you. Do this in front of them. Read it back to them so you are sure you got it right. If possible always ask for a copy of the code or ordinance they are responding to. (They have lots of hand-outs for this).
- Do the same whether it is an in-person meeting or a phone call
3. Jurisdiction Environmental Health Counter:
- Go between 8am and 9am (while the field inspectors are still in).
- Get the name of the inspector/plan checker who covers your district (tell them your address).
- Show them your site plan and architectural drawings
- They will need the proposed number of bedrooms and floor area (existing vs proposed)
- Inquire if there are any required upgrades to septic system tank or leach field if no additional bedrooms or bathrooms are added?
- Even if no upgrades are required, the building department still requires a “sign off” of the application.
- What is the cost of this application?
- How many sets of prints are required?
- Do they need a recent plumber’s report?
- You can get copies of all septic permit history on your property. It is scanned into their computer, though you will have to pay for copies.
- What is the time period for the application processing?
- Get a copy of their generic checklist for project requirements.
4. Jurisdiction Planning Department Counter:
- Do you need neighborhood subdivision approval?
How to Research Jurisdiction Requirements and Fees
To be entirely prepared for the first consultation meeting, the client should gather as much data about the property as possible. Some clients may have more time, availability, and/or resources for gathering information than others. If your time is limited, Marilyn or a consultant is available to gather property information for you. However, if you want to be empowered to be in control of your own project, check out the “Data Gathering List” below and decide how much you think you want to do. It is not necessary to gather everything on this first meeting, but generally, the more you do, the better your consultation. If you are thoroughly prepared for the consultation meeting, Marilyn can begin drawing ideas on the spot. Due to the demands of her time, Marilyn does not typically begin working with a client for at least a month after the client’s initial request for the consultation, giving the client ample time to prepare for the meeting with Marilyn. Also remember that it takes less time to gather the property information that already exists than to document it all from scratch. Take advantage of the fact that a tremendous amount of information about your property is public record and obtainable.
NOTE: Some of the following items may not be applicable to your particular project. For example, if there is no septic system on the property, you will not need to retrieve a septic system report.
IDEAS AND NEEDS
Please provide in writing:
- List of project criteria, requirements, desires, concerns etc.
- Magazine clippings, sketches, and/or notes of ideas for each room
- Description of landscaping
- History of previous thoughts, design, or work on the project
- List any known problems on the project
- List of questions that you want answered by architect
- List what you want & need from the architect
- List your desired project time schedule, plans, permits, bidding, construction, and occupancy date
- Available construction budget including when construction funds are available
PLANS AND DRAWINGS
- Property map by surveyors or assessor’s tax map, including measurements of existing improvements, land features, and topography of parcel if available. (Approximations are okay)
- Vicinity road map
- Copies of any work previously done on the property by professional consultants, including architectural drawings of original construction from designer/architect/engineer/drafting agency who prepared the plans.
- Obtain one set of vellums from original building to make future sets of plans from
- Obtain the printed job copy from building permit. If no existing drawings are available, attempt to do a graph-paper floor plan yourself, or hire a drafter.
- Graph paper drawing of building from appraisal report or tax assessor when the property was recently purchased.
- Marilyn can use a base sheet to make graph paper to scale design sketches during the consultation
- Markup site plan with as-built location of all below-grade utilities and pipes.
- Irrigation plan
- Plumbing diagrams
- Mechanical duct layout diagrams
- Structural drawings and structural calculations from structural engineer
- Landscape plans with location and names of all species from landscape architect. (If not available or not accurate, measure and locate existing trees.)
- Septic plans and calculations from septic engineer
- Title 24 energy calculations and energy documents from energy consultant
- Fire sprinkler plans from fire sprinkler subcontractor
- Recent property photographs of land, fences, drains, gates, etc.
- Recent property photographs of building interiors, exteriors, sheds, existing improvements, etc. (Marilyn can print out aerial photographs of property using Google Earth)
DOCUMENTS AND REPORTS
- Soils engineer report from soil engineer
- Geology reports
- Title 24 energy calculations and energy documents from energy consultant
- Well tests and reports
- Property and/or termite inspection reports
- Home inspector report (from purchase escrow)
- Chimney cleaning report or date the chimney was last cleaned
- Copy of condominium CC and R letter from soils engineer responding to their review of any previous architectural plans and whether they have incorporated all of their recommendations in the soils report
- Inspection letter from soils engineer regarding foundation inspection during construction and installation of all permanent drainage, erosion control measures, retaining walls, and landscaping. (These letters are required by building departments as part of building permits under current building codes.)
- Visit the planning department office for preliminary information gathering about project requirements.
- Get a list of “Required Information for Planning Permit Application”.
- Bring you assessor’s parcel number when making inquiries.
- Get parcel information printout lists from website: zoning, permit history, utility companies, capital improvement districts, valuation, voting district, statistics, etc. (Be sure to get the complete printout.)
- Find out if there any proposed road improvements for your street (widening, sidewalk, curb, gutter, etc.).
ACCESS COPIES OF ARCHIVE DOCUMENTS
- Make an appointment with “Archive” department
- Make a request for archive files on your parcel
- Pay a small fee and order the archives
- Make copies of all previous plans, engineering calculations, and consultant reports. (You will have to pay a small copying fee.)
- Visit the building department office for preliminary information gathering about project requirements
- Get list of “Required Information for Building Permit Application”
- Bring your Assessor’s parcel number when making inquiries
- Get parcel information printouts lists from website: zoning, permit history, utility companies, capital improvement districts, valuation, voting district, statistics, etc. (Be sure to get the complete printout.)
FOR EXISTING FACILITIES
- Try to get architectural drawings of the original construction (these are also called “as-built” drawings).
- Obtain one set of Xerox vellums from the original building designer/architect/engineer/drafting agency that prepared the plans, or obtain the printed job copy for use in making future sets of plans. This documentation is highly advantageous because it allows you to receive fee credits from the demolition of remodel, toward your reconstruction project, such as various jurisdiction department fees and future property tax assessment.
- Simple skeleton 1/8”-scale drawings must be prepared of existing floor plans, exterior elevations, utilities, paved areas, patio, decks, steps, fences, and drainage patterns. (The surveyor can locate everything in the site plan and build footprint, and the architect/drafter can draw interior floor plans and exterior elevations).
- Drainage district fees are based on new additional square-foot impervious coverage, so document the difference between existing impervious vs proposed impervious paved areas.
- School fees and other capital improvement fees are often based on bedrooms. Be sure to document the number of bedrooms, including closets and door widths that enable a room to be defined as a bedroom. (You want existing drawings to document bedrooms to give you credits on future fees).
- Public works sewer fees are based on fixture units. Your existing plans should document all toilets, tub and shower valves, laundry hook-ups, utility and darkroom sinks, and other water spigots. (You want your existing drawings to reveal as many plumbing fixtures as possible to give you credit on future fees).
- Document existing overall building height and all wall heights.
- Document existing floor areas of: carports, covered/open porches, decks, patios, paving, and conditioned/habitable area versus unconditioned/non-habitable areas.
PUBLIC WORKS DEPARTMENT
- Obtain copies of all maps with information about underground utility pipe locations and depths and a survey of roads and sidewalks pertaining to the parcel’s perimeter.
- Copy of confidential owner’s file that has a permit history and graph-paper drawing of all improvements. This is not public information and may only be obtained with owner’s written approval or identification.
- Assessor’s parcel map
- Copy of previous lines, notice of completion
REAL ESTATE APPRAISER
- Obtain an appraisal report by licensed real estate appraiser. (When you get a loan refinance, the bank always makes an appraisal, even if you did not hire and pay the appraiser yourself. Ask you banker for the name of the appraiser.)
- Obtain a Board of Realtors M.L.S. printout (if property was recently for sale).
TITLE COMPANY/COUNTY CLERK
- Obtain a legal description of the property from the Title Company, County Clerk, or escrow-closing document.
- Determine what the designated street-tree species for your street are.
COUNTRY SURVEYOR’S OFFICE
- Maps are public record, so you can obtain copies of any recorded surveys of your parcel or any adjacent parcels which share a common boundary line with your property.
- Get USGS map that overlaps your property. These have contour lines with 50-ft. intervals. (If you have a large parcel with steep slopes, this is very helpful as an instant topography map).
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH DEPARTMENT
- Residential—get a complete copy of septic tank and teach-line and pumping report, if applicable.
- Commercial—get a commercial kitchen annual inspection report.
FIRE MARSHALL’S OFFICE
- Obtain a Fire Marshal list of requirements for project applications.
- Owner/builders are advised to consult with construction-cost estimator (value engineer), construction manager, accountant, and appraiser for nearby “comparables”.
SPECIFIC RESEARCH FOR CLIENTS FOR EXISTING FACILITIES
- Make, color name, color number of interior and exterior paints for touch-up.
- List of paint brands, colors, color numbers for interior and exteriors. Paint chips are good too.
- Model name and number of all known existing finishes: tile, marble, granite, carpet, counters, flooring, if existing materials will be matched or reused.
- Name of cabinet make and/or model of prefabricated cabinets
- Appliance manufacturer literature, cut sheets, guarantees for all fixtures and appliances: refrigerator, freezer, laundry, water heater, boiler, furnace, pumps, water softeners, built in intercom, fans, stove, fire-place, oven, dishwasher, icemaker, disposal, compactor, etc.
- Document all existing elements. Research new ones you’d like to have.
- List special equipment, furnishings, fixtures, services and storage to be accommodated in your building space or about which you want more information.
FOR PROJECTS INVOLVING DEMOLITION
Call the following agencies to find out their protocol for grandfather fee credits on existing buildings to be demolished toward replacement building areas. Also, find out how they charge for fees in general, and what your fees will be:
- Public works department (regarding impervious surface with respect to drainage district and plumbing fixture units.)
- Fire Marshal Planning Department
- Building Department
- Parks Department (Fees per square foot.)
- Utility company (electric meter, gas meter hook-ups)
- Public Works Department (water-meter, gas meter, and sewer hook-ups)
- Phone company and internet service provider (phone and internet connections)
- Cable service provider (cable hook-up)
- County Department of Education (what do they charge per square foot for required school fees?)
- Environmental health-septic.
Choosing an Architect
Our work and living spaces are a very personal environment for most of us, yet our homes are often the least planned aspect of our lives. Take for instance, when a family moves into another’s home, it is rare that they would just decorate. Over time, the family will adapt the environment to its needs. As the family grows, accommodations will be made, renovations undertaken, and additions proposed. That’s where the architect comes in.
An architect can help you change your home to reflect your own unique lifestyle and make the most of your property. The architect has the educational background and experience to develop solutions to specific situations, yet is also able to see the big picture and help keep the various facets of your planning in perspective.
The result is that your needs will be translated into creative options that shape an appropriate environment for your family. Your investment will be protected by efficient space-planning and detailing in terms that will assure accurate contractor estimates. Architects also have the ability to maximize energy efficiency, selecting the most appropriate building materials to create an attractive home that will ultimately have a higher resale value.
Beyond planning and design, the use of an architect makes your life much easier. Architects can represent your interests during the construction process by coordinating schedules, ensuring compliance with local ordinances and codes, evaluating contractor performance, and overseeing any changes or unforeseen problems that may arise. It’s helpful to be aware of and comfortable with the architect’s design philosophy. The right chemistry is very important. You and the architect will work closely as a team, and you must feel comfortable with the relationship. Your selection of an architect should be someone professional and whom you trust.
The design and construction of your building project will sometimes be challenging and complex, and hundreds of decisions will affect the final outcome. The right architect, one who can help ease the process for you and show you the best options and available solutions at each step, can be your most important investment.
If you know exactly what you want and you are not interested in creativity or leadership, or if you are simply looking for the lowest price for your plans and you simply want them drawn, a drafter may be a better choice for your project.
Communications with Contractors
Since 1976, Marilyn has worked with over a hundred general contractors. When you have approved your preliminary design drawings, she will suggest a list of several potential general contractors of similar caliber who would be appropriate for your project. At that time, you will be directed to contact them, shake their hand, and distribute your preliminary design drawings and preliminary outline specifications to obtain the preliminary construction-cost estimates from these contractors. (Some may charge a fee for their estimating service.)
You will want a few different figures to compare on your project, so contact between three and five potential contractors, with the goal of obtaining a minimum of three bids to compare. See who seems honest, who has a personality that feels compatible with yours, and who offers you the work you enjoy. Later on, when the working drawings and the outline specifications are complete, you will re-contact these contractors with your final bid requests. Try to narrow your choices down to two or three contractors. When you are talking to these contractors, here are a few tips: Inform the contractor that Marilyn Crenshaw referred you. Tell the contractor what project you have available for them. For instance, you might say, “I have a 192-sq. ft. modular study addition to a master bedroom.” (You will want to be as specific as possible by stating information in this fashion.) Find out right away if they are interested in your project.
Tell them your anticipated start date.
Make an appointment with the contractor to come visit your site and pick up the outline specification plans and instructions.
It is considered impolite to overlap contractors’ appointments, so schedule their appointments with enough time for them to come and go without running into each other in the parking lot.
- Hire only licensed contractors
- Check California contractor’s license number at 800-321-2752 or http://www.cslb.ca.gov/
- Get three references, talk to past clients, and go see their completed work.
- Get at least three bids.
- Get a written contract and do not sign anything until you completely understand the terms.
- Pay 10% down or $1,000, whichever is less.
- Do not make a final payment until you are satisfied with the job.
- Do not pay cash.
- Keep a job file of all papers relating to your project.
- Have your attorney, CPA, or lender administer the payments to the contractor’s requests.
- Do not let payments get ahead of the work.
- Keep records of all the payments.
- Stay on top of change orders and resist any owner generated change orders.
Consultant Communications, Green Team Coordination
Green Team Coordination
The following professional consultants may be required by your government jurisdictions or may be determined to be advisable and appropriate by the architect. The architect shall determine the scope of work to be performed by these professionals as well as the deadlines for completing their work.
The scope of work and cost of these professionals could change due to plan changes, the requirements for permit approval, or unforeseen site conditions. The architect and owner shall mutually discuss circumstances and potential expenses as soon as any issues are suspected or discovered as the project goes along. The architect will review all consultant drawings and materials for general conformance with design layout and placement. The architect is not be responsible for checking technical expertise of consultants’ work.
The owner shall contract with and pay for consultant services. Note that some consultants can provide multiple services, for example, one consultant can provide solar system and radiant heat design as well as installation.
- Soil engineer
- Civil drainage and road engineer
- Wetlands riparian consultant
- Landscape architect
- Septic/ sanitary engineer
- Land use planner
- Handicap consultant
- Feng Shui
- Environmental Impact
- Mechanical engineer
- Well drillers
- Fog Harvesting
- Black-water/ bioremediation
- Permit consultant
- Construction manager
- Cost estimator
- Media public relations
- Consulting architects
- Interior designer
- Waterproofing consultant
- Mold consultant
- Green materials consultant
- Model making
- Architectural rendering
- Virtual reality
- Energy code consultant
- Energy auditor
- Photovoltaic/ solar
- Solar hot water
- Wind energy
- Radiant Heat
- Cool roofs
- Heat pumps
- Electrical engineer
- Lighting designer
- Computer network
- Security alarm
- Audio visual
- Home theater
- Smart House
- Structural engineer
- Metal fabricator
- Alternative structural consultants (log, yurt, cob, straw bale, Rastra, etc.)
DESIGN-BUILD AND SHOP DRAWINGS
- Fire sprinkler
- Cabinet shop
- Swimming pool subcontractor
- Hot tub/sauna supplier
- Structurally insulated panels
- Pre-fab construction
- Modular mobile home company
- Acoustics engineer
- Kitchen consultant
- Green living roofs
- Elevator company
- Commercial kitchen
- Medical/dental equipment supplier
- Decorative metal
- Commissioned art
- Art glass installations
- Specialty doors
- Pre-fabricated greenhouses
- Closet specialties
- Indoor Air Quality consultant
Tips for Stress Reduction
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of decisions you will have to make during the development of your project. In order to feel confident, calm, and clear during the entire process, here are some tips on how to avoid or minimize surprises, stress, and pressure. If you tend to get timid or start waffling when faced with major decisions, it might not be a good idea for you to embark on a project. For many people, financial stress is a major source of anxiety. Research monthly payments for various sums with your mortgage broker to determine what you can likely afford. If you are investment-minded, you do not want to over-build for your particular neighborhood. (It is a good idea to discuss the value of comparable home sales in your vicinity with a realtor and/or appraiser.)
You want a master plan for your project, broken into phases. Design the phases so that each phase represents a financial portion you can afford and represents a completion in itself. If other phases never come, you will at least be living in a polished, finished world. If the future phases do manifest, they will fit perfectly. If you must live at the project site during construction, be sure to design the phases so that you always have a sacred inner retreat that is not violated by the inconvenience, dust, and disturbance of construction. If you are sharing your project with a partner, the preliminary design phase is usually where the power struggles occur and need to get worked out. You should linger in this phase as long as you need to. Have the architect make final revisions to the preliminary design. Make your commitment to the preliminary design prior to having the architect proceed with the working drawings.
If you tend to get irritated by bureaucracies, let your architect or permit consultant make the permit applications and process the permits. Spare yourself the stress, and be sure not to allow your attitude to sabotage your permit. If you choose to do the permit administration yourself, remember to be respectful to the jurisdiction employees, volunteers, and appointees.
Put your project out to bid to three to five favorite general contractors. You may want your real estate and construction law attorney to oversee or prepare the construction contract.
Prior to the beginning of construction, hold a little ceremony with yourself and any involved partner(s) or family member(s). Promise yourselves that you will still have a life during construction, make time for fun, luxury, leisure, and love. Vow to take periodic “time offs” from construction, and talk to each other about concerns at a particular time, such as a weekday evening or weekend day. Your goal is to cultivate peacefulness. Invest time into relaxation so that when the little construction surprises do come up, you will be less likely to get rattled, upset or speak harshly to your loved ones. After all, your project should be something pleasurable that allows you to enjoy the journey of making your dream place come true.
Couples throughout the ages have always desired to live together, an inclination that is no less passionate today. But what about the baby-boomer couples who wish to live lives with another under one roof? There is that touchy matter of privacy, freedom, and a space for individual lifestyle. “I’ve had so many friends tell me that they want to live with their loved one, but they’re hesitant because they don’t want to give up their own space and privacy,” says Marilyn Crenshaw, Blue and Green Architect. “I guess my mother was right. She always used to say to me when I was younger, ‘You better hurry and couple-up while you’re young, because you’re going to be really picky and stuck in your ways when you’re older, and it’s hard to get together with someone when you’re stuck in your ways.’”
Baby-boomer friends of Marilyn tell her that they want to be in a relationship, but do not necessarily want to see their mate every waking moment while at home. They want their freedom and independence, want to be together with a companion, and yet do not want to have to do everything “side-by-side”. Marilyn came up with what she calls “Partner Architecture,” during a discussion with a girlfriend who was visiting when they started doodling some floor plans that are ideal for each member of a couple that each says, “I don’t want to move into her house” and “I don’t want to move into his house.” What they came up with essentially provides both partners with their own private territory and neutral territory. For example, you can have private bathrooms, bedrooms and/or offices while still maintaining some common areas such as the kitchen, dining room, living room, and garage. You can also create separate sound zones to create the effect of privacy. Partner architecture is ideal for people merging their families together, business partners who want to have a sense of community while having their own private, professional quarters, and adults coming together with divergent lifestyles. Partner architectural designs are comprised of “communal spaces” yet address the needs of the individual with the use of private spaces as well.
Haste Makes Waste
Marilyn’s philosophy on a creative interaction between architect and client:
The highly artistic and aesthetically based interaction that the architect and the client share during their time together should be a relaxed, comfortable, and non-threatening atmosphere, where mutual respect allows for the creative input from all parties. The best architectural designs simply come out of a healthy, open, unhurried relationship. Clients and architect alike, must freely share their comments, concerns, or changes in thinking. Working as a team, the client and the architect can come up with beautiful ideas together. If the work pace is too hectic or fraught with stress, haste often breeds oversights and mistakes in any work project, especially in the architectural design process. Haste can also dilute enthusiasm, invite legal action, and cause undue pressure. Sometimes a client wishes to quickly occupy a project, pushing along the design process or other elements of the project at a break-neck speed, creating situations where stress is the prevailing factor. While it is quite normal and acceptable for a client to possess a passion for creativity and professionalism on all levels of an architectural project, rushing a project along and still expecting design perfection, competitive construction, and quality building work is a recipe for trouble. Through her experience of designing or collaborating on over 500 commercial, industrial, and residential projects, Marilyn has found that it is mutually beneficial to the client and architect to proceed with projects in a calm, clear, relaxed, low-pressure, and unhurried manner. According to Marilyn’s experience, a project will be much more interesting if the architect and client have had adequate quality time to explore various new and artistic design avenues during the preliminary design and feasibility study. If the preliminary design has not been digested, reflected on, and researched to great depths, then revisions are likely to continuously surface during later phases of the project. Design changes and revisions are costly to both the project budget and the project completion time when they occur during the preparation of the engineered working drawings or during construction. Construction period change orders can cost tens of thousands of dollars or more depending on the magnitude of the project. A comfortable architect-client working relationship is highly rewarding. The architect is free to open up to the creativity within and clients will have a finished product that they are satisfied with and feel proud to share with their family and friends.