Net Neutrality

December 10th, 2017

Contact your State legislators NOW (before 12/14/2017) and ask them to vote NO to any legislation that removes Net Neutrality and Yes to legislation that keeps it in place.  This can help you identify and send an email to all of your elected officials: click image below:

net neutrality

Send emails to your state legislators NOW to keep Net Neutrality. You can find them using the Democracy.IO app (above). If you run a small business on the Internet, without Net Neutrality, giant companies with unlimited marketing budgets can crush you under their boots and your website could become virtually inaccessible to your potential client base. Ask your representatives & senators to vote to KEEP Net Neutrality so that American (and global) small businesses will continue to operate on a level playing field. Do something about it now, so you don’t complain later. Defend your website & your small business’ place in the global marketplace.

 

New Website Format for Mountain House Architecture

November 23rd, 2017

New Website Format for Mountain House Architecture is about the newly renovated HOME ARCHITECTS ® website.  It features new interactive choices that allow anyone interested in the design & construction of a mountain house project to obtain valuable information to improve that effort.

mountain house architecture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The newly reformatted website features 5 new short pamphlets (1 page front & rear) about mountain house architecture that will provide reliable and useful knowledge about the design and construction of a mountain residence, whether it be a renovation or new design and construction.  

 

Each of these brief booklets can be read in about 5 minutes.  Useful and valuable information in the length of time it might normally take to go outside to your mailbox, then walk back into your house.  And this information is in the form of free downloads.

 

Why: because this Architect is a world-leading provider of not only award-winning mountain house designs, it also provides more educational information than any other Architectural firm on the planet to Homeowners, General Contractors, Architects, and the public at large on this specialized subject.  They are the go-to source of “how-to” when it comes to mountain residential projects, in terms of design considerations & technological know-how.  Which is why the NAHB (National Association of Home Builders) asked them to present an educational seminar to their country-wide General Contractor attendees at last year’s national convention in Asheville, North Carolina.  HOME ARCHITECTS ® agreed and made a successful presentation to a convention meeting room full of residential Contractors from all across the USA.  The subject was “Aging in Place: Accessible Friendly Residential Architecture.”  The firm takes their role as Architects seriously, but also understands that their lessons learned while designing and managing mountain residential projects should be shared with others interested in this subject, so that mountain residential architecture can continue to be improved, country-wide, if not globally. 

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Subject matter of the new website format pamphlets:

8 MISTAKES DESIGNING MOUNTAIN HOMES (and how to prevent them from happening to you and your new mountain house project)

6 WAYS TO BUILD BETTER MOUNTAIN HOMES

5 BENEFITS OF HOME ARCHITECTS ®

5 TIPS FOR RENOVATING MOUNTAIN HOMES

COST GUIDE FOR MOUNTAIN HOMES

 

All of the new information guides are copyrighted, however it is hoped for and accepted that links to the brochures occur, straight to the firm’s website homepage, where others may find and download each booklet to help them on their projects.

 

The firm also has multiple e-books available as free downloads on their Bookstore.  The addition of these shorter booklets brings the total to around a dozen or so.  The firm realized that while their e-books have been downloaded worldwide thousands of times, that some people might prefer also having the “Cliff’s Notes” version of quick tips to improve their mountain projects, requiring only a few minutes to read. 

 

The firm also introduced several new INTRODUCTORY SERVICES.  These are Low Cost No Commitment preliminary professional services that someone considering engaging the company can request, before starting the larger and more involved main project.  

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mountain house architecture

4 of these Intro Services are listed on the newly renovated homepage:

1.  SITE WALK

2.  PROJECT EXPLORATION CONSULT

3.  REMOTE SITE ANALYSIS

4.  NEEDS & OPTIONS REVIEW

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Each of these Intro Services may be had for from $95 through $795+/-, subject to location of the meeting and extent of services.  The idea is to provide some introductory options to Clients for a minimal fee amount, to allow them to get their project going and achieve some preliminary understanding of the scope of what they are undertaking.  Such early analysis can be valuable to the future homeowner and to the Architect, in the preparation of the main project work, which is next in the logical progression of a project.

When website visitors click on each of the Intro Services, they are taken to a webpage that lists the various preliminary services, what each involves and how to make payment, although, it is preferred if new Clients first give the firm a phone call and/or email to discuss the scope of the Intro Services to be provided and confirm the price for the Intro Service(s).

 

The website formatting is also cleaner and simpler, focusing on what will likely be most important to website visitors who are interested in having a mountain residence project designed, managed and built for them.  The new format is less about “See my great designs” as it is about: “How can we help you get yours?”  Which is all about putting the Client at the center of the process, which this firm has been doing for decades, such as in their famous Client Centered Architectural Design Process e-book, used globally as the main method for designing and managing a residential project. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

tags: Mountain House Architecture, Cashiers, Highlands, Lake Toxaway, Sapphire, Glenville, Asheville, Hendersonville, Sevierville, Atlanta, Aspen, Telluride, post and beam, timber frame
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Reasons for the Architectural Process

November 12th, 2017

5 Reasons for the Architectural Process is about why Architects have a defined method to how they begin, program, design, develop, document and manage a project.  There are reasons for what they do, how they do it and the sequence.

facts are what this website is about

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why only 5 reasons?  Well, to be honest, there are likely many more.  But let’s begin with these few. 

1.   EFFICIENCY
There will be less wasted time and effort.  And when your Architect is charging you for his or her time, their time is your money.  So, it is in your own best interests to have your Architect working as efficiently as possible.  And what constitutes efficiency in the creation of an architectural project?  For one thing: trying to avoid as much wasted effort as possible and targeting what it is you are trying to do, then doing it, rather than flailing about searching.  Therefore, an architectural process that begins by identifying the important aspects of a project are essential to avoiding wasted time and effort.  This is called PROGRAMMING.  Programming defines what it is that you want, along with an analysis of your Land and your desired Lifestyle, what this firm calls the “2 Ls”.  Without these, you will be doomed to fail. With these, you should be swift and sure to the target.

 

COMMENT ABOUT THOSE WHO DEMAND THAT YOU IMMEDIATELY START DRAWING: first of all, this Architect won’t do this any longer, because that wastes time and our Client’s money.  Why: because without identifying what it is you are trying to do and the features of the land on which it is to sit, ensures that whatever is created will miss the mark.  For instance: what if the future homeowner wanted a large kitchen (quite common these days)?  And if the design drawings were immediately begun without knowing this, the design would be doomed, as all of the other parts of the house would need to be moved when eventually the Kitchen itself was expanded. 

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On the other hand, if the programming clearly identified the Kitchen as wanting to become a certain size, with certain appliances and features, that part of the architectural process would be built into the design drawing, making it only necessary to draw it once (or certainly fewer iterations).             continued below:

And quite frankly, this firm won’t violate what it knows is a proper process methodology.   Kind of like demanding that your cardiac surgeon sell you the artificial heart first, while you then instruct them on how you want them to go about the operation, after you make the first, large incision yourself on your own body.  Ridiculous, right?  Same thing for architecture.  You don’t start drawing until you understand what it is you are going to draw and what sort of land on which it will be sitting.

 

2 & 3.  ECONOMY & VALUE
For the same reasons indicated above for Efficiency, so to is value and economy.  Why: because it will take less time to create and develop a design when  you know how many Bedrooms it will have, a Home Office, large Kitchen, Foyer with Coat Closet, 3 bay Garage with Workshop and 14′ of wall pegboard for tools, Pet Room (becoming more popular), Billiards/Game Room (yes, we’ve seen this happening), special Wolf & SubZero appliance space (taking up more room to properly fit) and dozens of other features that you want in your desired Lifestyle.  This results in a faster design, targeted at the desired items and coordinating with your land immediately, not having to painstakingly redo things to change them to suit those desires and needs later.  Because redo = more time = more money you have to pay your Architect.  And this firm tries to be a good value to their Clients by doing things once, when at all possible. This results in economy and value for the Client.            (continued below):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4.  GREATER ENJOYMENT OF THE PROCESS, BETTER RESULTS
To have a truly enjoyable project process, it is best if there be no (or very little back-tracking).  And proceeding straight ahead to the targeted goal helps insure this, for the reasons indicated above.  Otherwise, it can be a frustrating effort.  “I thought I said I wanted such and so!”  Well, not if the programming didn’t indicate that in text.  Which is why Programming before designing is so important.  Help your Architect list all the things you’d like to accomplish.  That should eliminate forgotten wishes, because those will be listed there in the Program.  Starting to develop an appreciation for the Program?  You should.  That’s the bible that guides the design. 

 

There’s a computer programmer’s term for no programming or skimpy programming or wrong programming: GIGO (Garbage In = Garbage Out).  During the last 20 years, this firm has had only one Client refuse to participate in the programming, because she said she was “graphically oriented” and just wanted us to immediately get to drawing.   Let’s call her Mindy and her husband Sam.  What Mindy didn’t understand was that we first needed to hear what it was that she wanted.  We informed her of this, but Mindy didn’t want to bother herself with sharing with us her preferences or wishes, what rooms she wanted in the house, or what features were to be located within it, except for a few minor comments.  For that vast majority of information, Mindy simply said: “I’ll see the drawings and make my requests then.”           

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She wanted a certain general orientation, but refused to accept that the mountaintop on which she wanted the home located did not have sufficient level ground area to locate the house and the vehicular maneuvering features and large yard area she said she wanted (“Don’t confuse me with the facts.”)

 

However, her husband, Sam, a former corporate executive, did work with us and told us what he wanted and what he thought Mindy wanted and was reasonable in understanding the limitations of their site.  We noticed that Sam changed the direction of several of the very few things Mindy had shared with us and we were concerned that this would result in dissatisfaction for her of the upcoming design.  Sam said he knew his wife and what she wanted.  And with Mindy’s bewildering lack of willingness to participate in the Programming, that led us to accept his secondhand information.

 

So, we created the programming text (limping along on half-information) as best we could, not wanting to argue with anyone about not providing adequate data. And we created the design.  Well, of course, Sam loved it, because it was exactly what he said he wanted.  And Mindy, well, not so much, because she never told us what she wanted in adequate detail and refused to take part in most of the interactive programming process, which really isn’t a big deal: the Architect asks questions and the to-be homeowner answers, indicating their preferences. In other words, she sabotaged her own project, by insuring that her desires were not inputted into the information used to design the project.

 

And that’s a shame, because this is supposed to be kind of fun: telling your Architect all the wonderful things you want in  your custom designed house.  Evidently not for her.  And so, for the first time in 2 decades, we got someone unhappy with a design.  We saw the train-wreck approaching, but because of Mindy’s unwillingness to participate adequately in the programming: Pow.  

 

We blame ourselves for this rare occurrence. 
Why: we allowed a Client to disturb and redirect what we already knew should have been the tried and true project process.  We should have insisted on following the proven method that insures positive and happy results.  We allowed the patient to tell the cardiac doctor what to do in the middle of the operation. 

 

Therefore, henceforth, this firm will not proceed unless the main parties paying for and using the design participate in at least this simple, initial part of the overall process.  It’s what everything else depends upon.  And it’s fun.  So let’s start things off being enjoyable and act like reasonable human beings and have fun.

 

We very much want our Clients to be happy, well-informed and participating in the project process.  Therefore, we have since authored and published a small electronic book about the project process that we now ask our new Clients to read before we take on their project.  You can see this webpage about this book here and download it for free.  Please follow the instructions on that webpage:
Client Centered Architectural Design Process
This is e-book is only about 33 pages, so you can read it in less than an hour.  And if you’re planning on having an architectural project designed and built in your future, you owe it to yourself to get this and read it.  You’ll be glad you did.   It seems like a small thing to ask: read a short, well-written little booklet before embarking on a vast and complex voyage, so you don’t get lost.  And that should save any issues in the future.  We want you informed and happy.  As exclaimed in the Jerry Maquire movie: “Help me, help you!”

 

 

5.  PROPER SEQUENCE OF ARCHITECTURAL PROCESS
And so what are the actual proper sequence of events?

 

How about:

PROCESS A:

1.  Immediately begin furiously drawing, flailing about, wasting time drawing things that have nothing to do with the land or what the Client(s) want?

2.  Complete Construction Documents.

3.  Think about what the land topography (slope) features are, the building setbacks and other legal requirements (even though the design has already been completed, so none of these legal things can now be incorporated).

4.  Start building right now, because your neighbors had Ben the Builder do their basement floor with him and that worked out okay. And he goes to your church, so he must be a decent guy.

5.  Think about getting some prices from some builders, after about 2 years of construction and several million dollars later.

 

ANALYSIS OF PROCESS A: well, we would think that anyone hearing the above process would be horrified.  What a silly method!  Seriously?  Start drawing first, before even understanding the land or what the owner wants?  Crazy.  And waiting until later to research the land requirements?  Lawsuits are made of such improper sequencing.  And starting construction with a “buddy” builder because you like him?  You won’t, later on.

BTW: steps 4 & 5 actually happened to one of our clients, a long time ago, because they refused to listen to our advice to bid out the project to several Licensed General Contractors, and instead gave it to an unlicensed “builder guy” that went to their church.  And yes, for a project that should have cost around $750k, they ended up spending over $3M.  After they called us, a couple of years later, and tearfully explained how they had been abused by this so-called “friend”, we found them a reputable GC and had them fire the “friend” and the new GC got their job done within a month and for minimal additional funds. 

 

We hate having to “fix” big problems like that, when simply following the proper project process could have solved issues (before even the first problem began). In this case, they refused our offer to provide Bidding and Construction Administration services, wanting to “save” our fee by “managing that themselves.”  Well, you can see how that worked out for them.  The minimal expenditure of our firm providing those additional services could literally have SAVED THEM MILLIONS OF $.  The husband/Owner said he would be glad to tell other people what a huge mistake it was (not keeping the Architect engaged through bidding and construction).  In his family’s case, about a $2.3M mistake.

 

So don’t tell the heart surgeon what to do (or simply ignoring him) and listen to your Architect when he or she explains the proper project process.  You will probably then never even know the problems you solved before they could become one (or many).  Most experienced Architects have been designing, developing and managing projects for decades (over a half-century with this firm) and this isn’t their first rodeo.  Listen carefully to them and take their good advice, in particular with regard to “What should I do next?”. 

 

 

Okay, so what IS the proper architectural project process?  Here you go:

PROCESS B:

 

1.   PRELIMINARY SERVICES
Needs & Options Review, and Site Walk.
The Needs service is sort of like a preliminary Programming.  Just the main basics as to what the house wants to be, where it should go, and main spaces to be included, round numbers as to construction cost desired.
The Site Walk typically involves the Architect joining you at your property, walking around it, talking photos, and later providing a PDF emailed report illustrating general land use areas.  NO design yet at this point.  Just data gathering.

 

2.  PROGRAMMING
This is where the Architect asks you what you want and you describe those wishes in detail.  Also, further information is analyzed regarding your land.  The Architect notes your answers and later on provides a PDF emailed report, documenting your wishes and needs, along with information from the previous Site Walk regarding your land characteristics and its ability to coordinate with your desires.  No design at this point. 

 

3.  SCHEMATIC DESIGN (SD)
This often is where the Architect creates the Site Plan and Floor Plans of your proposed house (and/or other type of facility).  This firm stops at this point for your input before spending more of your money on other work.  The design depends almost entirely on the Programming and the Clients new comments.

 

4.  DESIGN DEVELOPMENT (DD)
DD is where the Architect incorporates any changes you have requested to the SD, and also creates initially the Front Elevation.  Then he/she asks for your comments.  The Architect then incorporates agreed upon changes, to the Front Elevation, then creates the remainder of the exterior elevations, also coordinating with floor plans and the site plan.

 

5.  CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENTS (CDs)
CDs is where the Architect creates the detailed documents, including but not limited to: dimensions, notes, specifications, details, roof plan, building section(s), wall section(s), finish & door shedules, and other documents to properly describe your project so that Builders can properly construct the project in accordance with good building practices, Code and the Owner’s approved documents.

 

6.  BIDDING/ PRICING/  VALUE ENGINEERING/  NEGOTIATIONS
This is where the Architect can assist you by bidding out the CDs to qualified GCs for pricing.  Guarantee: you won’t like the price.  No one ever does.  Human nature: we all want more than we’d like to pay for.  Then the Architect can negotiate with the most favored Contractor to obtain concessions in price in return for removals of features or substitutions of products and materials.  Hopefully, this results in an agreed upon price that works for you and your Builder.

 

7.  CONSTRUCTION ADMINISTRATION
This is where the GC builds your project, and the Architect can assist  you by reviewing the Builder’s pay requests, periodically visiting the project site to compare ongoing construction with the approved CDs, reviewing substitution requests, helping managing crises (all projects usually have a couple), coordination with various project consultants and the GC.

 

8.  WARRANTY PERIOD SERVICES
After the construction is done, you enter into a period of time during which there are various warranties in effect for varying time periods. For instance, it is almost universally accepted that the GC will have a 12 month warranty.  This is often called the “bumper to bumper” warranty.  And it is important that you pay your Architect to return to the project in the 10th month to review the project to see if anything needs warranty repairs. Why the 10th month?  Because if you have your Architect submit a list of repairs to your GC on day 365, your Builder will say: “Tough luck, my 1 year warranty expired today, I don’t have to make any repairs, unless you want to pay me to do those.” 
However, if  you listen to your Architect and have them come to the site during the 10th month, and issue their report within a week after their visit, chances are that there will be a month and a half remaining in the year warranty, which should be plenty of time for just about any repair to be reasonably made within the year warranty.  The value of these repairs could be in the hundreds or thousands of dollars, or more, or simply a nuisance problem that needs correction.  Having the weight of your Architect behind this may well help get swifter action and certainly better understanding as to what needs attention.

 

9.  POST WARRANTY SERVICES
Some of the original project warranties can be up to 5 years long, such as for HVAC condensers and compressors.  And those aren’t cheap.  You may very well think that such repairs in the 3rd or 4th year are on you.  Well, if you have your Architect periodically come around (yes pay them to do so and to issue a report), you may be pleasantly surprised that some of the problems your Architect discovers are in fact under warranty.  In any event, a once a year or every couple of year visit from your Architect can help identify issues that need maintenance.  Nothing is maintenance free.  Especially something as complex as a custom house.  And keeping your house in good condition proactively is typically much less costly than maintenance by crisis. 

 

 

 

And that’s it.  The proper architectural project sequence and proper process. You owe it to yourself to allow your Architect to follow this tried and true proven approach to result in a good project outcome for you.

 

 

 

 

tags:Reasons for the Architectural Process , Cashiers, Lake Toxaway, Highlands, post and beam, Glenville, Hendersonville, Aspen, Asheville, Telluride, timber frame, mountain

 

 

 

 

6 Maintenance Warnings for Your Mountain House

November 1st, 2017

Maintaining Your Mountain House is about what you need to be doing to help your house perform better and be in better condition year-round, as well as last longer and be more comfortable.

Introductory optional services

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most people who build or buy mountain houses have this idea that they are going to save a lot of money by turning their HVAC thermostat way down, or even turning off power to their house when they don’t intend to be there for several weeks or months. 

Bad idea. 

Why?  Let’s put it this way: look out the windows of your mountain house and look closely at the trees surrounding it.  Look at the bark on the trees. What do you see?  Moss?  Mold?  You better believe it. Now then, if the inside of your house is the same general temperature and humidity as the Great Outdoors, why would you think that the inside of your house is going to remain pristine with your heat and air shut off?  And no dehumidification whatsoever?  Yes, some people actually turn off their dehumidifiers when they leave!  Not good.  Do you think the dehumidifier is there to make you feel good?  Not really.  It’s there to help control the ambient humidity level in the house, basement and/or crawlspace.  Never, ever turn that off. 

 

Okay, so it is a very bad idea to turn off your Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning system.  Ever.  Don’t do that. And keep the dehumidifier always on.

Because, if you don’t keep them running, even at some lesser level, the interior of your house is going to get severe mold infestation that can lead to fruiting body fungi that can literally eat the wood structure of your house and cause it to rot and possibly fall down.  Very bad things that can damage your health and the health of your loved ones, not too mention destroy the huge investment you have in your house.  Silly to focus on saving a few pennies a month on an electrical utility bill, when you could be ruining your big investment (the house itself) because of your misguided idea that you are “saving money.”  No you’re not. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’re creating horrible conditions for the interior of your house that can aggravate COPD, rot your house and possibly make it fail structurally, as well as lead to bad smells that ruin your enjoyment of your house, as well as significantly destroy the house’s sales value, when you choose to sell it (note: most houses are sold about every 7 years, regardless of the intent of the new buyers/builders). 

 

According to Merry Soellner, RSPS, Real Estate Broker, Cashiers, NC: “When I walk a potential house buyer into a house that has had its heating and air-conditioning and dehumidifiers turned off, or turned at too low of an operating level, the house smells bad.  Obviously mold is growing, and most buyers take one whiff and turn around almost immediately and say ‘NOT INTERESTED’.” 

In other words, the $50 or so you think you are saving in power bills each month is not only ruining your mountain house, you are also directly damaging your chances of selling your house.  Don’t blame your Real Estate Broker.  That’s on you.  No one wants a moldy mess of a house.  Human physiology is hard-wired to recognize harmful things and mold is one of those bad smells that tell anyone that this house is damaged.

 

All this preamble so far is so that you will listen and comply with this first recommendation for mountain house maintenance:

 

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1.   KEEP YOUR HVAC SYSTEM & DEHUMIDIFIERS ALWAYS ON
Sure, it’s okay to turn them back a little, but don’t overdo that.  In winter, don’t set your thermostat any lower than perhaps around 65 degrees or so.  In the summer, don’t set the temperature any higher than around 78 degrees.  And keep dehumidifiers always on in basements, crawlspaces and other locations that you have recognized would otherwise be chronically damp.  Set the dehumidifier at around 45%.  That will probably mean it will always be running.  Its not the end of the world.  It doesn’t use that much power.  And in basements and crawlspaces, have another fan on the other side of the space, at least 3′ or so away from walls, firmly set into position (so it can’t fall over) and pointed toward the direction of the dehumidifier (which should be closer to the crawlspace entrance for maintenance).  It wouldn’t hurt to have a 24 hour timer in the receptacle for the fan.  Set it so that the fan comes on for 1/2 hour every hour.  That should be adequate to push the air around.  A 20″ box fan should work well (for a normal size house, not a castle).  Those sell for about $19 at WalMart.  Make sure your receptacles in such a location are GFCI (Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter). 

Regarding comments in this online post about “always on”, it is intended that you use automatic thermostats that allow you to program temperature settings that will automatically turn on the AHUs and Heat Pump(s).  It is not intended that you override the automatic settings and actually force the system to constantly be pumping air. 

MAINTENANCE NOTE: check your HVAC return grilles perhaps once a month.  Look at the filters.  If they’re dirty, replace them.  Have at least 2 replacement filters on hand in your house for each filter section in the HVAC system. 

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Use the newer kind of filters that have allergen resistance and that are electrostatically charged to catch more dust particles. Before you replace the filters, take some white paper towels or clean washcloths, dampen them, then rinse out the water, then wipe the surfaces of the inner duct (which are usually metal) as far as you can reach into the RA (Return Air) duct.  This keeps dust in  your HVAC system to a minimum and keeps it fresher smelling, too.  Also, consider paying an HVAC subcontractor perhaps once a year to come to your home and check, clean and lubricate your AHU (Air Handler Unit) and outdoor Heat Pump (or condenser).

 

The condensate line for your AHU should be insulated with some sort of synthetic rubber insulation completely.  From where it exits the condensate drainpan to where it hits the foundation wall.  Otherwise, the super-cooled water in the drainline will condense atmospheric moisture on its surface and drip down onto your floors and other surfaces below it, putting moisture back into the space from which you are trying to remove it. And this insulated condensate drainline should have a top access cap (also insulated) that you can easily remove.  Perhaps once or twice a year, you should pour maybe a cup of 50% water/ 50% household bleach down this drainline, to keep mold from growing and clogging the pipe.  Make sure this and all condensate lines only slope down and away from HVAC equipment and toward the outside wall to the exterior.

 

 

2.  CRAWLSPACE ENCAPSULATION & DEHUMIDIFICATION
This firm has several online posts about the benefits of encapsulating your crawlspace.  Highly recommended.  That stops most of the moisture in and under the soil in  your crawlspace from migrating up into your house, along with all sorts of creepy-crawlies, like ants, termites, cockroaches, lizards, snakes, chipmunks, squirrels and raccoons.  You’d be amazed what creatures can slide through gaps in construction and then dig up through raw, unprotected earth to get into your house.  Encapsulation is the application of a polyethylene or vinyl sheet, taped together using special adhesive backed tape, over the earth and up the interior crawlspace walls. The upper edge near the top of the walls are typically sealed with construction adhesive.  No outdoor ventilation.  The crawlspace is conditioned (by Code, it has to be conditioned when sealed) by dehumidifiers and a fan(s).  Nothing else in the house does more to keep your house at the proper dehumidified level and to keep bugs and other monsters out of your house than encapsulation of your crawlspace. 

 

Note: the dehumidifiers’ condensate line(s) should be hard-piped through the foundation wall to the exterior.  That way you don’t have to manually go downstairs every few hours and go through the hassle of removing and emptying a condensate bucket.  That gets old in about a day.  And you can’t do that when you’re not there, anyway.  Keep the dehumidifier on.  It has an automatic setting that will cycle it off and on, after it reaches the set point.

 

MAINTENANCE NOTE: you need to have a top access cap into the condensate drainline.  Plumbers tell homeowners to typically pull off the cap and pour a 50% water/50% household bleach down that condensate line perhaps once or twice a year, to keep mold from growing and clogging that line.  And make that line perhaps 3/4″ in diameter. Use Schedule 40 PVC, not a garden hose, which is smaller, softer and tends to clog much easier.  Make sure the condensate line is downward flowing.  Don’t attach anything else to it and don’t allow it to drain into the crawlspace or basement (that would be counter-productive, wouldn’t it?  Merry has seen that).  Also, perhaps once a month get to your dehumidifier and clean the filter.  Take it outside and shake it off.  You may need to go to a sink and rinse it off and shake it out before inserting it into the dehumidifier. 

 

 

3.  WOOD FLOORING
All of the items above directly impact the condition of your wood flooring.  If, for instance, you turn off your heat and air for months at a time either in the summer or winter, for example, your wood flooring will loose and add moisture from the ambient humidity in your house, causing it to shrink and swell.  This can lead to unexpected consequences.  Too much swelling and the wood flooring can push into the surrounding walls and then warp and buckle, ruining the functionality and appearance, which could be quite costly to repair or replace.  Also, mold spores (which are everywhere) would be encourage to grow in hot, humid situations, which, given enough dampness could lead to undesirable growths which could possibly rot the floors and the structure on which they lay.

Distressed Plywood Plank Floor Whitewashed

(C)Copyright 2017 Home Architect PLLC, All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

 

In other words, the dehumidification and HVAC constancy that you are seeking in Items 1 & 2 above also benefit the condition of your wood flooring. And once again: look at the trees outside your house.  Do you really want that mold and moss that is on them growing on your interior wood floors?

 

MAINTENANCE NOTE: this really depends on the finish of your wood flooring.  #1, keep the humidity level as constant as possible, per Items 1 & 2 above. 

 

Regarding finish maintenance: some woodworking crews have indicated that varnish might be a more durable finish for wood flooring, as it is supposed to be up to 10x harder than polyurethane.   But if you choose poly, consider using oil base for better protection and absorption.  But make sure you have ample ventilation everywhere in the house or get a hotel room for the night to avoid inhaling the fumes. 

Also, custom distressing of the wood surface before finishing is in vogue, because if you batter the flooring with a chain, for instance, all of the small dents left serve to conceal other dents it might receive from furniture, high-heeled shoes, pet claws and other damaging sources.

 

Regarding exterior wood flooring: it really depends, based on the species of wood, method of installation and initial coating.  If it’s PT (Pressure Treated) wood, this doesn’t mean it will remain permanently resistant to rot.  It’s outside.  It’s still wood.  The  preservative treatments help it, sure, but after about a year (after installation), after the PT wood has dried out more, it is a good time to stain it.  Either semi-transparent oil base or solid stain.  That should help it last much longer than “going bare.” 

 

 

4.  WALL SIDING & CLADDING
The first and best line of defense for your walls is your roof overhang.  Typically 2′ minimum, but the more the better. Some log home manufacturers ask for 6′ overhangs to protect the logs, which can easily rot from rain.  Coordinate carefully with your Architect and Structural Engineer, as high mountain winds can damage overhangs that are not properly engineered to resist mountain force winds.  The main thing to remember with walls in a mountain house: protect them as much as possible so you won’t have to paint and repair them as often.  This architectural firm has seen average exterior painting for an average sized home cost $10,000 or more.  That’s a chunk of change to be paying out.  Better to protect walls as much as possible so that’s not required as often.

 

However, you will need to re-stain or repaint your exterior cladding at some point, with something to protect the surface from absorbing moisture.  Even stone and brick benefit from special clear surface coatings to help reduce moisture absorption.  Consult your Architect for guidance.  For Hardie siding, use paint types recommended by the James Hardie company, after removing any mold.  For wood, this firm has better luck using stains: either semi-transparent or solid stain, as with stains, you usually can stain over the old stain.  With paint, you may need to first sand the surface.  Adhere to precautions regarding friable materials that can damage your lungs and eyes before treating or preparing such surfaces.  But some kind of stain, paint (or other liquid coating) is the probable maintenance treatment on wall cladding of most materials.  Failure to protect and maintain your cladding will allow moisture to penetrate it, which can then get into your wall framing, contributing to mold and rot of your structural frame. Pay attention to intersections, using quality exterior SEALANTS (not “caulk” which is an interior material) at joints, to protect the wall substrates from moisture penetration.

 

 

5.  HOT WATER HEATERS
We all like to forget about this thing. The HWH (Hot Water Heater). It sits complacently in your basement or crawlspace, churning out hot water faithfully until it dies. 

 

MAINTENANCE NOTE:  You can extend its life by periodically turning it off while you drain away sediments from the tank, using the garden hose threaded attachment at the base of the unit.  Make sure the HWH is turned off while doing this, so you don’t burn out the elements (if it is electric).  When in doubt, pay a State licensed Plumber to do this for you.  That’ll be cheaper than replacing the entire unit.  And don’t turn the valve to drain the tank until you have a garden hose connection the drain port all the way to the exterior of your house.  Otherwise, you could flood the room.

 

There are other things to know about HWHs.  Like having an insulation jacket around it, to conserve energy.  Also, there is supposed to be an emergency Pressure Relief Valve (PRV) at the top, so if the internal pressure exceeds a certain point this valve trips, so the HWH doesn’t explode and kill you.  And this PRV should have a drainline that goes down to the base of the unit on the outside of the unit.  There should be a drainpan under the HWH.  The PRV drainline should drain into this drainpan.  The drainpan should have a drainline that take any water draining into it to the outside of the house (not into the crawlspace or basement).  Nothing else should contribute and drainage into this drainline.  It should drain down and away from the HWH drainpan.

 

 

6.  ASPHALT DRIVEWAYS
We’ve all seen the steady degradation of outdoor asphaltic concrete surfaces in our streets and driveways.  Usually about 1-1/2″ of asphaltic concrete is rolled over a 6″ thick substrate of crushed gravel (angular granites being among the best).  You can seen the bituminous oils leeching out of freshly rolled asphalt, on the surface. This continues for perhaps 6 months or so. Then, depending on your climate, you will have the Sun’s brutal UV rays and winters harsh snow, ice and salt.  When cracks open up the surface and the snow and ice melt into the cracks and get down into the body of paving, then it freezes, the ice expands to 110% of its initial volume and pushed the cracks wider, and that cycle keeps on until the cracks become ruts and the ruts become potholes and you need to repair or repave.

 

MAINTENANCE NOTE: it has almost become a joke: where traveling bands of Gypsy workers knock on doors, offering to recoat your driveway and it’s nothing more than black paint.  However, the use of quality asphaltic sealers can help protect your driveway.  First, a good quality asphaltic sealer (in a tube, usually, like caulk or sealant) is used to fill any cracks in the surface.  Then, a quality bituminous seal coat is squeegeed (a thick, viscous bituminous sealer, not just paint), using perhaps a 3′ wide long-handled squeegee (not a paint roller) over the surface of the entire driveway, filling all cracks and crevices.  The best time to do this is perhaps 3 years to 6 years after the driveway was first installed.  BEFORE there are wide cracks.  And in the fall before winter.  You will see small, hairline cracks of less than 1/8″ to 1/16″ wide.  That’s a good time to install a quality seal coat.  That does 2 things: helps seal the surface from losing more bituminous oils, and also bridges cracks to help keep winter snow, water and ice out from the depth of your asphaltic concrete, to keep it from fracturing. 

 

 

And that’s probably enough for this 1st edition of Mountain House Maintenance.

 

 

 

 

 

tags: maintenance for mountain house, residential architecture, Cashiers, Highlands, Lake Toxaway, Highlands, Glenville, Sapphire, Aspen, Boulder, Telluride, Sevierville, Hendersonville, timber frame, post and beam

What Not To Build

October 6th, 2017

What Not To Build is a commentary not unlike the beloved TV series “What Not To Wear” of TLC’s Stacy London & Clinton Kelly fame.  But What Not To Build concerns aspects of a house project that you may not want to have in your upcoming residence.

What Not To Build

What Not To Wear, (C) TLC, courtesy of TLC and Stacy London & Clinton Kelly. A popular tv series.  The above image links to the TLC series website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where the “What Not To Wear” tv series commented on more appropriate clothing, fabrics, style and make-up for women and sometimes men, this online architectural article lists items that you really don’t want to have in your house, especially since you may be planning on a new residential construction project or renovation.  You don’t want to build-in problems in your house.  This particular Licensed Architect firm also has the expertise of a Licensed Home Inspector, who sees, first-hand, the horrible mistakes people have built into their houses, typically, unknowingly, that come back to haunt them.  Not all Builders are aware of these problems and certainly not all workers on a jobsite know the consequences of these materials and arrangements. 

 

On the subject of what not to build, here are 5 things that you positively, absolutely do Not want to build into your new house project (things that happen because of the way the house was built, not as a result of other circumstances):
1.  BAD FOUNDATIONS
2.  SICK BUILDING SYNDROME
3.  WATER PENETRATION
4.  LACK OF PROPER DESIGN  RESPONSE
5.  INFERIOR CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS & TECHNIQUES

 

And now, let’s find out a bit more about each of these issues (which are often built into unsuspecting house owners new and renovated residences):

 

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1.   BAD FOUNDATION
Especially if you’re building in a mountainous region, you really should have an Architect experienced in mountain residential design analyze your land and geology and work with a Structural Engineer to develop proper footings and foundation walls. Otherwise, foundations can move, causing tremendous damage to your house. For instance, if the bedrock of the mountain is too close to the surface, foundations should be pinned to them.  Not doing so can result in the entire house sliding down the mountain. Such a horrible circumstance can and does happen at times.  And any movement at all can cause cracks and structural failure of house.  More than 7′ is often desirable, however, one sure-fire way is to use a special tempered steel probe (usually about 60″ long) and jam it into the ground.  If it hits rock (and you’ll know), that means for sure you should be pinning your footing to the bedrock.  That’s not the end of this situation, but is one quick and easy preliminary method to saving this heartache. 

 

2.  SICK BUILDING SYNDROME
This mountain house Architect has seen that nearly EVERY mountain residence has some degree of “sickness”, unless certain precautions are taken to prevent the spread of mold, wood destroying fungus, water penetration, rot, insect infestation, infiltration (unwanted air entry and escape).  If you have a family member with asthma/COPD, you really don’t want a sick building.  Legionnaire’s disease began as a result of a sick building, where water sat in a stagnant situation in an AHU (Air Handling Unit), growing Legionella bacteria.  Surprisingly, most builders do not actually use what the minimum IRC (International Residential Code) calls for: at least 15# asphaltic felt over building wall sheathing.

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It’s a “smart” vapor barrier, in that it generally keeps out bulk water, but allows interior moisture to vent outward and it does so when you want it to do so.  Unfortunately, most Builders use HouseWraps, most of which allow liquid condensing water to become trapped INSIDE the wood side of the wall construction, which can and will allow for mold growth, possible fungus (wood destroying) and wood rot.  The way in which most houses are built result in hydrostatic pressure from outside water, driving it into and through the thousands of nail holes at the walls, and into the wall structure. There are typically no provisions for a drainage gap, which would otherwise allow for wind-driven rain and other water to fall harmlessly down and out of the wall system and to the ground.  All it requires is an Architect familiar with detailing and specifying economical and practical housewrap materials that do a better job.  Architects research the latest developments, which is usually why their houses last longer and with fewer problems.

 

3.  WATER PENETRATION
Through walls.  Through roofs.  Through windows & doors.  All can result in wood rot, structural failure and Sick Building (item 2.), and damage to insulation, interior and exterior materials.   Water Penetration is a subset and one of the causes of Sick Building Syndrome.  Roof overhangs of the proper length are one of the best ways to keep water out of walls.  It is surprising how little of an overhang is usually built into homes in regions having lots of rain and snow.  Not sensible.  And there are better roofing and wall materials to better resist water penetration.  For instance, all roofing edges and intersections should have weather-resistant metal flashings.  You’d think this would be second nature to any Builder, but this better practice is not always followed. 

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And we see chimneys without crickets behind them (small gable-shaped roof areas to drain water down and away from the vertical walls of a chimney, usually behind them).  And windows should be flashing with special flashing tapes (not duct tape) compatible with the materials involved, all around: head, jambs and sills, and the sills in particular, should have a sloping pressure-treated subsill that drains water coming from failed window joints (a chronic problem) down and out of the wall system.  And much more, too numerous to list here in this simple article.

 

4.  LACK OF PROPER DESIGN  RESPONSE
Merry Soellner, RSPS, Licensed Real Estate Broker in the Cashiers, NC region, sees this all the time: “Here we have spectacular mountain views, which is the main reason people from Atlanta, Orlando, Miami, Houston, New York, Ohio and other eastern USA areas come to this mountainous place.  Unfortunately, not all of the houses built here take maximum advantage of the views in the design of their residence.  We see houses with the living windows and doors under-sized and not even facing the grand mountains outside.  Obviously, those people didn’t hire an Architect to design their house.  They should have.  Anyone concerned with bringing the great views of this scenic place would have designed large glass areas facing the wonderful views.”  There’s a big difference between slapping an existing off-the-shelf Builder plan on a site and instead having an Architect design a house for the great views, as well as your particular Lifestyle.  You would be amazed at the countless houses that miss these grand opportunities.  And this results in a lower sales price when the house is put up for sale, which financially damages the original owner and all subsequent owners. 

And most kitchens have a ridiculously small distance between counters (like 3′ or 4′), which isn’t anywhere near enough to allow for 2 people or more in the kitchen at one time, or for appliance doors and cabinet drawers to be opened at the same time, without bumping into them, or even being able to completely open.  Architects usually analyze the required distance for functional spacial needs to insure that you can properly use each space.  And there are many other design responses that are typically overlooked in most hastily assembled projects.  Better to have a design professional overseeing the effort. 

 

5.  INFERIOR CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS & TECHNIQUES
For example, some builders still use T-111 plywood as exterior sheathing and finish cladding.  It rots much faster than even white pine or other more durable materials.  And wood windows rot, especially metal clad wood windows.  There are better options that last much longer and without the problems of the cheaper materials.  And “caulk” (typically latex) is mainly for interior applications. “Sealants” are for exterior situations and have more durable compositions, like elastomeric polyurethane, silicones and others.  Some builders don’t use any.  That’s not wise.  Sealants are often your last line of defense in stopping water and air intrusion.   And cheap roof shingles (both asphaltic fiberglass and the thinnest wood) don’t last as long as thicker, more durable varieties.    And most Builders use code minimums for roofing underlayment, such as 15# asphaltic felt.  While that meets code minimum, that no where near as good at stopping water through a roof as a thicker uncured polybutylene self-adhered wide roll material.  And roof edge flashing: most Builders use a very thin, cheap 1″ edge metal, that barely covers the roof sheathing…  It would be much better to use a custom bent flashing with architectural coating that was larger and overlapped and covered the sheathing and fascia better, down to eave gutters.  And while we’re talking about gutters, yes, a house should have those, and about twice the amount of downspouts and most Builders use. And then underground drainage down and away from the house to avoid foundation erosion.  And gutter protection to avoid clogged roof drainage, which can also lead to mold growth.  On and on.  Architects usually have only one main concern: design the best house possible for your requirements. 

 

 

This list could continue for a long time, concerning many more items.  This is only a smattering of the sorts of problems that are built into most houses these days.  Stacy & Clinton would be horrified.  They would also probably suggest that you consult a Licensed Architect. 

 

 

 

 

tags: what not to build, Cashiers, Lake Toxaway, Sevierville, Highlands, Hendersonville, Aspen, Glenville, Sapphire, post and beam, timber frame, mountain

 

Process to Build a New House

September 23rd, 2017

Process to Build a New House is an online article about the correct process for designing and building your new house, for the best results.

Value of an architect construction administration

Value of an architect construction administration. (C) Copyright 2015, Home Architect, PLLC, All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Architect coordinating fix for support with Builder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having a new house designed and built can be driven by emotions, the need to relocate for a job or health, or the simple desire to move to someplace scenic.  Lots of reasons can motivate people to take this important step in their lives.   It is a major commitment of time and resources.

 

Test: do you know the proper order of events in project design & construction procedure?

And the first step along this path is supremely significant.  It can affect everything else that is to come.  What SHOULD the first step be?  And once that’s done, in what order should the project proceed?  Here’s a little test (What’s the proper order for smoothest project process: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6?):
__  Find & buy land.
__  Hire Builder. 
__  Hire an Architect.
__  Have the home designed.
__  Build the House.
__  Move into the House.

Many people use the order indicated above.  Is this the right or wrong approach?

answer: DEAD WRONG.
 
That’s the Land Driven/Contractor Driven Project Approach
Why is that?  There are logical arguments why many people follow the above order. 

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Unfortunately, using that method can result in their house costing hundreds of thousands of dollars more than it might otherwise, along with a lower quality of materials and less quality of construction.  What?  How would the order in which steps are taken possibly affect those things?  How is that possible?

 

Okay, so what is the right approach order of events?  Try this:

Architect & Client Needs Driven Project Approach

1.  Hire an Architect.
2.  Program Client Needs.
3.  Find & buy land.
4.  Add Land characteristics to Client Needs to finalize Programming.

5.  Have the home designed.
6.  Bidding & Negotiate with several Licensed General Contractors (GC).

7.  Hire Builder (a licensed GC). 
8.  Build the House.
9.  Move into the House.

Wait a minute…there are some different & additional steps included in this method.  And that’s correct, there are.  But what about the sequence?  Why hire the Architect BEFORE finding the land and BEFORE hiring the Builder?  Good questions.  Let’s address those right now. 
The above is the Architect & Client Needs Driven Project Approach.

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What is different about the 2 approaches shown above?
The first one, unfortunately allows perhaps an unwise land purchase and too-early Contractor involvement to drive everything else in the project.  Why might those not be good things? 

How about this:

Foundation Costs

a Client’s lack of knowledge and understanding of the implications of site slope, topography and other land characteristics can easily result in foundations costing a whopping $150,000 to $250,000 (or more) for just the foundations of the proposed new house!  HOME ARCHITECTS ™ has seen situations where some of their Clients had purchased land without consulting them, resulting in half a million $ wasted on foundations just to create a level platform to get up to the main 1st floor!  Clients don’t seem to realize that steep land = expensive foundations.  Why: more difficult land on which to build, multiple scaffold sets, much more material, special waterproofing, filter fabric, special drainage.

Early Architectural Services Can Save Later Trouble & Cost

Therefore, it would be very wise to obtain the Architect’s input, through an early economical service, such as this Architect’s “WALK YOUR LAND WITH THE ARCHITECT” service before buying your land.   Any Architect with some experience will attempt to guide you away from a too steep location for the house, due to foundation complexity and cost.  THAT’S WHY YOU WANT THE ARCHITECT INVOLVED FIRST. 

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Along with the Architect’s first course of action upon being engaged will ask you: “What do you want?”  Which is a simple question that leads to many pieces of information that can and will affect your land choice.  For instance: if you want a large house, wouldn’t it be good to know THAT IT WILL FIT ON THE LAND?  Before you buy the land?  Sounds like a good, idea, right?

 

We know what you’re thinking: “Hey, I got all kinds of room on my land: look around you: nothing but wide open spaces!”  Think again.  Ever see a good quality survey?  One with proper topographical data on it, such as one with legally required building setbacks?  Easements for various utilities?  Right-Of-Way for the roads?  Landscaping buffers required between lots by HOAs (Home Owner Associations), space and locations required for septic tanks, septic fields, distance from potable water wells?  By the time all this information is properly recorded on the survey and on the Architect’s Site Plan, your land is Not free and clear.  It has a cobweb of invisible, but legally required No-Build areas all over it.  You can’t just build your house anywhere on it.  So you have less available open property than you think. 

 

And so your Architect can help guide you toward land choices that will cost less to build on and that will suit what it is that you want to build there.  Great reasons for your Architect to be aboard and advising you on those choices in the beginning, don’t you think? 

 

Most people try to over-simplify the process of designing and building their new house.  It just doesn’t work that way.  Why?  Because a custom house is one of the most complex project types on the planet.  Yes it IS like rocket science

 

Not a Good Idea for the Builder to be Onboard Before the Architect

And why might you NOT want to get a Builder onboard, guaranteeing them that they are going to, for sure, build your house long before you engage the Architect?  First of all, let’s get terminology straight.  A “Builder” might not necessarily be  Licensed.  Only a Licensed General Contractor is the type of construction professional that you want to build your house.  Alright.  But still, why not hire them first?  You’re thinking, “Heck, Bob and and Betty-Lou down the street said that Sam The Builder (or licensed GC) did a fine job for them, so why not for us?”  Because Bob & Betty might have over-paid Sam for their house, and received lesser quality materials and installation techniques that don’t become understood until months or years later and they just might never understand why they have spent so much on maintenance and other things, just writing the checks to pay for them.  They don’t know.  Like that they paid $350,000 for their foundations on their steep lot, and they could have reduced that to perhaps $25k if they had built on a gentle lot.  Or that their roofing or foundation waterproofing are going to fail and leak within 7 years instead of 30 or 40 years, because the quality of materials used was of lower quality than what an Architect would have specified?  They don’t know.  They are not the experts on that builder.  They just wrote the checks, no matter how much those checks were written for.  And things seem okay.  For now. 

 

But there’s an even more important reason for not getting the Builder onboard first: Do that, and they think they have a lock on the project.  They may ignore the Architect’s documents, specifications, details and wise counsel.  The builder who interprets that he is driving the project may become irritable and unpleasant to the Architect, and eventually even try to talk the Owners out of using the Architect.  There are reasons of profitability at the core of such actions.  No one, including Builders, appreciate anyone looking over their shoulders.  So, if they believe the Owner has them (The Builder) controlling the project (rather than the Architect), the Contractor may attempt to, at some point, “throw the Architect under the bus.”  Why would they do such a nasty thing?  Undermining another professional?  Because when the fox has no one guarding the henhouse, a few chickens might go missing.  Not that all builders act in this manner.  Blessings upon them for building what we live in.  We need them.  But to give them carte blanche may not be in any Owner’s best interests.  An Owner wants and needs the Architect there, as the champion for quality and durability. 

And any Builder who has no one else watching, is going to try to talk an Owner into some sort of “Cost Plus” arrangement, wherein the Owner has to pay the Builder for whatever the project actually costs to build, PLUS a Contractor “Fee” (typically profit margin, regardless of how much the project costs to build, totally open ended).  What’s that you say?  “That won’t happen to me!”  Yes, it will, if you put the Contractor in charge right up front.  What helps to prevent that from happening otherwise?  Wouldn’t you rather have a fixed, guaranteed price, in writing on a contract to build your house according to your Architect’s plans & specs?  Of course you would.

 

Architect Will Typically Attempt to Help you Control the Contract for the Construction

The Architect (at least HOME ARCHITECTS ®) will often suggest a form of agreement to build the project from a 3rd party independent professional organization like ArCH (Architects Creating Homes), which has an outstanding form of agreement for residential projects.  It typically requires the Contractors (note the plural there) to competitively bid on the project.  No one Contractor has a lock on the job (unless there are some unusual circumstances, such as the Builder already worked on the project previously or similar reasons).  Now then, all of the Contractors bidding are going to try to bid lower than each other, which helps the Owner to obtain a lower price to build their house.  Isn’t that a great idea?  That’s not going to happen, if you GIVE your project to a Builder earlier in the project process.  Doh! 

 

Is it starting to make more and more sense to have the project process driven by the Architect’s methods?  Why?  Because the Architect’s methods have at their forefront: Help the Owner.  Make the house as nice as possible, within certain constraints.  The Architects sole motivation is to help you obtain the best house possible for your land and your lifestyle.

 

Architect Can Help You Negotiate with the Best Contractor

Did you notice that bit about Bidding & Negotiating in the Architectural project process?  What’s “negotiate” mean in this context?  Well, dirty little secret here: no Owner ever saw a price to build their house that they liked.  ALL prices to build what you want will ALWAYS be more than you would like to pay to have it built.  Therefore, having your Architect, the person that designed and specified your project be available to discuss price cuts in return for not building certain things can make all the difference between a viable project and nothing.  A crucial moment in the project.  Because: You don’t know what is important to the structural integrity of the project and what isn’t.  Or in terms of energy conservation, which impacts your monthly power bill.  Or any number of other issues.  Your Architect will know what can give and what can’t.  They can be all that stands between your proposed house or nothing at all.

 

Construction Administration

Having your Architect there, looking at what the Contractor is building can make a huge difference in the Contractor’s attitude and performance.  If  anyone thinks that no one will be checking on his/her work, they probably won’t be as likely to do a better job that requires more effort.  And so, too, for Builders: if a Contractor believes that no one will be checking his/her construction (or just an inexperienced Owner or the over-burdened Building Department), he/she might not be quite as inclined to do a top-notch job of construction.  Any human being who KNOWS that someone is going to be checking their work, will instinctively, out of self-preservation, try to do a better job.  Basic human nature.  Not that Builders are bad people.  Not at all.  They work hard, under unpleasant circumstances: heat, wind, rain, snow, ice, dirt, and have to deal with all sorts of people all the time: employees, material suppliers, 50 subcontractors (for every project), owners, architect, engineers, etc.  So we aren’t implying they aren’t worth what they earn.  They are due their income.  But having the Architect check periodically, say once a month, timed immediately after the GC sends out his Pay Request for the Architect’s review & approval, so that the Architect checks the work, is just one more precaution to helping the Owner obtain what they believe they are paying for: a well-built house. 

 

Now then, what differences do you imagine would occur if the Contractor knew no one, other than you and a once in a big while overworked Building Department person would be looking at things? 

And NO, the Building Department checks are NOT any sort of guarantee that your project is going to be built correctly.  Take a good look at the permit.  It says, right there, that the County/City in no way is responsible for the quality of your construction or that it even meets Code.  Why:  not their job.  They may look for code minimums, but it Not their job to see to it that your project design documents are built as designed.  They could care less if your roofing underlayment is what was specified, only what  minimum Code calls for.  If they even check it.  We have seen so-called Building Department “inspections” consisting of a literal “drive -bys” where the so-called inspector didn’t even get out of his vehicle.  Or where the inspector knew the Contractor and signed off on that basis.  And the “inspectors” could be political appointees that know nothing about design and construction.  Check out your County’s budget some time. Do you really think they have licensed engineers or Architects on-staff that check on the construction of your house?  Highly unlikely.  It is not their job or their legal requirement to protect you. 

 

And one last time: this online article is Not intended as an anti-Builder article.  We’ve said it once and we will say it again: The world needs Builders.  We’d be nowhere without them.  Some of my best friends are Licensed Contractors.  The issue is WHEN in the design and construction process they are brought into the picture, that’s all.  Architects program, plan & design.  Builders build (hence the term “Builder”).  In those respective roles, they both excel and work well together, in the best interests of the Owner.

 

 

 

 

 

tags: Process to Build a New House, mountain, Cashiers, Lake Toxaway, Highlands, Glenville, Sapphire, Aspen, Telluride, Charlotte, post and beam, timber frame.