Tag Archives: construction contract documents

Timing Your Architectural Project

When Should You Start Designing Your Project?
If you’re planning an all interior project, you can start any time! The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll have your house in the condition you want it to be, and the sooner you can start enjoying it. If you’re contemplating an addition or exterior alteration, it’s ideal to start planning your project early, but that’s not a hard-and-fast requirement. Starting early will give you and your architect sufficient time to develop the design and drawings on a more relaxed schedule, submit your project for Planning Department approval, and negotiate a contract with your contractor. Continue reading

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Understanding Construction Costs: Estimates vs. Bids

When planning a home remodeling or new construction project, one of the first things homeowners usually want to know is how much the work will cost. While costing is squarely in the domain of the contractor and decidedly not within the realm of the architect, explaning how contractors structure the means of costing is part of the job of the architect in educating the client as to the available approaches, and quite often advising which might be the most appropriate for their particular project. Continue reading

Choosing A General Contractor

Most medium and large construction jobs are handled by a general contractor or G.C. The general contractor may be called a builder, building contractor, remodeling contractor, etc. What makes him a “general” contractor is that he enters into a contract with the owner to complete a project and takes full responsibility to get the job done for the bid price. In general, he purchases the materials, hires the tradespeople, and brings in subcontractors to get the work done. The subcontractors are responsible to the general contractor, not to you, the owner. Continue reading

2016 California Building Standards Effective January 1, 2017

califbldgcodesThe 2016 Edition of Title 24, the California Building Standards has become effective as of January 1, 2017. The codes are revised every three years and are in conjunction primarily with the Code Change Cycle for the International Family of Codes and other Standards.

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Integrated Design Process (I.D.P.)

LEED NC 2.2-registered SLVWD Facilities Consolidation Project exemplifies results arising from the IDP process.

LEED NC 2.2-registered SLVWD Facilities Consolidation Project exemplifies results arising from the IDP process.

Integrated building design or Integrated Design Process (I.D.P.) is the name given to the high levels of collaboration and teamwork necessary to the delivery of a high performance green building project.

Charles Kibert in Sustainable Construction: Green Building Design and Delivery describes I.D.P. as design which, “considers site, energy, materials, indoor air quality, acoustics, and natural resources as well as their interrelationship with one another. In this process, a collaborative team (architects, engineers, building occupants, owners, specialists in indoor quality, materials, and energy and water efficiency) uses systems thinking to consider the building structure and systems holistically, examining how they best work together to save energy and reduce environmental impact”

IDP shown diagrammatically, depicting the ongoing feedback loops in which the original intent is considered holistically, the goals that original design intent are re-examined, tested, reconfirmed, and then integrated towards the intended result.

IDP shown diagrammatically, depicting the ongoing feedback loops in which the original design intent is considered holistically, the goals that original intent are re-examined, tested, reconfirmed, and then integrated towards the intended sustainability goals for the project.

The Integrative Design Guide to Green Building defines a truly integrative design process as one which “optimizes the interrelationships between all the elements and entities associated with building projects in the service of efficient and effective use of resources.”

Traditional design process, in which results deemed irrelevant to the design outcome are gradually eradicated from the design result over the course of the design process.

I.D.P. is characterized by early, intensive collaboration between key members of the design team. Those design decisions fundamental to the intended goal of obtaining a high performance green building are identified and substantively mapped. They are then conscientiously revisited and strengthened through mapping against other competing priorities throughout the entire duration of the design process, thus resulting in the highest, best result within the scope defined for that performance.

The San Lorenzo Valley Water District Facilities Consolidation Project located in Boulder Creek, CA is a LEED NC2.2-registered design exemplifying the benefits of implementing Integrated Design Process. Green building design goals were identified, qualified, and then sorted along with all other priorities,  early on. These initial goals were then shared collectively through the LEED charrette and other collaborative communications with all key members of the project team, resorted, and re-prioritized among all the values brought to the table by the project team, most especially those having to do with projected construction costs. This regimen of evaluation and re-evaluation was adhered to from schematic design, through design development, and culminating in having those goals manifested in the 100% construction contract documents, thus assuring the responsible implementation of those goals once the built project is realized.

More detailed discussion and updates to the status of S.L.V.W.D. Facilities Consolidation Project can be found here. For more information about Integrated Design Process, the American Institute of Architects has identified I.D.P. to be an essential to sustainable design practice. The resources they have compiled are available here.

The Cost Estimator’s Role in Architectural Design

It has been said that the only real building material is money.images

For an architect, the three key components informing the design process from day one forward are: what is the client’s program, what is the schedule, and what is the budget.

Establishing and then tracking the project budget is often the most underrated of these three considerations, and yet it is equally if not more important than any of the others. For it is the most assured of follies to proceed down the design path without knowing how much money is available to the project, design the project, and only then come to terms with the actualities of construction cost. For this reason, including a construction estimator on the design team is essential to the success of the project.

This is not a hard and fast rule, of course. Surely for the average residential bathroom or kitchen remodel ball-parking the construction cost may not be so difficult. But it is the rare case where the residential client has the wherewithal or the luxury to dispense entirely with obtaining periodic and reasonably accurate estimations of the projected cost of construction along the way. The old saw, “a fool and his money are soon parted” pertains especially to construction, and it’s the height of foolishness to ignore the realities attending to any construction budget.

Our firm’s small business, corporate, and institutional clients know this, and so it is routine for our firm to refer our private and public sector clients to 2-3 professional estimators, knowing that they will select among them to find the one most qualified to manage their construction costs on their proposed project from the moment of inception of our design. In that manner, working with the estimator to run budget figures at each phase of the design process we can be relatively assured that when the design is completed and is let to bid – having done our homework along the way – there are unlikely to be any surprises on the day of bid opening.

The homeowner is in a more challenging position in this regard. Often, the margins of their budget are thin and so, to shave costs, they refrain from retaining an estimator, avoiding what they might perceive to be an unnecessary expense. Inevitably in these cases they ask the architect to ballpark the costs for them. Being eager to please, all too often the architect is all too willing to accommodate this request. But architects are eternal optimists, and this well-meaning optimism can undermine the objectivity necessary to the task. More importantly, we architects are not as acquainted with the vagaries of the marketplace nor do most have the resources necessary to produce an accurate estimation of cost.

What is the necessary resource? For most builders, this resource is their network of local subcontractors. These are the “antenna” of the contractor, the eyes and ears on the ground. By relying on his/her subcontractors the estimating contractor is in a position to obtain up-to-date information and then furnish an approximation of the construction cost likely to accrue to the latest iteration of the design.

By analogy, the estimator can be thought of as the navigator charting the fog-shrouded waters of the construction budget. And that being the case, who would ever leave the anchorage of a safe port towards the farther shore without having a navigator on board?

A Brief Overview of the Construction Permit Process

building-codeAs anyone who has built any project knows, obtaining a building permit is a fact of life. Yet fewer people are aware that their dream of building or remodeling may also need to include obtaining a discretionary permit as well.
The permit process is divided into two realms, the zoning regulations and building codes. Building codes and the building permit process address the life-safety aspects posed by any new structure, including structural soundness, earthquake resistance standards, fire protection, etc.

Obtaining a basic building permit (also known as a ministerial permit) is a relatively simple, straightforward, and direct process. In the vast majority of cases, a ministerial permit is the only permit required.
Yet increasingly, obtaining a building permit may be only the second part of a two-stage process, and obtaining discretionary approvals are an increasingly apparent fact of life for permit-seekers.
Zoning standards regulate the impact any commercial or residential remodel has on the neighboring properties, and concerns the project’s outward i.e. public aspect. Zoning therefore regulates qualities such as height, massing, scale, appearance and aesthetics, and attempts to ensure that the improvement will “fit” into its surroundings, not overscale the immediate neighbor’s, interfere with views they may enjoy, nor with their inherent rights to sunlight, air, and privacy.
The approval obtained in this process is called a discretionary permit, so-called because its granting is at the discretion of the regulating authority – it is generally regarded as a privilege conferred, not a right granted to a property.

Understanding the fundamental structure as to how the permit process works is amongst the most important aspects informing any project. Having an overview of the generalities of the permit process and more specifically, a complete picture as to how your project will wend it’s way to the ultimate goal of obtaining approval, stamped and signed by the regulatory authority, is critical to your success.