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Design  (Design/Build and Design Trends)  

 

What is Design/Build? 

Design/Build construction is generally considered one-stop shopping for the homeowner.  Analogous perhaps to a medical clinic where all procedures are performed under one roof by various experts, Design/Build utilizes various resources that the builder/remodelor can provide in order for the entire project to be coordinated and executed by one professional organization.  Much like other trusted professionals you might retain like a doctor or accountant, you would determine which pro to engage early on in the process and then partner to bring your project to fruition, from preliminary design to the final walkthrough.  The builder/remodelor is responsible for bringing a cadre of staff and outside resources together to create a plan that fits the budget and a budget that fits the plan.  Experienced builder/remodelors will all agree that more projects get built on-budget this way when compared to a homeowner engaging the services of an outside designer or architect and then soliciting estimates from prospective contractors.  Many of these plans far exceed any reasonable budget expectations and often end up on a closet shelf, never being built. Linking a budget early on in the process is the real key benefit of the design/build process.  Almost all experienced builders and remodelors support and model their businesses around design/build for that very reason.  They are experts at building projects and many shy away from simple being used to “price check” someone else’s plan.

Do I need to pay for design?

Early conceptual design to allow all parties to be on the “same page” for the preliminary job scope and initial budget discussions might be aided by some complimentary design work but very few pros will develop plans without some form of compensation.  After all, good design takes talent and real experience and that transformed onto paper becomes valuable intellectual property.  Few homeowners would take someone else’s concepts that are represented on a drawing and “shop”.   As with other professional services, you usually get what you pay for and “free design” might be worth exactly what you paid for it.  If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, perhaps in the form of those overhead costs to a builder or remodelor hidden somewhere in their construction costs?

How valuable is a free estimate?

You’ve heard before there is no such thing as a free estimate.  That may be true but there are some people out there that build a business model around that statement.  Truth is, every service cost something either on the front or the back end (back end, by way of hidden fees in your construction contract). No builder or remodelor that has been in business for very long and from that respect  being one who understands the cost of running a business can absorb free estimates out of the goodness of his /her heart.  Also, consider the old adage, “you get what you pay for”. That is especially true when it comes to free estimates in this business.  Most reputable remodelors, especially design/build companies will provide for some scope of work (ballpark) estimates based on similar jobs they are familiar with and have completed. This helps establish budget parameters and to get prospects over the initial cost hurdle but that’s about where it usually ends for free.  Established firms are set up to partner with a prospect to walk them through the development phase which creates the plan and the subsequent job budget (estimate).  Even smaller jobs benefit from this process and allows the owner and contractor to value engineer the job for the perfect balance between cost and value.  Real firms that understand their cost of doing business realize that estimates are just one step to building the project. In other words, companies that have been at it awhile aren’t afraid to tell their clients that they aren’t in business to build estimates, rather they are in the business to build projects.  One more thing; something to ponder as you consider seeking estimates instead of building a relationship with a remodeling professional you can trust; How do you budget without a plan and how do you plan without a budget?  This is why you need a trusted, proven building pro, not the best price.

What the difference between sketches and construction documents?

Sketches, sometimes referred to as schematic designs are basically concept drawings.  They represent the “jist” of the design concept but offer little detail if any as to how the project will be constructed.  That’s the job of the CDs or construction documents.  Design/build firms specialize in the creation of schematics to direct creative thinking for all parties involved and also you’ll find some pros will even do preliminary budget analysis using schematics.  What is great about this process is that your financial commitment is incremental; you pay only for the design up front, and if you decide to move ahead and build, you will pay for your construction documents as part of the construction contract.

Do I need an architect?

Many projects can be designed in- house by an experienced contractor, depending on their capabilities.  Small additions and interior renovations can usually be handled by an in-house designer.  Larger projects that involve exterior renovations, complicated roof tie- ins, etc. are best tackled by a professional residential designer or architect.  The difference between a Residential Designer and an Architect are two-fold.  First, residential Designers are not licensed engineers, so their designs must be sent to an engineer to get a final approval and seal.  Secondly, Residential Designers often leave the finish details to be reconciled between the homeowner and contractor, which can decrease the overall cost of the construction documents.

What is Better Living Design?

Better Living DesignTM (BLDTM) is an unprecedented approach to position universal design in the marketplace.  The BLDTM team will rebrand universal design for homes and home products, leaving behind old connotations by embracing, “Designing Everything for Everyone.” 

The strategy is to achieve the BLDTM vision is to engage stakeholders in the home building industry by developing and promoting a new standard for how homes and products for use in the home are designed. This effort will also include reviewing home plans, evaluating remodeling job specifications, and establishing criteria for evaluating appliances and fixtures and for everyday products used in the home. These BLDTM guidelines will be based on current accepted universal design standards and principles.

Those working to further the BLDTM concept will engage the consumer by means of its second fundamental purpose: to serve as a decision tool for buyers who are considering home purchase, renovation and product purchase.

When do I need a permit?

Any time you open up a wall to expose framing and /or change framing in an existing structure you need a building permit.  Any time you add or change electrical outlets/switching in an existing structure you need an electrical permit.  And again, any time you add to or alter an existing plumbing system you need a plumbing permit.  Things that don’t require permits include repairing or replacing light fixtures, plumbing fixtures and the like.  Not all jobs require all permits.  Check with your local building department for specifics as actual requirements vary widely. Also pay attention to required subdivision regulations, architectural review requirements and/or zoning code restrictions. Pro remodelors deal with all these varying aspects of preparing a plan for construction and can be very helpful in the planning stages of a project as well as doing the actual construction.

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