Monday, February 21, 2011

House Calls--a Professional Opinion

"Clawson Architects, how may we help you?"
"Yes, I live here in town and I need to blow out some walls add on to my house.  I had a guy that does work for me look at this and he says we can do it, I just need to get some blueprints from you."
I listen as the potential clients diagnose all the issues and explain how they propose to remedy the situation.  
While there is no doubt that there is a plethora of information available on line and in magazines, there is also the advisory team of neighbors, friends and family that have done this type of project before ...rendering them a relative expert.  So, I listen to learn more, it usually comes down to the fact that I really need to SEE what they are talking about.  Typically, I recommend that the potential clients go with our Initial Consult Service.
Like the Medical Arts, Architecture is a visual, problem solving field of study.  It requires years of study, an internship and board exams for legal practice.  An Initial Consult allows the patient/ home owner to procure a "Professional Opinion".  The Architect will visit the site, examine the existing conditions, listen to the symptoms, observe the restrictions, constraints, opportunities and potential and then render a professional opinion; one that might confirm what they were thinking and give them the confidence to move forward together with the architect or on their own. Most likely, the Architect will probably convey other potentials the client may not have realized. 
In procuring a professional opinion, there is no reason for the Architect to hold back on ideas or observations.  The client is in no way obligated to move forward with that Architect, nor are they barred from seeking additional opinions. This Initial Consult has given you one on one time with a qualified expert that is observing the situation first hand. You are receiving very valuable information.  
When the caller said..."they wanted 'Blueprints'" it really meant not my opinion. Blueprints are the result of a technology used to copy large drawings produced on clear velum or mylar, rarely used in the Architectural world any more.  The word Blueprints has come to represent "detailed plans".  So, what they really asked for are accurate drawings depicting the existing conditions, details for the areas of work: demolition plans, dimensioned floor plans, electrical, structural and mechanical drawings and material specifications and details for their project and a Professional Seal and Liability Insurance from an Architect or Engineer certifying and insuring that the drawings and calculations are correct, meet state and local building codes.  The drawings will serve as Construction Documents and the formal Contract between the client and the Contractor and if followed will protect the integrity of their investment in their home.
I also heard the request to add on however, I have found on many such Initial Consults that the house is really big enough.  The issues are of alignment.  The home lacks organization, storage and flow that is consistent with the client's living style and in most cases they have 'given up'.   I am shown a stack of images of what the client would like and 9 out of 10 times, it is a clean, bright organized home.  While there are many people that will give you generic "blueprints" for a box on the back, skilled architects will offer creative solutions to more complex problems and a holistic approach that addresses the whole home and lifestyle.  We have found that many times the solution is in the box or can be achieved by "pushing the envelope." The professional fees in these types of renovations are often realized quickly as a cost savings when it comes to the reduced amount of construction materials required, side stepping tax increases based on size of the house and not increasing the foot print also means not increasing the utility bills.
So, three things before you add on:
  1. Consider your lifestyle and what is working and what is not working for you...the symptoms not the diagnosis.
  2. "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful."  William Morris
  3. Call on a true Professional for an opinion.
Hire a Professional to assist you in documenting the project you would like to construct and live in and remember this Architect still make House Calls before, during and after construction.



  1. Would you mind if I referenced this post on Engaging Architects? It's a Q&A forum for the public to contact Architects.
    I think the site needs a FAQ page with info like this.

  2. Collier1960 Please do...and thank you for taking the time to read my blog.