ARCHITECTS SAVE YOU MONEY: DETAILS
In a recent blog post we talked about the four ways that architects save you money. In that post we were attempting to combat the public perception that architects are a luxury, when in fact we are a necessity to any project – no matter the size or complexity. In the next series of posts we wanted to move on to more detailed explanations of each of the four ways architects save you money. First up was Design where we discussed the process of design and what it means for you, the client. Next up:
They say that the Devil is in the details. I prefer to believe that good design is in the details. Any design is only as successful as the details that make it work. And without a good set of construction documents (details) you’re at the mercy of whomever you hired to build your project and that’s not a good place to be with several hundred thousand dollars on the line. But what does that mean? How do good details equal dollars saved for you, the client? There are 3 ways that good details save you money and are potentially worth far more than the fees paid to your architect – coordination, clarity, and consistency.
First, lets be honest. Anyone can create a design. No, seriously. There are enough cheap software options out there, enough stock plan websites, enough Houzz photos and DIY tutorials that the average person, if sufficiently motivated, could create a functional design that a contractor could build within a reasonable level of quality. However there is one piece missing that is critical to your project – coordination. While just about anyone can create a design (with enough time) it is critical that your design and the subsequent required details are coordinated thoroughly. For example if, during your design, you decide to add a home office, no problem. You communicate this to the contractor who says he’ll relay that to the concrete sub contractor, but since there’s no coordinated drawing set, it gets forgotten and you show up after the start of framing and realize there’s no home office. Now the contractor will hit you with a change order. The concrete sub has to come back out, dig a new foundation for the home office, tie it into the now existing foundation and the framers have to tear out work to re-frame for the new office. This will eat up thousands of dollars that could have been saved with a well coordinated drawing set provided by your architect.
Clarity relates to the entirety of a drawing set – Cover Sheet to Specifications to Plans to Elevations to Sections to Schedules and Details. A design that is well detailed will have a high degree of clarity to reduce onsite mistakes, save time by reducing the need for corrections and provide simple and clear directions to the contractor for what the ultimate outcome should be. This clarity is achieved through the full drawing set:
Cover Sheet: describes the project, lists the location, the number and name of each sheet, the date of issue and generally the applicable building codes as reference.
Specifications: outline of the products to be used and the quality of work to be expected during construction.
Plans: provides a visual description of the design complete with dimensions, coordinated tags for elevations and sections and notes detailing various construction assemblies. The plans will also reference the Specifications for additional information not generally included on the plans.
Elevations: Two-dimensional representations of the exterior configuration of your home including doors, windows, materials, colors, roof, lighting, etc.
Sections: Either thru-building or wall sections are enlarged cuts taken through your project that provide information about the structure, the nuts and bolts, that let your contractor know how the building will stand up and keep water out. These drawings will also provide clarifying details as to how dissimilar materials will come together, how windows and doors are to be installed, structural plate heights, finish floor elevations, the list goes on.
Schedules: Probably the most boring, but potentially one of the most important drawings, the schedules are charts of your windows and doors. Both a graphical and literary document that outlines the height and width of each and every opening in your home and provides additional clarification as to material, finish, glazing, operation, fire rating, hardware set, and frame type. Without this information properly coordinated with your plans and elevations the potential for the framer to need to come back and fix improperly framed openings goes up dramatically.
Details: Ah, Details. Personally, these are my favorite drawings in a construction set. They are, literally, the nuts and bolts of your building project. There are foundation details, window and door details, floor framing details, stone and masonry details, roof details, flashing details, interior details…again, the list goes on. These details are what separate your project from everything else that is out there on the market. These are the drawings that make a good project great, a great project spectacular, and, if you have a good architect working with a good contractor, will save you thousands in maintenance costs over the life of your building. A good architect who creates good details is using thousands of years of building science to his advantage to create a building envelope system that works with nature to keep water out, maintain comfortable interior temperatures for all seasons, and reduce the need for both extensive electric lighting and mechanical HVAC. All of that equals MONEY.
Consistency, in any area of life, will save time and save money. Consistency of information being conveyed and described; of coordination across multiple disciplines; of the quantity and quality of work to be performed, most importantly of the full design being detailed and eventually constructed. At face value this may seem like it would be done by default during construction, but here is how that would actually transpire:
Without an architect to guide you through the design and detailing process you, the client, are left to make all of the myriad decisions required to build your home on the fly, DURING construction, and usually without the benefit of professional experience and advice. You’re left to trek through thousands of tile samples, paint swatches, millwork finishes, toilets, sinks, faucets, appliances, light fixtures and trim profiles. And the contractor will simply say “I need you to tell me what you want. These are your allowances for each.” And he’ll need it as soon as possible. This leads to mistakes, change orders, time lost, additional money spent, and likely a finished product that doesn’t quite look the way you wanted it to. Conversely, your architect would help guide you through the entire process first, before anyone even picks up a hammer. And all those choices? Well, remember during design when your architect asked you all those questions about your likes, dislikes, wants, needs and desires for your home? He or she will select two to three options for you based on those conversations so that you don’t have to work as hard with each selection. Think of it as curated shopping for your home. And as I mentioned in a previous post – It’s far cheaper to make changes on paper than it is after construction has started.
Last time we talked about the design process and how it benefits you, the client, by allowing you the freedom of creating a design that fits your life. We talked about a good design being efficient and functional over time rather than just for now and how that equates to equitable savings. This time we’ve described the process of detailing that design and how your architect provides coordination, clarity and consistency across multiple disciplines in order to create a full set of instructions which your contractor will use during construction. These instructions lay out the quantity and quality of work to be performed which saves time and money throughout the construction process. Next time we’ll wrap up our discussion with a look at Professional Advice and Experienced Oversight.
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