During the Existing Conditions phase, we thoroughly document and record everything about your home we would need for the project.
Assess existing landscaping, sun and wind orientation, architecturally significant features, and relation to street and other site attributes.
Take detailed measurements and photos and locate home utilities
Create the measured drawings of your existing home (floor plans and elevations) necessary for your proposed project. These drawings are commonly referred to as Existing Conditions or As-Built drawings and are critical to begin the design work on your home. Existing conditions can be comprehensive (all floors and elevations) or limited to the components necessary for your project.
Exterior elevations will be necessary for your permit when changes are made such as window/door locations or for additions.
Besides your property survey, you may already have some drawings of your home. There may have been house plans that were part of the real estate materials, or you may have had prior design work done which might have resulted in some existing conditions drawings. We can assess these drawings and determine if and how we could use them in order to reduce our home analysis work. We would use what we could then validate critical measurements.
As the architect, Louis Sullivan, said, “Form Follows Function: the shape of a building or object should be primarily based upon its intended function or purpose.” We feel very strongly about this concept, particularly as it applies to residential design. Your home should reflect your family’s specific needs. To accomplish this, we sit with you (and as many family members as desired) to discuss how you function and use your existing space: what works? what doesn’t?
How long do you intend to live in your home? Should resale value be a consideration?
How do you cook, eat, dress for the day, entertain, work, interact with family members, relax, etc.
How do you access your yard, your car, your mail, your trash?
What is your current route from car to refrigerator with groceries?
How might things change in the next 5-10 years? Additional children or elder family members? Office-in-the home?
You and Your Home
Prior to meeting with you we determine the general scope of your project and the general reason for doing the project. From this we prepare our list of questions based on the scope. For example, if you are wanting a new kitchen, we will ask very specific questions about your cooking, dining, grocery shopping, etc. We will also ask how you currently use your home and what you like and don’t like about your the area(s) to be remodeled. We oftentimes uncover underlying concerns and design criteria during this meeting. Although it is often tempting, we do try to minimize the discussion about the design solution so as not to limit other creative solutions. We also ask our clients to think longer term about future projects. For example, if you were wanting a kitchen remodel but were thinking of an eventual deck project off the kitchen, the deck would definitely need to be a design factor now.
With the site analysis and needs assessment in hand, we create your schematic design. Starting with two to three options, we focus on the ideas that are most appealing to you to create a final schematic design that meets all your needs and desires. The schematic design also serves as your Master Plan or “roadmap” if the construction is to be broken up in phases to help guide projects and to mitigate throw-away work.
We generally start schematic design with a list of your prioritized needs you have provided. For each scheme we try to think of dramatically different approaches your needs so that the individual schemes provide several solutions. We generally only work in plan at this stage (vs. elevation) so that we can focus on the needs and function and less on the form or appearance. Once we have the schemes designed, we review your checklist again to make sure we have addressed everything. We will also review any pins you have made on Pinterest to incorporate your design ideas. It is often the case that every one of your needs are not addressed in each scheme. There may be trade-offs that provide an optimal solution.
We then meet with you to review the schemes. During these meetings we often get a better idea of your prioritization, perhaps uncovering issues that were not initially discussed. We also gauge your reaction and interest to design ideas that are presented. Once we have finished, it will be important for you to ponder the schemes and walk around with the schemes in your current house to “try them on for size”. After you have spent time with the schemes and provided feedback to us, we align on a final scheme. This scheme may be a slight tweak of one scheme or may be a hybrid of several schemes.
House plans are what a lot of people think of when they think of architects. We fine-tune the schematic design to create a set of house plans or construction drawings with a NJ Architect seal. These house plans are like an instruction manual for creating your project. They need to be specific and exhaustive enough for a competitive bidding process. A good set of construction documents enable contractors to bid “apples-to-apples” relative to each other. These construction documents become part of the contract between you and the chosen general contractor. They also become part of your permit with your town’s building department.
The number of required drawings for a project vary by complexity, but would likely include:
Floor Plans, Electrical Plans, and a Roof Plan (House Plans)
Site Plan based on a current survey showing required set-backs
Elevations; generally any elevation impacted by the project requires an existing and proposed view.
Foundation, framing and roof sections and details
Interior elevations of areas with substantial finish materials and fixtures (generally kitchens and baths or areas with substantial millwork/moulding)
Plumbing Riser Diagrams, when there is a change or addition in plumbing
Stair Details when new stairs are required
In addition to construction drawings, we also provide a list of construction specifications, a detailed scope of work and a spreadsheet of required owner-provided fixtures and finishes.
Most used codes for NJ Residential
National Standard Plumbing Code/2015
National Electrical Code (NFPA 70)/2014
International Energy Conservation Code/2015 (Low-Rise Residential)
International Mechanical Code/2015
International Residential Code/2015, NJ ed (IRC w/ NJ edits from 3.21)
Corrected pages (NJ errata)
(ICC errata)Corrected sections *
Other referenced I-Codes (ISPSC/2015; etc.)
International Fuel Gas Code/2015
For some projects we are able to size beams using Weyerhaeuser's framing tables, International Residential Code tables, or other resources. For more complicated structural solutions, we leverage DRJ Engineering.