The Benefits of Working with an Architect

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Above: Room designed by TEA2 Architects

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Good architecture is all about function, structure, and beauty. If a home isn’t functional, it’s a sculpture, not architecture. It should be well-built and structurally sound. And if it doesn’t appeal to the senses and evoke some type of reaction, it’s just another building. The people who make this magic possible are architects. The term architect is used only for those who meet rigorous educational requirements, complete an extensive apprenticeship program, and pass a licensing exam. As licensed professionals, they must protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public, while coordinating the multiple parts and systems in the buildings—making them safe for the people who live there. An architect’s training encompasses historic, cultural, construction, material, and aesthetic considerations. They are trained to analyze functional needs, long-term goals, and the economics of a project (your budget), and can balance these elements within the context of building code and zoning regulations. And contrary to popular belief, architects aren’t overly serious or single-minded in their pursuit of the perfect design, says Tim Fuller, AIA, principal, Timothy Fuller Architects. “Architects are exceedingly approachable and open minded professionals who are very good at listening to their clients’ concerns and translating them into a wide variety of successfully realized homes, additions, or alternations. We love the process.” Architect-designed homes were designed for their owners, their sites, and their neighborhoods. The difference is in the design.

 

Architects Can Maximize Your Investment

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Design By Sala Architects, Photo by Don Wong 

Building projects are—by nature—already complex undertakings. If you get it wrong, you could be living with your mistakes for a long time. Get it right and it can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. An AIA architect can help you “get it right” by serving to not only maximize your investment, but also provide a more creative, functional, pleasing and lasting environment. An AIA architect acts as your agent, representing your best interests and protecting the integrity of your project throughout the entire design and construction process. An AIA architect will work with you, tailoring the design to suit your personality, lifestyle, needs, and budget. They are trained to see the big picture, speak the sometimes confusing language of construction, and find a balance between function, aesthetics, economics and numerous codes and regulations. They also know how to stretch your construction dollars, designing for maximum energy efficiency and lower fuel bills down the road. They create beautiful environments and high-functioning spaces.

 

Featured project: Smuckler Architecture
Jack Smuckler, AIA, president, Jack Smuckler Architecture

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Photo By John Bishop

A test of a good architect is how well he or she handles challenging topography constraints. In the case of Smuckler Architecture, this project, and the unique site, is a true testament to their skills.

Situated on the shore of Lake Minnetonka, the site for this home is high on the west side and drops off approximately 10 feet on the east side. The homeowners wished for a soft, contemporary home that fit the site, a home that connected effortlessly with the slope of the land. They wanted a large covered terrace to be at grade level adjacent to the kitchen, and their garage to be located in a way that allowed them to access it from the outside lower level for storing their many snowmobiles, wave runners and yard maintenance items.

To accomplish this, Jack Smuckler, president of Smuckler Architecture, designed the home in an unconventional way, with the kitchen and covered terrace on the west side of the property, and the garage—with double-opening steel doors—on the east side, where the site dropped. To enhance the trip from the garage to the kitchen, an art gallery corridor was designed to display a personal art collection. The owners also liked the convenience of having the garage close to the master suite for early departures or late arrivals.

Another important goal was to maximize views of the lake. Smuckler made this possible by placing the home on the site in a way that afforded lake views from every room, a powerful element of the overall design. In addition, the interior staircase is directly opposite of the main entry to showcase a large window at the landing for a dramatic first impression of the lake. The location of the staircase also allows the homeowners and their guests to walk down half a flight of stairs and out to an exterior cascade of steps leading directly to the backyard and lakeshore.

When looking at this beautiful home, you would never know there were topography challenges at all. It blends seamlessly into the landscape.

For more information about Smuckler Architecture, visit smucklerarchitecture.com.

The Design Process In Six Steps

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Photo by Brandon Stengel, Farm Kid Studios

Step 1: Programming
Designing a new home or once-in-a-lifetime renovation should be an exciting experience. The first step in working with an architect is programming, or the process of discovery. The initial conversation and work focuses on identifying the homeowner’s vision, goals, and priorities (how many rooms? What size? Who will use it? How will it be used?), while being sensitive to the site, the surrounding area, and the natural environment. The site can determine the form the home takes (and costs). An architect can help you find a site that fits with your vision. This is also the time to talk about budget expectations.

Step 2: Schematic Design
Schematic design—or the rough sketches—is focused on defining the direction, the goals, and the scope of the project. The sketches illustrate the general arrangement of rooms and of the house on the site. The sketches aren’t “finished” construction documents, they’re meant to show potential options. This phase also includes identifying challenges and opportunities. Typically this will include plans, exterior views, and other work that explores the overall design ideas of the project. The active engagement of you, the client, is critical so that you and your architect are on the same page about what you want. AIA architects have the training and skills to develop and refine a vision of the completed project that you can see and understand. They’re experts not only at visualizing the big picture, but also the smaller steps necessary between concept and completion.

Step 3: Design Development
This phase is all about refinement, exploration, and researching the components required to satisfy the project goals. The finer details—finishes, mechanical, lighting, electrical, and structural systems—are clearly illustrated, as well as exterior and interior elevations. They know how to strike a balance between aesthetic beauty and structural safety. Before going on to the next stage, the architect will ask for your design approval.

Step 4: Preparation of the Construction Documents
Construction documents are the graphic drawings and written specifications of how things are to be built—these are the drawings that will be submitted for permit approval and to actually build the project. These documents define the quality and level of craftsmanship.

Step 5: Hiring the Contractor (Bidding Phase)
Architects can help a client find qualified contractors—they’ve had experience working with different builders and know firsthand the quality of work they do. Selecting a contractor may occur during an earlier phase, or after the construction documents are completed. Prospective contractors will need bidding documents, which the architect can help you prepare. The key to a successful project is good communication and a team effort between the client, architect, and builder. In this phase, the architect helps the client evaluate bids, clarify questions, define schedules, and coordinate contracts.

Step 6: Construction Administration
In this phase, the architect makes site visits as defined in the contract, works with the contractor to coordinate construction, and represents your interests through completion of the project. This phase is when the drawings become physical reality. Architects can also provide construction administration services, keeping the project on track, on time, and within budget.
As a collaborative process, you and your architect can determine what services outlined above are appropriate for your budget and project. With thoughtful evaluation and design, AIA architects can meet—and exceed—your expectations.

Come and see first-hand the architect-designed difference at the 2014 Homes by Architects Tour on September 20 & 21, 2014.

By Chrissy Sarinske, Special Sections Editor

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