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The Process

Getting to know you

We talk. Actually, you talk. I ask questions and listen. We talk about your goals and dreams. We talk about what's realistic and what's not. We talk about design style and philosophy, building science, sustainability and energy conservation. We decide if we like each other.

Information gathering

Now to work. Information is gathered about the property. Town hall records are examined and zoning, planning, conservation and health departments are contacted to determine which, if any, rules and restrictions apply. Existing site surveys and septic plans are located and if none exist surveyors and/or civil engineers are engaged to provide them. Property lines, wetlands, setbacks and buffer zones are located. If there are existing buildings, they are photographed and measured. Record drawings including site plans, floor plans, elevations and sections are created as a base from which to work.

Programming and Schematic Design

We talk. Again. There will be a lot of that. Talking, and more importantly, listening, are particularly important at this stage of the game.  You'll send me photos, clipping and links - thing you love and things you can't abide. We'll decide together on the important things. Style and design, yes, but also how many bedrooms and bathrooms, the size of the kitchen, the need for space, views and a place to wash the dog. Construction methods are discussed. Everyone wants a sustainable building but how do green construction methods and energy conservation fit in to your project and your budget? This is the time to develop a wish list and prioritize it, paring it down to what is reasonable, what makes sense, what you can afford. And making sure that we leave room for fun, romance, and a bit of beauty.

Finally 2-3 preliminary designs are created. We look at the site and how the buildings will relate to the land, the sun, the prevailing breezes, the neighbors and the views. We consider form, mass and function. We consider how the home will be used, circulation patterns, how much sunlight will enter and where the snow will accumulate. We present floor plans and one or two elevations. Sometimes one of the schematic design is just perfect and other times we need to modify the plan or combine elements to get it just right. Together we decide on a plan to move forward.

Design Development and Permit Drawings

Up until now things have been deliberately a bit sketchy - easy to change without going too far backward. As decisions continue to be made, permit drawings start to develop. Hard dimensions, construction methods and materials emerge. The relationship between different parts of the building are finalized. Structural engineers are brought on board to make sure the structure will be sound and long lasting. Code issues like, size of doors, means of egress and amount of insulation are determined. We don't forget about the plumbing, wiring and HVAC. Now is the time to meet with tradesmen and make sure it will all fit without having to make costly changes later. This is also the time to start to talk to contractors. It's helpful to get opinions on the potential budget, possible pitfalls we may not have considered and bright ideas brought to light by a different pair of eyes. Finally, permit drawings including plans, elevations and building sections are completed.

Construction Documents

Permit drawings are simplified construction sets used to obtain a building permit. Construction documents fill in the details. Which windows with what finishes, colors, kinds of glass, and hardware? What kind of doors and door hardware? Which tile, tile layout and grout colors? How about cabinetry design, materials, layout and construction? All the myriad details that will be needed to complete the house are included in the construction set. It's a detailed roadmap for the builder that tells him what materials to buy, where they go and how to install them.


Often materials and details continue to change and develop until the last minute but a goal to work towards is to have as much determined in advance as possible - right down to the kind of nails used to fasten the decking and the knobs for the kitchen cabinets. Thinking and planning ahead are always more efficient and ultimately less costly than waiting until the last minute. Hundreds of decisions will be made without your input. I'll make them with the contractor with your best interest in mind. But a number of things will require your participation and approval. Making timely decisions will make for a happier designer and a happier contractor - and that will result in a happier you!

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