July 11th, 2019
professional building designers

Getting Started: Tips from an Architect

When people think about buildings, they generally think about permanence. Sure, buildings fall into disrepair or are demolished every day; but for the most part, well-maintained buildings are intended to last for decades, if not longer. While preventative building maintenance is a topic worthy of its own discussion, the initial building design and construction, renovation, or system replacement, ultimately sets the stage for a successful and long-term investment.

Because a building should be something that lasts, marrying durable function and style to create a structure that anchors a community, business, or organization, there are some things to keep in mind when embarking on a facilities project. Whether you are looking into new construction, renovating to improve your existing building’s operations, or hoping to make some sustainable changes to an existing building, our architects have collected a few tips to make the journey easier, and more successful in the end.

  1. Hire an Architect

Building design and construction is a complex matter, and having a professional building designer on board is the best way to ensure that your project runs as smoothly as possible. Architects know the ins and outs of design and construction, and can make the most of your resources while offering ideas and features you may never have thought of on your own.

The decisions made during the design process can impact your project for the life of your building. It is far easier to erase a line on paper than it is to move a wall once it’s built; so taking the effort to plan things out correctly in the beginning equates to time well spent. If your architect becomes familiar with your building’s needs (your “program”), then you can avoid winding up with spaces that are undersized or oversized, room adjacencies that just don’t quite seem right, or systems that don’t work as effectively together as they should.

Your project, whether new construction or renovation/alteration, will represent a significant investment of time, money, effort, and resources. Doing the pre-planning work properly and engaging a professional who is well versed in building design can help protect your investment and help you understand where your limited funds are best expended. After all, you’re probably not doing your project for the sake of doing a project, but instead to achieve a greater result: a larger or better functioning work space, more or different arrangements of educational rooms, or replacement of an older or failing building system.

See our article for a more in-depth look at the value of an architect.

  1. Know the Limits of Your Own Capabilities

Over the years, our architects have worked with a wide variety of boards, companies, entities, groups, etc.; all with greatly varying degrees of previous exposure to building design and construction. Certainly there is a benefit to having someone on your staff who is well versed in executing construction or renovation projects; however, relying solely on that individual can be a seductive trap. After all, it’s not just about skill: time matters, too. If this person, no matter how knowledgeable, is functioning as a facility manager with regular duties and building oversight as part of his/her job, then it will be extremely difficult for them to effectively absorb the time involved with supervision of a construction project while simultaneously continuing to carry out his/her regular job duties.

Conversely, there are times when your facilities personnel, no matter how adept they are at their day to day job duties, just don’t have the experience dealing with invasive on-site construction. They may be new to the field or the position, or just haven’t had that type of exposure in the past.

In either case, overestimating your in-house capabilities can lead to problems, and trying to secure outside help on an emergency basis can be a lot more challenging than bringing assistance on board early on.

  1. Don’t Cut Corners

In the heat of the moment, it can be tempting to accept a lesser quality material, a product with a quicker ship date, or a revision to the plan you’ve so carefully thought out (see step #1: Hire an Architect). Without an architect helping to guide the process, making that call can be very easy to inadvertently cause unexpected problems.

Your architect will help guide you in these decisions, outlining the pros and cons of each decision you have to make (and as the building owner or representative, it is ultimately your call to make). In some cases, substitutions or changes can be beneficial at best or even have no net impact. However, for each product being considered or change being contemplated, your architect will consider cost, timing, quality, and applicability to the building code.

Replacing window A with window B may mean that it gets on site quicker and costs less. But if window B is a lesser quality window that is more prone to failures, or is difficult to find replacement parts for, then it may be worth your while to wait the extra two weeks for window A to arrive. Additionally, window B may not perform exactly the same way as window A. These are things that your architect can research for you to present all applicable facts, so that you can weigh the pros and cons and make an informed decision.

It all comes back to what the prime project goals are. Sure, everyone wants their projects to come in designed beautifully and exactly to spec, on time, and under budget. It’s when decisions need to be made throughout the design or construction process that you need to weigh the importance of these three elements, and having an architect who’s been part of the process from the beginning helps expedite these decisions and points you towards making the right decision for you and your project.

  1. Consider an “Of Record” Appointment

Many companies and institutions have seen the benefit of appointing an Architect of Record (AOR). Similar to having a doctor or a lawyer “on call,” having an AOR means having someone you can reach out to who knows you, knows your buildings, and knows your operations. You can use this relationship to ask one-off questions or seek advice on smaller items, as well as have a go-to firm who can help you work through the processes described above.

In addition to tackling new construction or renovation projects, your AOR can also help you develop a comprehensive building condition assessment and facilities master plan.

Whether you are looking at a large scale project or something small; a community-based building, a mixed-use structure, or a highly specific facility, our architects will work with your goals, your budget, and your dreams to bring them to life in a sustainable and suitable way.

We are the people who translate paper wish lists and sketches into award-winning buildings, adding value to your organization in a long-lasting, tangible way. Contact us today to learn more about our professional building design services.

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