FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: What are the stages of the process of building a new home?
A: I can assist you through any or all of the following steps:
- Schematic Design
Based on your guidance, I will prepare a preliminary design, project schedule, and cost estimate and I will revise these in response to your ongoing feedback.
- Design Development
After we arrive at a basic scheme, I will further develop the design to incorporate detailing, construction methods, and materials.
- Construction Documents
Once you have approved the more developed design, I will produce an expanded set of drawings with detail sufficient for contractors to confidently bid and construct your project. This document set will include architectural, structural, and electrical drawings, building specifications, and a conceptual heating and cooling design to be further engineered by the General Contractor’s HVAC subcontractor.
- Coordination with Consultants
Throughout this process, I will coordinate with any required consultants, including but not limited to: Structural Engineers, Site Engineers, Landscape Architects, and Interior Designers.
I will submit all required drawings and applications to the appropriate government offices.
- Bidding and Negotiation
I will assist you in bidding the construction documents to a minimum of three contractors and then in analyzing these bids, negotiating and finally selecting the contractor who best meets your needs and budget.
- Construction Administration
After the contractor is selected, I will visit the site approximately once a week or as often as required to resolve any design or construction questions and to ensure that the project is being constructed according to the specifications. I will also document and administer any design changes and review all billing invoices from the contractor.
Q: How do you bill / What are your fees?
A: I am open to discussing a wide variety of arrangements but my preferred method of billing is a fixed fee for the design/construction drawing/bidding/permitting phase of a project and then an hourly rate for construction administration. This allows clients to decide during construction how much assistance they require versus agreeing to a set construction administration fee long before construction even starts.
For projects of a yet-to-be-determined scope, I prefer to bill hourly for the entire project.
Generally total billing for a full-service project falls in the range of 10% of construction costs. It may be half of that if construction administration is not required. Small projects typically have a slightly higher rate on a percentage basis while larger projects typically have a lower rate. Please call to discuss your individual project.
Q: Who will lead my project?
A: As a sole practitioner, I personally handle 100% of design, construction drawings, and contractor/client relations.
Q: Do you have references?
A: A list of references is available upon request. Also please see the testimonials in the recognition section of this website.
Q: How much does it cost to build/renovate a house?
A: I have found that additions and new construction in the northeastern United States generally cost around $400/sf. This number can be lower or significantly higher depending on a number of factors, most notably the level of interior finish.
Interior renovation costs vary greatly depending on how many trades are involved. Kitchens and bathrooms are also far more expensive on a square foot basis than living rooms and bedrooms. Please call to discuss your particular renovation.
Q: What additional costs do I need to keep in mind?
A: Contractor construction bids almost never include any rock hammering or blasting that may be required to dig a foundation.
One must also consider sitework costs such as septic systems, driveways, swimming pools, hardscape (walls and terraces,) and plantings.
Professional fees are never included in construction costs and these may include fees for architects, engineers, surveyors, landscape architects, and interior designers.
Furnishings can also add significantly to the cost of a project.
Additional costs vary greatly from project to project but generally these costs can add from 20% to upwards of 50% on top of construction costs.
Q: How long does it take to build/renovate a house?
A: Architects and contractors are often guilty of encouraging unrealistic expectations. Ground up new construction generally takes a little over a year. Rarely, a custom home can be completed in just under a year. Construction of a large, complex home often takes significantly longer than a year.
When design and bidding/permitting are added to the timeline, new home projects generally take about two years. This holds true for large additions as well. Projects that have wetlands and projects that require construction variances can take longer than two years. Total project time for small additions and interior renovations is normally faster than two years but not by a wide margin unless the job is very simple.
Q: What are ways to speed up the process?
A: It’s important to hit the ground running from the outset, getting a surveyor on board early and being a “squeaky wheel” with all design professionals involved. The early months have a way of melting away if client and/or professionals allow stretches of time to pass during early project correspondence.
During construction, selecting all interior finishes well in advance of the time they need to be ordered can significantly reduce construction time.
A project can also be fast-tracked by selecting a contractor prior to the completion of a full set of drawings as this allows the roughly two month bidding/negotiation phase to overlap with construction drawing production. This also allows the contractor to assist you in pricing interior finish options. The potential downside of this approach is that these prices may not be as favorable as they would have been in a competitive bidding environment.
Q: How does one select a contractor?
A: I have a number of contractors in the greater NYC area that I have worked with and many more that I have met while bidding projects. Friends, real estate brokers, and interior designers can also be a great source of recommendations.
Unless you have a particular contractor you know you’d like to work with, I recommend interviewing several contractors and speaking to their references to make sure it’s a good personality match and then having 3-5 of those contractors competitively bid your project. I will then help you analyze those bids and make your final selection.
Q: Do you recommend a fixed price contract or a cost-plus (time & materials) contract?
A: A cost-plus contract can make sense when the client has pre-selected a contractor. A contractor who is involved from the outset can be an invaluable resource in helping with permitting and “value-engineering” construction choices.
When a client is bidding to multiple contractors, I always recommend a fixed price contract because my experience has been that non-binding estimates (especially in a competitive bidding environment) are not very accurate. Also a fixed-price contract eliminates the majority of uncertainty about final project costs.
Q: Which contracts do you recommend for working with an architect and contractor?
A: American Institute of Architects (AIA) contracts do an excellent job of defining the roles and responsibilities of all parties have a long track record and reputation for balance and fairness.
I recommend using:
B105-2007: Standard Form of Agreement Between Owner and Architect of a Residential or Small Commercial Project
A107-2007: Standard Form of Agreement Between Owner and Contractor for a Project of Limited Scope
Q: Do I need a landscape architect and interior designer and when should I hire them?
A: In most cases a landscape architect and interior designer are not necessary in the sense that one can get permits and complete construction without their involvement. (In some localities, a conceptual planting plan by a landscape architect is needed for a permit.)
Budget permitting however, both of these professionals can greatly enhance the finished product and I feel it’s best to involve both from the project outset as a team of professionals can inspire one another, and when working in concert, can create a more coherent vision.
Q: What information/documentation is helpful to give to an architect at the beginning of the process?
A: An up-to-date survey of the property is helpful to the design process and essential for permitting.
Some clients jump-start the design phase by providing a wishlist of rooms and features for their new home and images of the style of home interior and exterior that speaks to them.
For renovation projects, a home inspection report is a great help in determining what repairs need to be incorporated into the drawing set. Floorplans of the existing house, when available, eliminate the need for measuring the existing conditions.