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and so it begins again...

by LiveModern Webmaster last modified Jan 16, 2012 01:03 AM
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by bubba of the bubbles ( last modified Jan 15, 2012



This past Friday we had our first meeting with Architect 2d (Ifeel like we need to hold him down and brand him with his serial number so he can be identified laterin case he shows up in someone elsespasture). This first meeting included adiscussion of budget, a signing of the agreement, and a couple action items forus. I still need to post about budget concerns related to resale value (stillthinking things through),but heres the approach were taking: We have a core budget that were going to use to design thehouse. By core budget, I mean a budget to build ahouse with typical, generally-expected amenities. The core budget was guided,in part, by a guesstimate of the market price of the house or what a spec builderwould shoot for in building a house. Then, on the side, we have a gewgaw budget. The gewgaw budget includesthose things you wouldntlikely see on a spec house but are things we want in our house. Thegewgaws are also items that dontnecessarily add value to the house, at least not at a one-dollar-of-value-to-one-dollar-of-costratio.

Following this approach, the architect will develop the designwithin the limits of the core budget rather than the full potential budget or the Ill-rip-your-eyes-out-with-your-T-square-if-it-goes-overbudget. Given our personal experiencethus far and based on what weveheard from friends whoveworked with architects as well as architects themselves, architects are generallyterrible at keeping your house within the budget. To a certain degree, this ispart of the process: A good architect will be striving to get the most designbang for your buck and will be pushing the (building) envelope (and hence thebudget) to get there. Therefore, you can pretty much assume that whatever theycome up with, it will be higher than the target. At that point, its justa matter of how much higher and how to address the higher number (such as add moremoney to the mix, cut features and finishes, find a different [possibly lesscapable] builder, redesign, fire the architect).

When we interviewed architects, we specifically asked whether ornot they consider cost during the process (But of course!and how well they do once bids comesin. We heard numbers of plusor minus five percent (although Idwager things lean toward that plus).  Ofcourse, architects are not going to tell you they suck at making those cost estimates(for example, I doubt Architect 1.0 tells potential clients he overshot our budgetby 60 percent the first time he designed our house and 45 percent the secondtime). Therefore, putting a strong you-defined budget bound onthe architect at less than the fullpotential budget or the Ill-rip-your-eyes-out-with-your-T-square-if-it-goes-overbudget is a good idea (although itdoesnt guarantee results...). Anothergood reason for clearly defining a corebudget is to ensure you dont lose features you really want to value engineering, the process of cuttingamenities and finish to get the project to fit your budget. Yet another reasonis having a built-in contingency fund in case things go awry duringconstruction (for example, if concrete gets more expensive because someones building an F1 race track justoutside of town). And finally, in terms of resale value, you get to make eyes-and-wallet-wide-open decisions on gewgaws you want that may not add resale value.

I came up with this approach by my little ole self, so who knowsif it will work. On the other hand, this approach seems rather obvious, so surely someone else has done it. Nonetheless, time will tell

Once we had an understanding on the core budget and how gewgaw decisions would be made, wesigned an agreement with the architect, wrote him a check for the retainer,and talked about starting the design phase. As part of programming (figuring out what activities thehouse needs to accommodate), the architect emailed us a questionnaire withabout 150 questions. (As an aside, I started reading a book titled The Architects Guide to Residential Design last week, and it is HOLYCRAP!!! poop-in-your-pants good. Even better, its clear that Architect 2d, to his credit,has read and taken to heart what is in this book. Stay tuned: I feel a haiku comingon).

You might be saying to yourself Holy what-the-hell-happened-to-the-Saintslast night! Thats a lot of questions! (My bride said I hope youre taking the lead on answeringthose.). In my opinion, long, detailedquestionnaires are good things. Very good things (but not necessarily poop-in-your-pantsgood: thats a whole different level ofgood). There are lots of decisions to be made and tracked, so the process begsthoughtful documentation. As a side historical note, Richard Neutra was famousfor sending clients long, detailed questionnaires. Good for him. Perhaps he wasthe first.

And finally, the architect asked for a copy of the survey withtopography and trees. Fancy that.

So it begins again! Having gone through this process once before,it will be interesting to compare and contrast. And its exciting to start dreaming ofour new home yet again

[photo by mwah, Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, Texas]




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