Frequently asked questions:

Why can’t Chris tell me how much my project will cost to build?  It is not reasonable for me to provide estimates of the construction cost. These costs are more accurately determined by the contractor through negotiated pricing or bidding. This is based on labor accounting for more than half of the cost of a building project. The contractor determines who they will hire and how much they will be paid. The contractor also adds on a mark-up for overseeing the subcontractors. Additionally, over-head and a profit are also added. Other costs associated with the job are materials, which can be purchased in different ways at different rates determined by the contractor’s relationship with suppliers. Over-head and profit are added to these purchases as well. Ultimately, no architect has control over these costs; therefore, it is not possible for me or any other architect to provide you true estimates for the cost of the work. Although, I can provide estimated costs based on square feet to be renovated or constructed. These amounts are often used as a rough guide in the initial phases of a project.

How can Chris control costs?  The architect does have the ability to influence cost through design, the design process and alternates. When a budget is clearly defined up front, a design can be fashioned to fit within an acceptable range of costs. Through the design process and in conjunction with a contractor, estimates of preliminary designs can be made to ascertain the need to scale down a design to lessen the cost. Contained within the final drawing set, alternate design features can be established to provide ways of either adding or subtracting from the overall cost once the final pricing is known.

Why do I need a contingency?  Although much is done to research the site of your project or to predict conditions in an existing structure, inevitability there are surprises that are not revealed until demolition or construction has begun. It is important to set aside a percentage of the construction cost (contingency) to pay for any modification that may be necessitated by less than desirable conditions. These conditions that occur should not be taken as mistakes but as part of good planning. As part of the process a contingency is established to acknowledge the fact these conditions may exist. It is important to know and understand this before you undertake a project.

I saw it done on TV (HGTV and Houzz)?  Reality TV is NOT real. Programs such as HGTV are designed to increase ratings and sell advertising. They do not have a responsibility to you, the viewer, to represent design and construction accurately or true to life. Like many of you, I too, watch these shows but for entertainment. View with caution, projects in real life cannot be done in a matter of days and inevitably cost more than what is represented on television.

How much does Chris charge?  It is common to pay for services in many ways. What I find best and most cost effective for clients is a combination of hourly rates and estimated fees. In the early stages of a project when parameters are unknown, hourly rates are most appropriate for both parties. Once a good working relationship and a clearly defined scope have been established, I often switch to compensation based on an estimated or fixed fee. Both the client and a project have their own unique situations. I try to look at the whole picture when estimating a fee for my services. I provide free estimates of my design fees as part of a proposal.

Why do I need drawings?  Properly prepared drawings are the basis for the relationship between you, the owner and the chosen contractor. They can be used as a means to solicit bids from several contractors, allowing comparative pricing to be of equal terms. They are also required by the building department as a condition of permit. Once construction begins, they become part of the written documents that make up the contract between you and the builder. The contract, including the drawings, serves as a reference as to what amount of work is to be done, in what way and for how much money. Without this documentation, there is no basis for your wishes to be executed in a manner consistent with your intentions. Having poor documentation, or worse, no documents, typically leads to larger problems as the construction unfolds.

How long will it take to design and build?  Some projects can be designed in a matter of weeks, but this is an unrealistic goal for most projects as careful analysis of the requirements should be undertaken to ascertain a reasonable time line. An early start to design, six to nine months before the proposed construction start date, is a fair amount of time. Planning this amount of time allows for not only research but also for time to contemplate decisions and move through the permitting process. A concerted effort to make sound decisions should be a priority as changes during construction are very expensive. Best to take the time to consider your options in the design phase and be certain of your decisions before construction begins. Construction can take anywhere from six weeks to nine months and longer depending upon the size of the project.

As the owner, what are my responsibilities? As your architect, I become your partner. A successful relationship between architect and owner comes from a willingness of both parties to understand and accept their responsibilities to realize a successful project. As the owner, you will have many tasks to complete. Some of the work you take on will save you money in architectural fees. Other tasks require your personal attention because they affect the final aesthetics of the home. I try to structure the tasks so that, you the owner, can participate to your financial benefit and personal taste. Any design project will require you to set aside time from your daily life to participate in the process. The amount of time you have to contribute should be discussed at the project onset.

Who else is involved in the process?  The architect and builder are not alone. Many other people are part of the process. As part of my services, I help coordinate other design professionals required to meet the technical aspects of your project. Other professionals may include: structural engineers, mechanical engineers, site surveyors, soils engineers, lighting consultants and many more as may be required by the project parameters or your wishes.

How does Green building affect me? It affects us all. Unfortunately, there is much hype in advertising today about going green. There is a green product or solution for everything. While going green in every manner you can is generally a good thing; proceed into your building project with a few things in mind. The mere fact you are about to embark on a construction project is not green. Embodied energy is contained in all products around us and in the effort to position those products in place. By removing an old structure or excavating land to build a new one, you are consuming embodied energy which is consuming natural resources. Disposal of old unwanted materials and the consumption of new materials is generally not a green process. But, once you have made the decision to dispose of the old and consume the new it, becomes your “green” responsibility to do so wisely. There are many green products and procedures you can engage when designing. I would be happy to discuss this topic at length in person. To simplify this discussion here, the most important thing you can do is to save energy over the long term. In housing this is done with the building envelope (foundation, walls, roofs, windows and doors). By making the envelope of your home air tight and super insulated, you will save tremendous amounts of energy over the life span of the house. As compared to all other green initiatives, this is the single most important, easiest and least expensive way to go Green. Only after you have addressed these aspects of construction should you then consider all the other available components of designing a greener home. My most trusted Green resource is:




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