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Posted by Mary in PA on 7/12/2009

John and I met the architect at the site - this was actually a little while back - but I fell behind in posting. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I sure was looking forward to it.


We tromped around a good bit and showed him what we thought were two potential house sites, both with their own pros and cons (from our POV). I had brought copies of the topo maps we had left with him at the first meeting. The maps showed some of our ideas on location (driveway, house/garage, two ag-related buildings, large garden). We’re familiar with the land, views, prevailing winds, etc., but for the architect, this was his first (and likely only) exposure to the property. He seemed pretty focused on trying to take it all in. After looking at both sites and some discussion, we all felt that one site was the clearly better choice. It is located roughly in the center of the property, on a knoll with decent views all around. The downside is that this site will require a driveway roughly double the length of the other site. We discussed issues associated with the driveway and agreed that I needed to do some additional research with the township to better understand any restrictions (such as the amount of impervious). I would then get back to the architect with the info I gathered. But overall, we agreed to move forward anticipating the site on the knoll would be the one.


We talked about the conditions of the site - as I wanted to make sure he understood what it was like out there in February, with a 30 mph wind whipping across 15 open acres before it hit the house. We need to make best use of placing the buildings to create usable outdoor workspaces. We need to place the driveway to make it as easy as possible to maintain, in all weather. These things aren’t glamorous – but in my view – are the difference between a pleasurable place to be and work and a place that makes you wish you could go to Florida for the winter! I know we’re not goin’ to FL – so let’s do a good job on site planning.


At one point, the architect asked what kind (i.e. style) of house we wanted. I had provided some written notes and photo ideas in the packet we left with him during our first meeting - but as it turned out he hadn’t read it yet. A bit surprising - bummer. So we discussed housing styles, and I repeated what was in my notes - my desire to build a house that took advantage of the views and that also looked as if it might have always been on the site. I didn’t want a house that looked as if it had been ripped out of the nearest subdivision and plopped down in the middle of 30 ac of pasture, among the neighboring Amish farms. Now I’m not saying I want to attempt to recreate a historical house - for one thing the budget wouldn’t allow it. And unless very well done, IMO they often don’t pull it off (you can tell they’re not old). What I wanted was a house that was reminiscent of the history of the region, while accommodating a modern lifestyle and incorporating some basic green ideas (e.g. orienting the house for best advantage of passive solar).


In total we spent three hours at the site. I hope it gave the architect a good feel for the property, and a little more understanding for what we’re are looking for in our house and site.

Posted by Ross in Hillsboro, OR on 7/12/2009

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This is the fun part of the project. Nancy and I enjoyed working with our architect. It was expensive (for us anyway). We spent a significant amount of money on plans and structural engineering. Make sure you review your budget with your architect, and discuss what your target budget is frequently during this phase of the project. We worked with two architects. The first was very conscious of our budget constraints, but kept leaving out details we requested. The second, was wonderful with our "feature set", but completely lost track of of our budget target. We ended up with plans that are two times the budget we had in mind.  

I still *love* working with our architect, but chafe at the thought of spending $60-$80 per hour to get issues resolved in the plans (currently approved by the county), that should have been correct in the first place.


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