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Special Report 22: Designer interviews - Electronic Edition
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Author: Mark A. smith
[This is the Special Report 22 in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format. Our electronic products download immediately to your computer upon purchase.]

Loaded with practical advice, these interviews provide you with the nuts and bolts of building a better house for less. The men and women included are field-seasoned veterans who steer you around some of the games played in the industry. Eight pages, revised and updated with new reader tips, web links and comments.

Topics include:

  • What designers need from clients
  • Costs and fee schedules
  • Revisions to building codes
  • Is an architect's "seal" ever necessary?
  • Regional differences in design
  • Designer vs. architect
  • DIY design
  • Adapting internet plans by local designer
  • Seismic calculations, energy analysis, soils report
  • Design considerations for your house

Excerpt from Report:

"...Q. What do you want the customer to have when they come in?

A: Firmed up sketch. The more ideas the better.

A: Typically we ask them for some kind of preliminary plan. Sometimes they have worked on ideas for years.

A: Plot plan or lot dimensions, if on a slope, 2-3 is no big deal, but radical slope needs a topographical survey. Any ideas they have. People bring CAD drawings, but those aren't worth diddly. Circle drawings are okay. If they have ideas off of stock designs, bring those. Don't send for those plans, they have to be redrawn anyway.

A: All they need is the property.

A: Depends on how much they want to pay. Thumbnail sketch on back of napkin, or reams of photos, the best is to find a floor plan you partly like, and we can start from there. I prefer to start out small, look at the budget, and then add on. I did remodeling, did architecture school, found my niche, I have estimating skills. Remodeling is always more expensive. I try to give a rough budget, and try to include alternative building material. I use intergrid, steel framing, post and beam, SIP stress-skin panels. I'm headed toward small town planning, developing. Plastic lumber for sill plates. Recycled EPS. I usually throw into my pricing 2-4 hours of design time. I charge more if people don't know what they want.

A: Some idea of what they want. Some have no idea, some bring cardboard box of pictures clipped out of house magazines. If they have a site plan, plot plan, that saves time and money. Picture ideas help a lot..."

Sample Reader Tip Excerpts:

"The building codes nationwide are being revised, because there about five major versions out there, and they are trying to standardize. Uniform Building Code, ICBO, and three major states have a consortium that is standardizing the code. This will help designers like me that try to design for out of state customers. It has been strengthened for earthquakes, hurricanes, and other regional factors. It will cover SIP's, rammed earth, ICF's, steel framing, and other new technologies for which the engineering has become stabilized. International Residential Code is the new book name. I need to get a book and see how I will have to change the notes I have developed that reference parts of the code."
Dale B.
Tucson, AZ

"For our house we found a design teacher who does the drawings for 65 cents a foot. Found her by talking to builders about who they use. We called her up, had a cup of coffee, and arranged a schedule of payments. Arranged to take the preliminary drawings to the respective tradesmen, and be sure they are complete enough before we close the book on the drawings. She agreed. All AutoCAD. The architects were a minimum of $2.50 a foot for the same service. The back and forth iterations are what particularly helped."
Gerry R.
Austin, TX

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