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September 12, 2013

The FAQs: First Architectural Questions (in starting a project)

shutterstock_109365068Any project, regardless of scale, is a complicated network of decision-making. Since a project can only get more elaborate while moving along this multi-faceted process, making the right move from the very beginning can help tremendously in the success of your investment. Whether you have a small budget to play with or enough moolah to have a mansion made, any structure is built from hard-earned money. Therefore, the decisions that come with it should not be taken lightly.

Whether you’re a first-timer or already quite knowledgeable, consider the FAQs below and apply them to make your decision-making process a little bit easier.

1. What to do, what to do?

First and foremost, identify your project. Knowing what you want can go a long way. If you have a vacant lot, identify what you want to do with it. If you’re not sure, list down all possibilities you think you can commit to.

If you’re set to build a house, be prepared to answer questions that may affect the design. Questions like: will it be for temporary or permanent stay? Or are you looking at a real estate venture where you plan to have the house rented out or sold? Considering these factors are important because they will ensure that the design and internal layout can properly adhere to the structure’s evolution. An additional and unidentified end user can influence the spaces and make its arrangement more generic.

If a money-generating structure or a commercial building is what you have in mind, back your decision up with research. Make sure you know the industry you want to get into: food and beverage, retail, hospitality, service, and the list goes on. Others who wouldn’t like to be restricted and who want more freedom to decide later on may opt for a mixed use structure. All of these prospects should narrow down to one direction as each type has its own unique requirements for its operational efficiency, planning, maintenance, and security. Take note that the building itself should help in the growth of the business and not retard it. What only a few people realize is that sometimes when a business goes under, it may not always be because of its operation but the architecture that went with it. So research well and have your thoughts ready at the time of your first consultation.

If you are someone who is rehabilitating an existing structure, renovating or expanding, identify the scope of the job. Which part do you want to begin with? What are the elements that you want to retain? Do you want anything demolished? Are you going to occupy the space while construction is on-going? Have you tried getting rid of a few stuff to prepare for your project? Are you sure the furniture you gave away was not made of Narra?

How about the room that you’re dying to fix? Are you sure it’s just a paint job or does the roof needs to be insulated better?

How about the patio you want to re-design? Are you sure it should be your priority or perhaps you’re overlooking a corner on the kitchen that needs more attention?

How about the house that you inherited and want to turn into something entirely different? Do you think you will save more money by retaining the existing structure? Did you know that this decision may not always be the cheaper choice? You may actually end up paying more because you refuse to demolish.

So remember that for a project of this nature, someone with experience will become your new best friend and the smartest thing to do before the structure gets that “Vicky Belo” treatment is to consult a professional.

Don’t worry if you think your ideas don’t make sense at this point because, eventually, when you have an architect on board, he or she should be able to help you rule out each item on your list until you arrive on the one that is best suited to your needs – especially your budget. Remember, what’s important is to lessen the variables. The more detailed you are in this pre-design stage, the better.

2. What do I want?

This is the part called Making the Wish List. Ask yourself: what rooms or spaces are my priority? If you’re a lawyer, perhaps you would require a reading room or a library. If you’re a chef, then I assume your kitchen will be the top showcase. If you have kids, then consider having a playroom to hide all the clutter or perhaps a study room so they won’t have to do their homework in front of the TV. Maybe you have a lot of clothes and you want a walk-in closet like Sarah Jessica Parker. Do you have any collector items that you want displayed? Are you a fan of pocket gardens, big windows, balconies or wrap around swimming pools? Whatever it is, take a note of it. Concentrate on the unique requirements that you think are tailor-fitted to you and the other occupants that you will share the space with.

You may also be someone who has a bit of an artistic soul and already has an idea of what look you want. If my hunch is right, then go ahead and abuse Google and search away. Identify the style you want to go for. Modern and classic are the two most common choices. You may also opt for Vernacular or borrowed styles like Japanese, Mediterranean, Balinese, Spanish, Moroccan, and of course, Filipino! Whatever it is, just compile the images that represent what you want so you can communicate this clearly later on.

3. How much will it cost?

The cost depends primarily on you, your requirements, and the quality you want. Understand that you are on the verge of a major investment. Study your finances very well so you’ll know how much you can really afford. Getting a loan is a different story, so read and get to know all its pros and cons. Consider that committing to a project from start to finish is still more economical than doing it slowly in parts. So financially, you must prepare well.

Provided with an ample amount of information, your architect can give you a ballpark figure of how much your project will cost based on the early stages of the design process. You must realize, however, that this figure is not final and is bound to fluctuate as you proceed… especially if you decide somewhere along the way that you want that decorative glass you saw in a magazine.

4. Who do I look for first?

A lot of people that will be involved in the life of your project but the foremost person you need is an architect. Why? Because he or she is defined by law, Merriam Webster, and Wikipedia as the chief carpenter, the chief builder. The architect is the professional intended to be on top of any project.

He or she is a trained problem-solver. He or she is designed to deliver a project on time, within budget, and in compliance with all applicable building laws. He or she is also the person that bears the challenge unique to his or her profession: to give your project the aesthetic value and significance that it deserves.

Unfortunately, the manipulation of the process in order to save money is causing confusion: who is the right professional that the client must look for? And worse, is hiring the said professional even necessary? Realize that while you may have a friend in a related field that is willing to do it for free or for a very minimal cost, he or she may not have the right background to justify the potential of your space. Experience and knowledge are very critical. The cost is not the only thing you should be basing your decisions on. There is value involved, acknowledge it.

More often, the mere mention of an “architect” causes anxiety. There is exists that fear that it will automatically be expensive. Others believe that architects are egocentric and will only design what they want. Well, I’m not going to lie to you, it’s true for some of us, but not all. This is is why careful selection bears weight. But with so many talented Filipino architects out there, I can guarantee you there is one that will fit you like a glove.

Don’t ever forget that an architect will work with you and is not your enemy. He or she is on your side against all the rest of the professionals that you will be dealing with. If you select the right one, the funds you will save at the end of the project will well be worth the professional fee you will pay him or her. Allow me to repeat that: if you select the right one.

The benefits of hiring a professional architect outweigh the disadvantages. Contrary to hasty judgment, he or she will actually protect your budget. If you give him or her an honest figure of your limit, he or she can help you keep to it by choosing the qualified people and materials for the job. He or she is equipped to provide the best layout to match your lifestyle. And with his or her guidance and involvement, your project will turn out to be beyond what you initially visualized. It doesn’t matter how many images on Pinterest you’ve seen, this doesn’t make you an overnight expert. Your architect will unify all your thoughts and desires and will professionally advise you on which ones are applicable, efficient, and rational.

Understand that a well-designed house is valued more, a well-designed commercial space attracts returning patrons, and a well-designed work space will result to increased office productivity.

5. How do I know what to do next?

At this point, you will be needing advice on properly selecting the right person for the job. You wouldn’t want to be legally attached to an architect you can’t deal with. You are also advised to have a general understanding of how things are done: the process, the timeline, managing expectations, the restrictions, et al. And in order to do that, you must begin by knowing the role you play as a client. Remember that you are in the process of acquiring the most expensive thing in your life and selecting Mr. (or Ms.) Architect is only the kick-off point to the web-like events that will come after.

So keep yourself informed and meet me in this space as I discuss the next steps to achieving the design of your dreams.

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