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What Does it Take to Build My Project?


Many people ponder the idea of getting their additions, renovations, or new ground-up projects started. They wait for years for the “right moment. “ When it comes, they ask. “What do I do now?”

This question is common, yet the answers can be erratic. Some recommend hiring a contractor, others, to contact the local building department. At times, someone would say “you need blueprints from an architect.” These are not incorrect but their lack of consistency is daunting. Here I attempt to clarify the process of getting your project designed and built.

This is my professional opinion and you may need more detailed information. Contact an architect for your particular project.

Define Your Project:

Write it all down. Writing onto paper what it is you want, helps you get there.

Here I use a fictional inexperienced developer, Bob. He owns a property he inherited. He has zero construction experience. The first question Bob should ask himself is what project does he want? This is followed by feasibility questions such as can the market support this project? Is the property in the correct zoning district for the use he envisions? Is it a permitted use or are there variances involved?

To answer these questions Bob must become aware of what the legal description of the property is and its possibilities. I would recommend he hire an architect to help him. Engaging a Professional Land Surveyor (PLS) might be a wise decision as well. This depends on the project (Additions and new ground-up projects need a surveyor on board). The architect will help Bob determine what is possible. Some inexperienced developers waste time and money in irrelevant scope of work to find out that the intended use is not permitted. This is not the end, as with every problem, throwing money at it can resolve it, yet is that feasible?

Further define the project:

Once Bob knows what is possible, he and the architect can define the project in detail. If the lot is not zoned for the proposed use, it involves more work. However, it is doable.

The preliminary research helps Bob decide that he wants a senior living residential community which is permitted at this location. Now he and the architect can begin to work on schematic design concepts.

Bob needs to provide all relevant information to his architect. This information may include program space needs, budget, and survey. The architect will review everything and define the parameters that will help in accommodating the project needs.

Bob and his architect partner on this project from the very beginning until the end. The role of Bob’s architect is essential. Multifamily, commercial, and retail projects require an architect, and having him on board early is a wise decision. The architect will help Bob follow each one of the rules of the game. Architects are trained professionals who protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public. They bring value and shed light into the design and construction process.

Bring your design Ideas to the surface

After due diligence is done, Bob and his architect can further develop the project. They meet and discuss design options and alternatives. Bob will make all the decisions with the architect’s advice. The architect will break down feasible options outlining advantages and disadvantages.

Once some decisions are made, Bob’s architect invites a team of consultants to help in developing the project. Here structural, mechanical, plumbing, fire protection, electrical and other engineers come as needed. At this stage the team defines where systems are located and how they interact with one another.

The construction phase

Once construction documents are created, contractors bid on the project in the bidding and negotiation phase. This can happen in various ways which are not covered here. Often the lowest bidder is awarded the project. Most publicly funded projects use this method referred to as design bid build.

The architect’s role as advisor to the client expresses itself throughout the project’s lifespan. During this phase he will ensure that the design intent is built accurately.

Upon substantial completion, the GC informs the architect, owner, and the authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) that the project is ready for inspection. At this point the owner gets a certificate of occupancy that allows him to occupy the building.

As any project owner, Bob will be happy to see his project completed. This article describes how many projects take place regardless of type, size, or shape. Smaller projects might skip the champagne popping but the same efforts and joy are part of a small project as well as a big one.

About the Author:

Darguin Fortuna is a registered architect and adjunct professor at the Boston Architectural College. He holds a Bachelor of Architecture accredited degree from the BAC. He is also a founder of Flow Design.

Flow Design is a visual, art, and architectural design studio serving public and private clients. The studio is rooted in creative and innovative ideas that can solve some of today’s challenges regarding space, art, form, and culture while merging the lines between architecture and art.

“For more information about our services, contact Darguin Fortuna at 978-818-5109”

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