Creating Value

Creating value in a building design means setting priorities, budgets and quantities with a client to meet their desires for the project; then working within those constraints to create a realization of a shared vision.  Design is an iterative process.  Design progresses in the form of sketches and models that are refined again and again, then reviewed for adherence to the original priorities, budgets and quantities before the whole process begins anew.  Sometimes priorities change, but the successive reviews reduce the endeavor down to an essential concept.  Here is a list of 7 important things to consider with an architect when establishing a design with value: 


  1. Understand your priorities.   Ask yourself, what is truly important for this building? Sometimes a photograph of a space captures something meaningful.  Ask yourself, what do I like about this space?  Sometimes priorities are “line items” such as a huge kitchen, or a special place for a family heirloom, or an “aging-in-place” strategy. 
  2. Understand your constraints.  Establish a budget that includes a line item for contingencies during the design process and construction process. Establish expectations for how long the design and construction process should take.  Stay flexible—construction costs are sometimes volatile, which may require a second look at your priorities and can take extra time. 
  3. Understand the site.  Sites are as unique as people. What are the natural limits to your site?  Is there a natural place for an entry?  Which is the best direction for a building to face?  Track the path of the sun and translate it into a rough arrangement of rooms.   
  4. Develop flexibility in spaces and features.  A good design links together features that serve more than one purpose now or in the future.  Example 1:  study converts to guest bedroom converts to age-in-place bedroom.  Example 2:   Storage bench, a place to store shoes and put them on. 
  5. Seize the moment—Insulate!  Increasing the level of insulation beyond the code-required minimum is a good idea and it is never cheaper to do so than during design. 
  6.  Electric.  Fossil fuels lead to poor outcomes for society in the long term. Consider electric systems that can be tied into sustainable sources of energy, now or in the future.     
  7. Develop Alternates.  Alternates are isolated parts of a building design that a contractor can bid on separately.  Alternates can offer a “Plan B” approach if construction bids come in over a budgeted amount—a certain alternate finish or space can be removed to reduce the cost.  Conversely, if pricing comes back below budget, alternate finishes, spaces or systems can be added to the design.   

Creating value is THE reason to hire an architect for your building project; someone who can distill and organize the best ideas that come out of a focused conversation, ask the right questions, set a pace for the project, and advocate for you during bidding and construction.  A good architect can improve the building experience and create value long term that more than offsets the cost of their service.