FAQs (or Frequently Asked Questions)
If you own your home or have a ratified contract on a property, we will meet with you at the property to review your scope of work at no cost. We will then draft a proposal outlining your goals and corresponding preliminary design and construction budgets.
We ask that you come into our offices so that we can present the proposal. This provides you with the opportunity to meet members of our design and construction teams, to look at a typical Landis Architects/Builders drawing set and to speak further about your project. Typically, we do not email or mail proposals unless circumstances preclude the meeting in our offices.
If you do not own or have a contract on the property in question, we charge a fee for this service. This cost, ranging between $250 and $500, will be provided before we come out to visit the site.
Though our visit does not equate to a home inspection, we can provide you with valuable information to help inform your buy decision. This work can include some preliminary zoning review and budgeting for what alterations and/or additions would be within your rights and what these might cost. If you hire us for design services, this fee will be credited to the design process.
Making a list outlining your renovation goals and desires can help us provide you with the best proposal and the most accurate preliminary budget range. Typically, the more information, the better.
If your goals include additions to the house, please have a copy of your building plat for us. This will allow us to perform some preliminary zoning research to determine the shape and size of what is most likely within your rights to build.
While many people have no idea of what their project is likely to or should cost, most people know what they can and cannot spend. Please do not be shy about sharing your construction budget with us. While we understand that this is usually a sensitive issue, ultimately it is in the best interest of everyone to get the number “on the table” as early as possible. With a sense of the budget, we will be better able to help direct you to achieve as many of your goals as possible.
You have three standard options for tackling a major remodeling project. You can retain an architect, go with a contractor, or hire a Design/Build firm.
While each of these options presents its own benefits, liabilities and trade-offs, we feel you’re most likely to achieve the best outcome with a Design Build firm assuming that firm has both strong design and construction departments.
A renovation project succeeds or fails in both the planning phase (design) and the execution phase (construction). We see every project as two very integrated opportunities to build your project twice, once on paper, then in reality. With that in mind, let’s look at the three models.
The design/build model links the planning and execution phases within the umbrella of one firm.
Many firms call themselves “Design/Build,” but either don’t have an in-house design department or offer one that is a thin or inexperienced. If you hire a firm that doesn’t have an in-house design firm, you may be missing some of the key benefits of both the architect/bid model and the design/build model.
Residential Design/Build firms, like Landis, have a team of in-house staff architects (and/or designers in most cases) who will work with you to design your project. Design/build firms also have construction license with the staff and expertise to build your project. There are several advantages to going with a firm that can provide both services.
- Schedule - Working with one firm helps streamline the process. It speeds up the time from start to finish. Once you start the design process with a Design/Build firm, they looking ahead to schedule the start of construction.
- Primary Contact – In the case of our firm, the client has one primary point of contact who we call the team leader, to guide the homeowner through the process and who works with the architect and designers and production team to ensure your expectations and needs are met.
- Cost Checks – Better Design/Build firms price the project at several key phases during the design process instead of waiting to the end. Periodic budget checks help guide and shape the project versus the option of having a fully designed project that needs to be substantially redesigned because it’s over budget.
- Construction Expertise during Design - With both the design and construction teams in the same house, consultation and problem solving are facilitated and build-ability is considered as the project takes shape.
- The buck stops here - You won’t need to mediate and translate between the architect and contractor. You avoid adversarial relationships brought on by missing information or poor estimating.
- Design Cost - The fee for design services is often similar to that of hiring an architect, though there are a broad range of prices. If you’re hiring an architect anyway, why not hire one who has the backing of a construction firm?
- Drawing Propriety – Landis Construction’s architect led design department provides you with a professional set of architectural plans that are yours once the design fee is paid. Know what you’re getting. Many local design build firms do not give you the drawings and many firms produce a much less professional drawing set.
- No Bidding – When you hire an architect you must then find a contractor that you trust and who can perform your project within your budget. That combination is often a tall order and the bidding process can be prolonged and fraught with wading through “apples to oranges” comparisons.
- Value is not the same thing as low cost - Design/Build firms such as Landis are not always the least expensive option, but you probably don’t want to hire the low cost bidder anyway. The low cost bidder may not be there to finish your project, they may not do professional job, or they may bid low and push the price up with excessive change orders. (There are a lot of great contractors out there, but the combination of “low bidder” and “quality” is rare and fraught with risk.)
In the architect bid model, the homeowner retains an architect who works with the homeowner to develop a set of drawings and specifications. The completed drawings are then sent out to bid. If the bid for one of the builders matches the budget and that contactor is reputable, he wins the contract and work begins.
- Impartial Third Party – The major advantage of the Architect/Bid model is the architect as the homeowners third party advocate. This has its limits though and the three party relationships can quickly dissolve into finger pointing when there’s a question about the accuracy or completeness of the design drawings.
- Cost is no object – Because the architect isn’t building your project, cost is more of a fluid and abstract concept. If you wait until your construction documents are complete to begin bidding the project, you may encounter some surprises. If budget and contractor quality don’t match during the bidding process, you’ll need to either solicit more bids or retain the architect at an additional fee to return to the drawing board.
- Negotiate Bid - Some architects and homeowners will bring in a contractor early in the design process for a negotiated bid. In this scenario, the builder does offer their experience and price checks to the design process. If you’re going to do that, we feel you probably would be better served hiring a design build (with a real architecture department.)
- Professionalism and Design Quality – Landis Construction does bid on work designed by outside architects and designers. After reviewing hundreds of sets of drawings over many years, we can state with some accuracy that there is an immense range of design quality and drawings completeness and accuracy. Hiring a credentialed architect may not guarantee you a better design product than hiring some designers. It’s all about experience, vision, ability, and listening skills and knowledge of building codes and building science.
- Construction Administration – In some cases the Architect is retained for an additional fee to oversee the contractor during construction. (This feature is built into the design/build process.)
- Architect Cost – Like most purchases, architects and designers come with varying price points and cost structures. Some architects charge on a percentage of construction so there may be a big surprise at the end of the design process. Others charge based upon a fixed fee or an hourly rate.
Any substantial project should have a qualified designer working through the details in a methodical way. Some contractors may be able to sketch your masterpiece exactly the way you want on the back of a napkin, but we doubt it. Expect no permits, a stop work order, and unforeseen costs. For projects that don’t require drawings, hiring a contractor first may be the way to go.
Developing and completing complex construction projects inherently embodies risk. Getting to completion, design success, durability, energy efficiency, successful integration of existing systems and structure with new, warranty, and building code and zoning compliance are a few of the risks. Our biggest goal for our clients is to manage and minimize these risks and strive for excellent outcomes.
What if I am unsure about jumping into a full design process, but still want to get a sense of what I can do and how much it will cost?
There are some instances when it makes sense to proceed with an abbreviated design contract rather than with the full design process. In such cases, we typically propose a either a Feasibility Study or a Master Plan. A Feasibility Study is similar to a Master Plan in that it involves less design work than the full design process. Although we sometimes use these terms interchangeably, the Master Plan and Feasibility Study are a little different. A Master Plan is typically geared to a large, multi-year, bigger budget project with two or more
potential construction phases. A Feasibility Study is typically geared toward work that will all take place in a single construction phase, but has some complexities or uncertainties and several potential solutions.
The Feasibility Study comes with a flat fee based upon a fixed, abbreviated number of design hours to research zoning, measure the house, complete as-built drawings, and to complete selected schematic drawings. The Feasibility Study is not a substitute for the full design process, but if you proceed with the full design process after the Feasibility Study, the fee is credited against the full design fee. The times when a Feasibility Study makes sense include: (1) The cost of the scope of work far exceeds the budget and homeowner is not sure what scope of work will fit within their budget; (2) there are major zoning questions which bring into question what/if you can build; (3) you want to ease more slowly into the design process.
If a prospective client comes to us with a number of planned household changes that she intends to phase over a number of years, we will often propose a Master Plan Study. The Master Plan helps the client visualize the finished product and it informs both us and the client regarding the phasing of the work. Also, looking at the whole ensures each component of the design functions with the others. It also minimizes the amount of earlier work that will need to be undone in later phases. Often, we’ll determine during the study that upgrades to the structure or mechanical, electrical and plumbing (MEP) systems that will be necessary for a later phase of work make more sense to complete earlier in construction. These upgrades typically are structural and MEP’s. For example, think about what would be done differently if we had already planned your addition of a second and third level to that one story addition you’re having us add now. The Master Plan also helps us put a much tighter budget range on the project.
From the client’s perspective, there are other advantages. It’s a great way to ease into the homeowner/architect relationship since the Master Plan costs a lot less than a full design process—like speed dating with AutoCAD. We structure the Master Plan costs at around 20-30% of our full design process cost. For a reasonable investment, you get the value of a set of preliminary drawings for each phase, estimated construction costs to take to the bank, and a sense of what’s possible. During this period, you can begin to develop a working relationship with and trust in us, and vice versa.
A downside to the abbreviated design process is that Feasibility Studies and Master Plan Studies are likely to extend the total number of weeks a project spends in the design process.
This is what we call Pre-construction Services. Each year we build several projects designed by architects that were retained directly by homeowners. We are happy to review a set of drawings at no cost and provide you with a ballpark budget for construction, although if you would like a detailed construction cost estimate, we will require a retainer due to the investment of time and resources required to prepare it. Generally, the fee for preconstruction services is 2%-3% of our initial ballpark for construction. The retainer is fully credited to the construction contract once you proceed.
We will provide you with an estimated timetable for design and then for construction. If you have a defined timeframe for design and construction (for example, if you have a baby on the way or need to move in as soon as possible) we will let you know whether we can realistically achieve the schedule you would like. Since design is a process where the most important ingredient is your approval, the quicker you are able to make and approve design decisions, the quicker the process is likely to proceed.
The design fee is a cost in addition to the cost of construction.
Engineering, site surveys, soil studies are not included in the design budget. If we anticipate that any of these will be necessary, we will let you know in advance and provide you with an idea of likely cost(s).
The permit is obtained and paid for as part of the construction contract. Additional fees will apply if your project requires presentation before Historic, Fine arts, or neighborhood review boards/committees or if it requires a variance or special exception permitting process. Typically, this work is completed during the first phase of the design process. Sometimes, if time is important, we will get a permit before a construction contract, but only with the client’s approval of the permit cost.
The homeowner’s earnest engagement in the design process is crucial to a successful project. The more effectively you are able to articulate your wants and needs, the better we will be able to help you. We promise to listen to you and know that your opinion is the one that ultimately matters. Please also listen to our designers who have great design insight and years of experience.
If the homeowner adds or changes the scope of work, this is handled with a change order? The value of the addition (or credit for the deletion) will be provided before the work is completed. There are circumstances when we will provide a change order for unanticipated work due to hidden existing substandard conditions. This could include such conditions as unanticipated termite or other structural damage, deteriorated plumbing, etc.