Apr 14, 2023
distinguishes an architect, a building designer, a drafter, and a structural
considering a new construction, a remodel, an addition to an existing house, or
the construction of an ADU or junior ADU (j-ADU), it's widely understood that
enlisting the services of a professional is crucial. A professional can design
the building to meet specific requirements, guide the project through the local
approval process, secure the necessary building permit, provide assistance with
construction-related issues, offer interior design advice, assist with material
selection, and see the project through to the issuance of the certificate of
occupancy. However, the question remains: what type of professional is best
suited for the job? This article aims to help you make that determination.
What are the different aspects of a residential project?
When designing a residential project, be it a remodel, new construction, home addition or ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit) it is important to consider the following aspects:
Planning: The planning process necessitates adherence to
the regulations of the local governing body, which includes but is not limited
to setback requirements, maximum height restrictions, permitted usage, and
other applicable rules.
Functionality, and Aesthetics:
The design should fulfill the desired functions and satisfy the client's needs
while also considering aesthetics.
systems: mechanical systems such as plumbing, electrical,
ventilation, fire safety, heating, and cooling, should be designed to meet the
local jurisdiction requirements.
must conform to the local jurisdiction requirements for foundation system, wind
and snow loads, lateral bracing, and seismic requirements.
To ensure energy efficiency,
various factors such as water heating, insulation, solar power, HVAC, etc. must
be considered in the design. In California, the CalGreen and Green Building
Standard Code stipulate the energy efficiency requirements for new construction
and some remodeling projects.
Although licensed architects are
capable of handling all aspects of a construction project, they bring
particular value to the design, functionality, and aesthetic considerations. To
become licensed, architects must undergo at least eight years of education and
practical experience, including earning a B.Arch or M.Arch degree, as well as
passing the ARE Exam after two to three years of additional experience.
As a result, architects may charge
higher fees than other industry professionals. Nevertheless, in California, it
is not necessary to hold an architect's license to design a single-family home
(or up to four units) with two stories and a basement. However, for buildings
with multiple stories or when adding a second story, an architect or engineer
may be required by some local jurisdictions. Nevertheless, hiring an architect
or engineer for the entire project is not a requirement.
What service provider should you hire for what?
The subsequent section will examine
every facet of the design and discuss alternatives and factors to be taken into
Planning requirements are usually simple. Property owners can contact the local planning department and ask if the desired project can be built on their property. We suggest that our clients do this as the first step, before investing time and money into designing something that may not be approved. Keeping a record of the department's reply can be helpful later in the process. On their website, the local Planning department usually provides an email address for such inquiries.
Should you hire
When it comes to the design phase,
it's important to consider how much creative freedom you're willing to give the
designer, as well as budgetary, planning, family opinion, and other constraints
that may limit flexibility. If you're looking to build a masterpiece and have
more flexibility, hiring an architect may be the best choice, although their
fees can range from 7 to 15% of the project's cost. An architect can guide you
through the entire process and help you select finish materials, colors, and
more. However, if you're working with a tighter budget and have specific needs
and requirements, hiring a building designer or drafter may be a more
systems- For single-family homes and up to 4 units,
a licensed professional is not required to design the mechanical systems. In
fact, building designers and drafters with knowledge of drafting can create the
Structural design- a building designer or a drafter (unlicensed professional) can create the structural design for a single story with a method that’s called “prescriptive” (or prescribed) which is basically a set of rules for conservative design.
In some jurisdictions (cities, towns or countries), the authorities may require a California licensed engineer to design or review the structural design when the house is two stories, when adding a story, on hillside properties, or in other circumstances.
Energy Efficiency – this task is typically outsourced to people who specialize just in that. Most Architects, Building Designers, Drafters and Engineers wouldn’t do it themselves and even if they are providing full design service, this task would be outsourced. There is a score that your house needs to be above and very rarely the city has any feedback about that.
Cost (Q2 2023) – In this section we will
break the different aspects of the design by their cost.
Design- a plan for your project, including the Floorplan,
Elevations, Roofs, Mechanicals, not including interior design, nor structural
design by an Engineer, with prescribed framing, will cost anywhere from $2/sqft
to $10,000 for the entire project. The experience level of the building
designer or drafter, the location of the job, whether the designer is local or
remote, these factors will determine the price.
Structural Design – For a typical second floor addition, major
remodel involving load bearing walls changes, or new construction up to 2500
sqft, the cost can range from $2500 to $5500. It is highly recommended to hire
an Engineer for any project that involves more than one story, even if it's not
required by the local jurisdiction. Natural disasters such as earthquakes and
storms are unpredictable, and it's important to build your home in the most
resilient way possible. Some building designers offer a bundle service by
partnering with Engineers or Architects. This allows the licensed professionals
to handle the calculations, while the building designer takes care of the
drawings. This method can lower the overall fees and provide homeowners with a
single service provider.
Energy Efficiency- Typically, Title 24 and Cal Green fees for a
2500sqft house range from $200 to $900. If you're planning a major remodel,
you'll likely need complete energy efficiency calculations for the entire
house. However, if you're building an ADU and not making any changes to the
existing house, you may only need to go through the process for the ADU. Keep
in mind that local building departments may have varying requirements.
These figures are
based on actual transactions we've observed on BuildWiz.
Here are a few additional things to
keep in mind
Local vs. Remote service providers: Professionals such as Engineers, Energy Efficiency Service Providers, and Interior Designers can work remotely without needing to be on the job site. However, if you're hiring an Architect, Building Designer, or Drafter, they may need to be local so they can accurately measure and draw the existing building. If you have plans for the existing building or can obtain the "As Built" plan or the original plan from the local building department, you may be able to hire a remote service provider, who typically charges less than a local one.Who should apply for the permit?
Do I find a contractor first? One mistake people often make is starting their project by immediately searching for a contractor. By California law, either a licensed contractor or the homeowner can apply for a building permit. For homeowners who prefer a one-stop-shop experience and aren't as concerned with the final cost, it makes sense to hire a trusted contractor to design and apply for the permit in their name. However, if the property owner is cost-sensitive, it's better to hire an independent service provider to design the project. This is because the contractor cannot provide a final price without a plan, and the plan determines the quality and quantity of the project. Attempting to price a project before having a plan would result in a high margin of error, which the homeowner typically pays for. It's advisable to shop around with multiple contractors once the plan is finalized or near completion. Keep in mind that the building department won't approve your project overnight, so you have plenty of time to compare prices without delaying the project.
Sprinklers design: It's possible that your project may require fire sprinklers if your house is bordering a wild area and is over 750ft from the nearest hydrant, or if there are other local requirements. To find out, you can send an email to your local building department and inquire about the specific requirements for your project.
A Soils Report or Soils Study is a
valuable tool in determining the optimal foundation design, based on the soil's
load-bearing capacity and the structural load. Your local building department
may have previous soils reports that could be useful, even if they weren't
conducted on your property. It's advisable to inquire with the building
department about the availability of such a report, as it may help reduce your
project's cost by enabling a less conservative design. Without a soils report,
a more conservative design may be necessary, resulting in overbuilding.
However, finding these reports in older neighborhoods can be challenging. If
the building department is unable to provide one, it's recommended to make
multiple inquiries to exhaust all options before engaging a professional for a
Septic Systems: When a building site lacks a central sewer system, a septic system must be designed and included in the building plans. Generally, building plans won't be approved without septic plans.
A land survey is usually required for new construction or when a building is being extended towards the property line to ensure that building setback requirements are met. The cost of a land survey typically ranges from $2,000 to $8,000 for single-family lots, depending on the type of survey needed and existing records.
Best of luck with your project! Take advantage of our complimentary consultation and obtain free quotes from our carefully selected and competitive contractors on BuildWiz. By posting your project, you can receive competitive bids, saving you time and effort.
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