Cape Cod is windblown and environmentally sensitive with a housing stock comprised mainly of quickly built cottages and with limited open land. This harsh environment presents the homeowner with specific challenges. Hiring local professionals, familiar with these challenges, is the best way to be assured a smooth path to your finished project. Knowing what advice is needed (what questions to ask) is not always intuitive, but the right consultants can help you to navigate the paperwork so that your dreams can be realized. This blog is meant to help you (the homeowner, the potential home owner, the builder or the property developer) to understand the process involved in undertaking renovation or new construction on Cape Cod and the Islands.
Existing Conditions survey
Analyze the Existing building and / or site.
This step is one of the most important to the process of completing a successful project however; it is the step that many of my clients want to skip over in an effort to save money. Whether you have an existing building or an empty site, a good and thorough investigation of the property will lead you to the right design path. When this portion of the work is not done completely, at the project’s start, it is often the case that subsequent problems arise and added costs are incurred. A superior Architect will spend significant time at the site whether it is an existing building to be renovated or an unbuilt site. The list below represents the kind of things that should be part of a useful survey.
A. Existing conditions drawings: Your Architect should accurately draw the entire existing building. Time that is spent doing this survey is also valuable design time. Ideas and opportunities will present themselves so it is best that the person, who will be designing your project, also does the existing conditions documents. Eventually existing conditions drawings will be a necessary part of the permit set. These drawings should minimally include.
• Plans of each level
• All exterior elevations
• A section through the structure noting vertical dimensions
• Notes on existing structure
• Notes on trim details and sizes
B. Photographs and movie clips: These are a great reference when your designer is away from the site and are an essential part of an existing conditions survey.
• Photos of exterior and interior
• Structural conditions
• Mechanical equipment
• Existing lighting and heat units
• Woodwork details
C. Environmental study: For existing buildings and empty sites
• Sun penetration into building or site
• Roof angles of existing building
• Light and breeze opportunities
• Vegetation specimens worth saving or for which cutting is restricted by Conservation Commission
• View opportunities
• Traffic and noise and privacy issues
• Slope opportunities or restrictions
• Septic location and restrictions
D. Structural assessment of existing structures to be renovated: Architect accompanied by a structural engineer.
· Location, condition and adequacy of bearing
· Depth, condition and adequacy of members
· Consideration of structure in plans to bring insulation up to code
· Determine which walls can be easily removed
· Determine where windows can be easily added or enlarged
E. Valuable asset list: Determine what is worth saving from existing structures on the site.
• Note size and quantity of doors, trim, windows etc. that are worth the effort of saving.
• Consider condition of existing flooring, plaster, paneling etc.
• Note any valuable cabinetry, lighting fixtures, radiators, and plumbing fixtures (Restoring these things will probably not save money but may be worth the effort if they are unusual or very special in some way.)
Tune in for the next article about Programming.
You are looking to buy a house.
You are living in a home that needs repair.
You've been informed that your home is in the "flood zone".
You would like to upgrade your home.
You would like to add a porch or deck to your home.
You would like to add space to your home.
You would like to "finish" previously unfinished space in your home.
You would like to increase the energy efficiency of your home.
You would like to build a new home or tear down a cottage and replace it with an energy efficient home.
Though most of these things should inspire excitement and anticipation, for most they appear as, at best, a cumbersome chore or, at worst, a threat to retirement funds saved so diligently. When time, care and knowledgeable imagination are applied, all of these situations can be enjoyable, life enhancing and can add value to your home.
Find out as much as possible about regulations affecting the property.
The very beginning is the best time to hire an Architect. And, as an Architect, in most cases, I will recommend immediately that you hire a Site Engineer. Having a professional involved right from the start will help you to assess whether your initial desires will make sense in the long run. The right professional will help you to learn about the restrictions and opportunities your property may have. You may save time and money by assessing your needs given added information right up front. You do not need a builder yet. Before your project is well defined, a builder will not be able to give you useful cost estimates. If you know and like a good builder, he/she will most likely recommend that you start by contacting an Architect.
That said; you as a property owner, or even as a potential property owner, have access to much of the information you need. Any legwork (actually Internet research) you care to do will be useful. Keep in mind that the Site Engineer you hire will need to verify this information and is experienced at finding it quickly.
A. Most town assessors have websites which will let you easily access information about your home as well as other homes in your area.
B. Interactive GIS maps, also usually available through your town website, will give you a heads up on information about your location. Depending on the extent of your project, the information you find here will need to be verified by a Site Engineer, but it will help you to know what questions to ask. Below is just some of the information that, if applicable, should be on a good Site Plan. As you see this is much more detailed information than you will find on the "plot plan" done by your lending institution.
Armed with knowledge about your property you will be able to confidently speak to your architect about your needs and in turn, he / she will be able to foresee any roadblocks due to your property location that you may encounter.
My next blog will talk about the researching existing conditions of a home to be renovated and analyzing a site.