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Residential Architectural Process

Typical Architectural Process – What to Expect


Initial Meeting - at the home to be remodeled or site where new house will be, to discuss the following:

  • Scope of work: your vision, what you hope to accomplish

  • Feasibility: will it actually work with existing structure and lot

  • Zoning: helpful to research prior to meeting.  There are many constraints on every lot that need to be considered - determining setbacks, height limits, FAR (floor area ratio), sensitive areas, lot coverage, impervious surface coverage.  Restrictions may be too great so we look at options

  • Septic or Sewer:  if you are on a septic system, it will add another layer of reviews.  Most jurisdictions require you to submit to King County Health separate from the building permit.  This review often takes as long as the building permit, so it is best to start as soon as possible.  The Health department counts bedrooms, specifically rooms with closets, not bathrooms

  • Approximate budget: what do you expect to pay for the remodel in question?  From experience, we can generally estimate on the spot whether the range is realistic

  • Architectural Fees: please see Fee Structure tab

  • Measuring: if all of the above topics are satisfactory, we measure the areas of the house to be modified.  Aside from measuring the rooms and window locations, we would also like to look in the crawl space and attic, and get the approximate location of the house on the lot.  If existing floor plans are available, we would love to have them and it would save us time and you - money


Preliminary Drawings - turn-around time from initial meeting is 2-3 weeks:

  • Design Charrette: as part of the preliminary design process, you are invited to come to our office to participate in the preliminary design phase.  With much success, having the client present to provide real time input expedites the process and helps you see the unique constraints associated with their design.  We have designed additions to new homes during these meetings

  • Floor plans: all plans are done in AutoCAD.  Plans will show overall dimensions, approximate room dimensions and overall square footage in case of additions.  We also include tentative furniture outlines on the plan for scale reference

  • Elevations: while working on the floor plans we constantly think of how the elevation (exterior of house) will come together.  Often, slight adjustments are made to the plan in order for the elevations to work. We will not begin exterior elevations work until the floor plans are finalized. To aid in the design of the exterior, clients often show pictures of the style they like or share a Houzz or Pinterest link.   If you have already started accumulating photos online, please try and comment on what you like specifically in each photo. Depending on the scope of work, we either show the main elevation or all elevations for the next phase: preliminary bidding


Preliminary Bidding:

  • If the plans and elevations provided work well with only minor changes, they can be used to get a preliminary bid from a contractor.  We strongly recommend this step as it will give you the information needed to decide whether or not to proceed.  There are numerous contractors listed on the website that can be contacted.  We can recommend a few and would suggest looking at their websites, and setting up a meeting.  We are happy to participate in the meeting to address any questions.  2-3 bids are sufficient.  Only ask a contractor to bid on your project if you are serious about potentially using them.  Some contractors will do this for free and it takes a good deal of time.  From the first meeting, you should be able to get a sense of whether or not you can work with this company


Construction Drawings - if the numbers look good from the contractor you selected, it is time to put the remainder of the drawings together.  There is a lot of money and time spent on this phase and we will start only upon your approval.  The main components of the CD's are:


  • Lateral Engineering: prelim plans can be emailed to the engineer for pricing.  Most engineers will have you sign a contract directly in which you will pay them directly.  The structural engineer is involved to design the lateral force resisting system for seismic loads and wind loads, if necessary.  Most interior remodels do not require a structural engineer because shearwalls are generally on the exterior walls.  However, if you are moving a window or enlarging a window, we likely need to consult the engineer

  • Gravity Loads: this is a service I provide for my clients.  This includes designing all beams & headers, detailing some connections and prescriptively designing the foundation walls.  We do this mostly to save the client money, but also it gives me the flexibility to change the layout if needed for a more economical solution

  • Site Plan: site plans have become increasingly more difficult to draw and take a good amount of time depending on the jurisdiction.  We typically invoice this hourly, separate from the proposed time to complete.  Whatever jurisdiction you are building in, will have a checklist of items that need to be on the site plan, including some of the following: contours at 2’ intervals, location of trees and drip lines, all structures on the property, all impervious surfaces on the property, utilities (specifically if there is a septic), height calculations, FAR calculation, property information and notes, impervious surface calculation, etc.  Some jurisdictions even go further and require the following depending on the property:

    • City of Kirkland: requires a surveyor if an addition is within 2’ of a setback line

    • King County: requires water/sewer availability forms if addition is over 500 s.f.

    • Storm Drainage: if storm drainage is not conveyed to city drains, it has to be distributed on your property.  In some cases, a geotechnical engineer may need to be hired to assess the soil and a civil engineer to design the system

    • Surveyor: may be required to verify the height of the structure if we are close to the limit

  • Plans: Foundation, main floor framing, main floor, upper floor framing, upper floor, roof framing, elevations, sections and details.  Each sheet will have numerous notes and dimensions required in order to comply with the IRC (International Residential Code), Washington State Energy Code, and any amendments to these codes


Permit Submittal:

Once the plans are completed, engineering transferred and forms filled out, it is time to submit.  Some forms need to be signed by the homeowner.  The plans and documents can be submitted by hand or, in some jurisdictions, electronically via  Once the plan is reviewed for intake, a portion of the permit fees is required to be paid.  Depending on the size of the project and jurisdiction, this fee will vary significantly.  Permit review times also vary - from a few weeks to several months

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