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Designing for Success

Category: , Posted:19 May 2007 | 12:00 pm

While the practice of architecture and design requires innovation, experience and technical knowledge, it should not require the arcane practice of mind reading. Whether you are building your dream home, a small residential project or a large-scale development, a comprehensive design brief for your architect is the cornerstone of achieving what you set out to accomplish.

Providing clear directives at the onset ensures the concept is well understood. It streamlines the design development, saves money in redrafts and minimizes changes once construction starts. Change orders are the most common way construction goes over budget, so it is well worth the hours spent drawing up your project while it is still on the architect's drafting table.

Starting from scratch can be a daunting task, so let's walk through some steps. Write down your objectives, whether is it a four-bedroom, 3-bathroom house with a pool or a 40-unit upscale villa project. Then list in detail what the design characteristics are, such as a general style and key themes or elements. List some references or benchmarks of designs you like or even small signature items from other projects. This allows a broad understanding of expectations while giving the designer leeway to innovate.

For private homes, provide a profile of who will use the property. Will it be for a young family of four or an older couple? What are their likes, dislikes and special needs? For residential developments, create an anticipated customer profile, including key characteristics of the buyers or end users. One key rule of architecture is that form follows function, so understanding who you are designing for greatly affects the plans.

With that in mind, it's important to do a site analysis from the ground up. Don't focus only on the land on which you will build, also look at the access, views, infrastructure and usage of the surrounding land.Let's say you have a wonderful view and the land in front of you could be sold and later developed. Your view may suddenly become the back of someone's house, so intelligently addressing this before you build is far lest costly than tearing down your home and starting again. Water, electrical and telephone considerations are also important and will reflect in planning for costly items such as deep wells, rainwater collection tanks, transformers and drainage.

Next, list the facilities required. Do you want two bathrooms or three? Will the car park be for one car or more? Take the time to put together some typical sizes. Will 40 square meters be needed? Or will 20sqm be enough?Providing at least general sizes is critical when presenting a project to your designer, as knowing the house size at an early stage allows you to determine if the size of your pocket book matches the project budget.

List the items you consider essential also helps the designer. Do you want two washbasins or one? Will there be built-in closets or a walk-in closet? Do you watch TV in bed at night? If so, instead of having a glass wall window in front of the bed, this requirement will be considered and reflected in the design.

Also, designs interact with mechanical and electrical systems, such as air conditioning. For example, having ceilings fans in all rooms requires a minimum ceiling height. How many electrical outlets and TV outlets are required? Though the detail of this seems overwhelming, the last thing you want to do is arrive in your new house and realize there is no plug for your stereo on the veranda.

The last step is to look at special systems that might be required, such as Wi-Fi, audio or smart home systems, security alarms and energy management, including water recycling. Many of these are significant costs and it is best to determine their cost effectiveness and integration into the design early in the game.

So there you have it. The work doesn't start the day you walk into an architect's office and ask for your dream to be drawn up. Providing a detailed design brief sets yourself to get the project you want at the price you planned.

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