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  • Writer's pictureTimothy Hill

Why Design

Updated: Apr 29, 2022

When people hear the word ‘design’, they probably think of having a big kitchen with a huge island or open space with the kitchen, dining & living room all in one. While these are certainly important elements to design, there are many other practical reasons why it’s beneficial to put time & effort into thinking before you build. I’ve been telling people lately that architectural drawings are like having an MRI done on your house. Designers draw section views that are lime slices through the building to show what materials are involved & how they relate to each other. Here are a few reasons why so much detail is important in a set of drawings:

Site Position: How will the building sit on the site? Usually siding is specified 6” minimum above grade to deter termites. The ground also must slope away from the house to ensure the foundation is protected from water intrusion over the long term. Additionally, it’s often desirable to have the floor inside as close to grade as possible to allow no-step entrances. These factors often compete & need to be weighed together to determine what will work best with the overall site & how it drained before construction & how it will drain after the building is there. Will there be trees & landscaping are also important to drainage & shading which can effect heating & cooling & views of, as well as security around the house.

Building Bones (Structure): What is the strength of the wood, metal, concrete, etc. Most materials have various grades or levels of quality. Stronger materials are often needed for longer spans or special situations. It can be easy in our complex world to order the wrong material thinking it’s good enough. It’s important when ordering materials to make sure it meets at least the minimum quality. Good drawings help get this right.

Building Skin (Exterior): How will the building mitigate water: roofing, siding, flashing, etc. How will the building help your heating & cooling. What is the insulation value of walls, roof & glazing. Does the attic ventilate? These are questions that will determine a lot about the monthly utility bills. If cheap siding is installed, it will not look as good from the street and likely require replacement sooner which is another cost consideration.

Finishes (Interior): How will the space be used. How will the doors operate. What type of locks, weatherstripping, decorative glass, etc. What will the interior finishes be for flooring, paint, stain, etc. Are there any special items involved like elevators or lifts.

Building functions (Systems): How will the spaces be heated & cooled: heat pumps, geothermal, gas furnace, etc. What is the electric, lighting, service load, etc. What is the plumbing: waste lines, supply lines, water heating, etc.

These are just a few items that are important to a well-thought out home design & set of construction documents. This is not a comprehensive list. Each project is unique & careful planning can pay off in different ways for different projects. You will have poured considerable resources into construction by the time it’s complete. Investment in the design process upfront can benefit everyone in the long run.

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