Category Archives: Guides

Prioritizing Your Priorities: 4 Tips to Help Your Design Project Go Smoothly

Starting your new design project is an exciting endeavor. There are more questions that await your decisions than you’ve probably considered. Fortunately for you, the decision to work with an architect will greatly help in answering all the remaining questions more manageable.

Throughout my practice, I’ve found that the best way to move a project ahead efficiently during the design phases is to address the many issues in the following order:

  1. Resolve Upfront DecisionsResolving decisions that others need from you will help them understand the scope of your project, begin the work on time, and keep to your project’s schedule. Ask your architect for all the information that they will need from you. Your program (the area, function, and number of rooms needed) and other design objectives, a current survey and soil test of the property, anticipated construction budget, and a desired completion date are a few of the things you’ll need upfront to get the project moving.
  2. Identify and Resolve UnknownsIdentifying and resolving unknowns is critical to avoiding costly changes or re-design. It may seem like your time and investment could be better-spent designing what you’ve been dreaming of, but it’s not. You will waste more time and money accommodating the unidentified unknowns later in the project than it takes to resolve them up front.
  3. Take on the Important Stuff EarlyTake on the important design decisions early so you aren't overwhelmed as your deadlines get closer. The important stuff includes ‘big picture’ issues that will determine whether your project ends up being the best possible design solution or a costly example of missed opportunities. The important stuff is often the intangible, or more usually, the unseen decisions when your project is finally complete. Careful site planning and orientation, program layout, structural integrity, efficient mechanical and electrical systems, indoor air quality, daylighting strategies, and sound attenuation are just some of the important stuff that will determine the quality of your project. Good design isn’t fast, so take your time and think things through with your architect. Your future self will be glad you did.
  4. Leave the Not-So-Important Stuff for LaterLeave the not-so-important stuff for last because nothing else depends on it and it depends on all the important stuff. So, what’s the not-so-important stuff? Often clients begin preparing for their design project by collecting images of beautifully furnished interiors and finely crafted exteriors. This is great, and I highly recommend doing this to communicate your design goals. However, things like paint colors and stains, accessories, decorative fixtures, window treatments, and other finish level decisions generally don’t impact the important stuff. Like everything, there are exceptions. Ask your architect if something you have your heart set on should be taken into consideration earlier on in the process.

Implementing these tips will help you engage your project during the design process on a deeper level than just what people will see in the finished result. I will also give you valuable information as a custodian of architecture in the maintenance and life cycle of your building project.

I’ve found that it helps organize the decisions you’ll need to make under these four headings. If you’re not sure about something, ask your architect. It’s a great feeling to see a simple, and even fun, list of stuff between you and your project’s finish line. To get more helpful tips on preparing for you design project, you can download your free guide here, Preparing For Your Design Project.

Just Another Hurricane Season in Paradise

The end of August marked the 24 anniversary of Hurricane Andrew slamming into South Florida, and it’ll be 27 years this month since Hurricane Hugo ripped into the South Carolina lowcountry. Both events caused significant damage and more importantly, loss of life.

Just another hurricane season in Paradise, right.

The vernacular architecture of the lowcountry, and southern coastal regions in general, developed as a response to the heat, humidity and storms typical of our region.

As building science and technology have advanced, there are more improved ways of building your coastal home to withstand severe weather events like floods and hurricanes. Here’s the 5 strategies for building not just a beautiful home, but one that is also a flood and hurricane resistant one.


1. Don’t let it blow away.

Aside from the necessary structural engineering, the shape and configuration of your home can actually have an influence on whether or not it stays put in a hurricane.

For example, studies have been done on what shape house, what type of wall construction, and which type of roof  bests performs in extreme weather conditions.

Square houses were found to be the sturdiest shape for high winds, while rectangular configurations with length to width ratios of 1:3 or less are also perform well. Week spots are typically created at inside corners.

Reinforce concrete block walls outperform other wall construction methods, but properly engineered wood-framed structures also perform well.

Hipped roofs with an angle of approximately 30 degrees outperformed other roof types and slopes, but are more costly to build. Simple gabled roofs are acceptable. Overhangs perform best when they’re between 1 1/2 – 2 feet in depth if enclosed or 8 inches if open.


2. Elevate the building.

Avoiding damage from flood waters is simple, build above them. Homes in flood zones are required to be built at or above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) depending on where you’re building. For example, in Miami Beach, the first floor of a home has to at least be built at the same height as the BFE. In the City of Charleston, the minimum height is 1 foot above BFE, but in Charleston County, the first floor of a home is required to be built 2 feet above BFE.

The BFE is determined by Flood Insurance Rate Maps, or FIRMs, and is a regulatory requirement for floodproofing of structures. The relationship between the BFE and a structure’s elevation also determines your flood insurance premium.


3. Keep the rain out.

Rain comes from all directions during a storm, driving moisture into exterior walls. It’s therefore good practice to provide a drainage plane directly behind the siding to allow water to escape instead of getting trapped inside the wall.

Other areas susceptible to wind-driven water intrusion is attic vents, areas around windows and doors, soffits, wall penetrations for utilities, and cracks in exterior finish materials. Making sure these are properly detailed and constructed is critical to keeping your home dry.


4. Use materials that can get wet.

Two of the most common building materials widely used in hurricane and flood prone regions are also most susceptible to water damage. Can you guess what they are?

Well, the first is paper-faced gypsum board, also known as drywall.

The best thing to do is simply don’t use it. Using non-paper-faced gypsum on the inside of exterior walls is a better solution because it stands up to moisture better.

The second building material to avoid is fiberglass batt insulation. You know, the pink fluffy stuff.

Should that insulation get wet during a flooding or hurricane event, you’re gonna have problems. Instead, your home should be insulated with rigid foam or rock wool boards on the exterior. They’re hydrophobic, a fancy word meany that they tend to repel water.


5. Design the building so that it can dry out when it does get wet.

Once your home has been designed using the strategies above, the final step is to take a worst-case scenario approach, meaning you should consider what happens when things do get wet.

Walls, floors and ceilings should be designed so that they can be opened up and allowed to dry. This is easily achieved. For example, detailing walls so that they can be opened at the top and bottom allow for air flow to remove moisture in the wall.

In addition, consider thees recommendations for resilient design from the Urban Land Institute in their article Trying To Reason With Hurricane Season.

Know What You Can Build Before You Buy

Here’s a question for you.

Say you’re in the market to purchase a property that you plan to build a new home on. Or, maybe it’s a vacation home. Now, ordinarily, you’d be looking at a few properties, and trying to make a decision based on their individual locations, features, problems, opportunities, value, etc.

That’s all well and good. But, what if you could see into the future of one or more scenarios that you’re considering?

What if I told you that you could get critical insights about how the property would inform the planning and design of your new home, and how your new home would enhance the experience of the property BEFORE you buy?

How valuable would that be in making the best decision on a very important purchase?

I’m guessing you might be saying to yourself, “How is that possible?”

Well, it is! And, here’s how you can.

One of the services I offer my clients is what I call my Discover and Focus consultation.

Site analysis for a Discover and Focus consultation.

With it, you’ll get just what it implies, you’ll discover the opportunities and limitations of the property, as well as gain a clearer focus on the how your needs and wishes could enhance the site.

Purchasing a property for a new home or a vacation house is a big commitment. This low-cost consultation can help you avoid making the wrong decision.

It will also give you valuable information in making many right decisions after you’ve decided on a property.

One of three site planning options for a Discover and Focus consultation.

If you’re looking to buy a property and build, you owe it to yourself and your family to know WHAT you can build BEFORE you buy.

Call (843–276–2074) or email me to schedule a free meeting at my office to talk about your building plans and what how my Discover and Focus Consultation can help you.