FWC Architects, Inc Highwood, IL 60044
FWC Process

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Selecting Your Architect

We gladly offer to meet for the initial interview without fee or obligation. For new homes, this meeting is best accomplished at our office; for remodels, we generally travel to the owner’s residence so that we can view the existing structure and site. Besides making a general introduction, we try to determine the scope of the project both in terms of size and complexity to estimate the time that will be required to provide the design and documentation necessary for a successful project. From the information obtained, we can usually write a proposal with a fixed fee for architectural services so that the client has a firm handle on costs.

Programming (Phase 1)

The first step in designing your new home or remodel project is to define your wants and needs, which we call programming. This is an important step as it establishes the direction for the development of the concept and ensures our efficiency throughout the design process. Some clients come to us with their wishes fully defined, inside and out. For others, we help explore the many possibilities and offer advice based on experience and market perceptions. In some cases we may suggest talking to a realtor to gauge market conditions.

This step requires us to listen carefully to a client’s wishes and note them for future reference. We have developed a ‘listening tool’ for this purpose, which is a sixteen page checklist of various styles, elements, relationships compiled over twenty years and updated continually you may wish to consider in your new home.

Budget

Establishing a budget is critical to the success of every project. We review the program and proposed budget and note any major differences with current industry standards before design begins. We can check this in more detail once a preliminary design is drawn and sometimes engage prospective contractors at this stage for cost estimating feedback.

Some flexibility can be built in to the design by organizing some elements or materials as ‘alternates’ or options to be priced and then included or excluded by the owner to determine the final construction cost. It is better to be realistic about the costs from the beginning and not set the budget as too high or too low as this can result in additional architectural fees and lost time in order to rectify.

Site Analysis (Phase 2)

It is usually desirable for us to walk the site and get a feel for the natural potentials and desirable views to feature or preserve and in some cases to those aspects to subordinate.

Careful analysis of required building setbacks and limitations on area and height, vehicular approaches and other related ordinances of the local municipality is critical at an early stage in the design process. Accurate documentation of topography, tree location, existing structures and utilities requires the services of a licensed land surveyor and is also best accomplished early to insure efficient design.

For green design site analysis may also involve consideration and measurement of solar access, shading and wind patterns, and possible adaptive reuse of existing structures.

Concept (Phase 3)

Once the programming and site analysis is complete we can begin the concept phase by schematically placing the desired first floor spaces on the site trying various relationships to one another and to the site while considering the flow through the spaces, vehicular access and exterior composition. Sometimes in this early stage of the concept phase more than one layout is worthy of consideration, so they are presented to the owner in this simplistic form. More often there is a clear winner and this concept is given further thought and development, still in sketch form, along with a second floor and the most important exterior elevations.

The best integrated designs are usually created by a back and forth, iterative process from plan to elevation and back again. In some cases, often due to a floor plan with major projections, it is advantageous to draw a perspective view of the home at this time to fully grasp the form. Our software now allows us to actively view a simple ‘wire frame’ 3D model in this from all sides and angles in this process. 3D drawings are usually offered as an additional service, not part of the standard package of services.

At this stage it is advisable to engage the services of an interior designer who will work with the owner to fine tune the interiors and begin to consider the furnishing strategies and millwork details and how this may best integrate with the architecture.

This is also a good time to begin a dialogue with a qualified builder or builders who have an interest in the construction of the project. This gives the parties a chance to determine if there is a good fit for the various experiences, abilities, requirements and personal chemistry, and can also provide valuable budget feedback.

Design Development (Phase 4)

Once the concept is approved, we begin to develop the concept by creating precision drawings on the computer, based on the concept sketches and presented at scale usually twice as large as the concept drawings. All exterior elevations are drawn at this time with details and finishes gradually added throughout the phase. A roof plan is usually generated to verify and coordinate the exterior elevations. A foundation plan is drawn with likely beam and column locations from which a finished basement plan is designed and presented in sketch form.  For some projects it is appropriate at this stage to sketch interior elevations of important areas and elements. Room sizes and window sizes and locations are finalized and dimensioned.

Structural considerations are taken into account at this point and framing issues resolved. Mechanical systems such as duct work, plumbing, and range exhaust, are coordinated with the framing requirements. The furnaces and air conditioning compressor units are located. Exterior material types are chosen and coordinated with the plans. Specific requirements of the local municipality are reviewed and verified for compliance. General code compliance is verified. Research on any new or unfamiliar materials or products is conducted and provided for. The foundation is stepped and heights are coordinated with the information from the topographic survey of the site.

For green design, consideration of various insulation details, proper sizing of overhangs for solar shading, and integration of specialized materials and systems are addressed.

Construction Documents (Phase 5)

In this final phase all the various systems considerations in the earlier phases are brought together and completed. Efficiency of communication to the construction industry is considered in the final arrangement of the documents. It is advisable to avoid significant design changes at this stage as this requires considerable additional time to re-coordinate all the various drawings and components at this time; consequently additional fees may be required.