Design Project FAQs

Your Frequently Asked Questions About Design Projects

How to start a design project?
* What to watch out before I start a design project?

The most important thing before you start dreaming about and planning your project, check with your Municipality’s Department of City Planning what the zoning your property is in. It is so important because it will determine what you are allowed to build on this particular site, and what you will not be allowed. Thinking and gathering information about the zoning will save you a lot of valuable time, money and un-necessary frustration later on. Having your feet firmly on the ground from day one, will guarantee your successful final product, smooth communications with your architect, contractors, and all specialists involved in the process.

In case you decide to apply for variances to get a permission to deviate from some of the code provisions, talk to your neighbors first. The adjacent property owners are given big power by the Department of City Planning. Find out how they feel about your intentional project and how it will affect their quality of life. Make sure they all support your project the way you intend to design and build it. Without your neighbors’ support, it will be a very up-hill battle to get your variances granted to you.

Talk to architects and builders to find out what kind of realistic budget you may establish for such project. It is even more important to know how much money you need to anticipate to invest, if you plan to apply for a loan to build the project.

* Why using an Architect’s services before starting a project is always beneficial to you?

An architect possesses a trained eye and can help you see the big picture. This is always a MONEY SAVER.

An architect has a wide resource list of suppliers which gives you a lot of choices, based on your budget.

You will avoid inevitable mistakes by having an array of choices and a good professional advice as to what is better for your particular job in a long run.
You will save tons of money by having your architect next to you as your personal advisor when you pick up a contractor, or when you choose and buy appliances, or choosing materials and furniture.

* Why sDs – How do I benefit from working with this firm?

sDs has built a reputation of working very closely with each client by fostering an open and honest work relationship. Its Principal Elizabeth Bougart-Sharkov, Intl. Assoc. AIA views her client as an equal partner during every step during the design and construction phases. From initial consultation to completion of construction, clients are active participants in the creative process of achieving productive and less stressful lifestyle. She will listen well and guide you at every step of the design and construction process. Elizabeth will be with you from A to Z as your PERSONAL ADVOCATE and design COACH. She will help you in your selection process of all contractors.

In addition, Elizabeth brings her combined extensive professional experience of over 35 years in Europe and the US to her work.

* How can I save my hardly earned money and my sanity by working with sDs?

Elizabeth will help you select the best design options, materials, furniture and appliances at a better price by using her sources of longtime associates and suppliers. She will put together reputable design team such as Structural Engineers, Energy Entitlement Consultants, Soil Engineers, etc. – all design professionals she has been working with for long time. She will supervise and work closely with the contactor, insisting on a steady timeframe to be submitted prior to construction phase commencement, and she will approve requests for payments.

* How can I benefit from sDs long time community involvement and experience with the City?

Elizabeth spent 9 years of her life as the Founder and Chair of the Urban Design & Preservation Committee of the Silver Lake Neighborhood Council of the Silver Lake area in the City of Los Angeles. She was directly involved in each development proposal approval and heavily advocated before the City Agencies on behalf of the Community. She worked very successfully with various people personalities and honed her skills dealing with the City Agencies, something that she employees successfully in her Architecture practice and helping her clients to navigate the system.

* How much can I benefit from building a Green Building or Green Environment?

Elizabeth will apply her knowledge of green design principles which will save you at least up to 40% of your energy monthly bills.
She will guide you how to create a healthy comfortable environment by selecting the best possible use of green building materials and how to avoid health hazards. All that must be in accordance with your initially established budget for the project.

* Compensating Your Architect: Fee Structures

Source: American Institute or Architects California Chapter (AIACC)

Building in today’s marketplace is a complex undertaking, requiring many different skills and extensive knowledge of materials, products, systems, and methods. Your architect understands these complexities and works with you to design an appropriate and satisfying response to your requirements—and to assure that it is built according to plan. Adequate compensation for the architect is in your best interest, as it assures the type and level of services needed to fulfill your expectations.
Architects’ fees are project-based; they vary with project scope, size, location, duration, complexity, and uniqueness. Most architects offer several options for calculating fees and include some flexibility to re-negotiate as changes occur over the life of the project. Fee structures and payment schedules should always be written into your contract with the architect, along with a process for resolving any billing conflicts.
Most architects calculate fees using one or more of the following methods:

  • Hourly: based on time spent for a designated activity. Each architectural firm will have its own hourly fee schedule, noting rates for each level of staff experience and skill.
  • Hourly not to exceed: billed hourly, but with a guaranteed maximum total fee.
  • Time plus materials: hourly plus the cost of materials, such as for architectural display models.
  • Fixed lump sum: agreed upon sum for project/activity delivery based on percentage of estimate construction cost. Inclusions for sub-consultants (e.g., structural engineer) and other variables can be added.
* What is the Low Commitment Consultation (LLC)?

The Low Commitment Consultation (LLC) is an integral part of the effective homework you as a client need to do prior to beginning your project. For a small fee I access the design potentials of the property, based on its existing conditions, zoning and building codes restrictions and the clients’ NEEDS. This consultation provides a clear vision of all design possibilities and an ability to establish a realistic budget boundaries.
It will save you lots of possible frustrations and tons of money down the road. You better know all the conditions and possible obstacles before spending money on something that may not buildable. Or you secure a smooth navigation down the road It will bring you a mere satisfaction for making a wise investment that brings you the quality of living you have been looking for!

* About Scheduling Fee Payments

Projects are completed in phases, and payment of fees is typically distributed in accordance with those phases. Many architects will ask for a deposit (retainer) when the contract is signed. Some firms invoice monthly, while others invoice by project phase. Your architect can create an outline for each phase of the project with services rendered and the percentage of the overall fee that will be charged at that point. The range of percentage of total fees associated with each project phase might typically look like this:
Schematic design 3-25%
Design development 12-25%
Working drawings 35-45%
Agency approvals 3-7%
Bidding/contract negotiations 3-7%
Construction administration 15-35%
Keep in mind that these are general ranges and that the percentage of cost per phase can vary widely, depending on the nature of your project.

Also check out this free guide:

How to Prepare For Your Design Project

How to Prepare For Your Design Project

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