Planning Your Project Schedule
When Should You Start Designing Your Project?
If you’re planning an all interior project, you can start any time! The sooner you start, the sooner you’ll have your house in the condition you want it to be, and the sooner you can start enjoying it.
If you’re planning on phasing your project, please be sure to read about phasing before you decide to bulid in phases.
If you’re contemplating an addition or exterior alteration, it’s ideal to start planning your project early, but that’s not a hard-and-fast requirement.Starting early will give your (and us) time to develop the design and drawings on a more relaxed schedule, submit your project for Planning Department approval, and negotiate a contract with a contractor.
For really major projects, or if your jurisdiction requires lengthy planning reviews, you’ll want to start no later than the early fall so you can break ground near the beginning of the following construction season (which starts late April / early May). For other additions and exterior alterations you can get away with starting in the late fall or well into the winter and still make the construction season with no problems.
If it’s almost spring, don’t despair! Depending on your project and your jurisdiction you still might be able to start construction later the same year with no adverse consequences. Contractors can start work about half-way into August and still make many additions and exterior alterations fully water-tight before the rainy season. Starting later than that may be appropriate for some projects, for instance mostly interior projects.
If it’s June already… let’s just say we’ve worked quickly and efficiently to squeeze in major addition / remodel projects in the past! Up through March of 2020 the market has been so impacted that quick design processes and quick construction starts have been rare, but in the time of COVID-19 we may see a change in schedules. Please contact us to discuss this possibility. If it’s already August, then you’re ready to start planning for the following year.
For clients with new houses or net-zero energy modern houses in mind, you should plan about one year (on average) for all the design, planning, approvals, and contract negotiations. Therefore, starting in the spring or very early summer is preferred.
When Should You Start Building Your Project?
No matter when you start your planning, it will be lowest-risk for you to build during the right time of year. As discussed in the risks of construction section, starting additions and exterior alterations during the rainy season is not optimal and can be downright problematic. We’ll want the house to be water-tight before the rains come. It’s better to get an early start on the design process by selecting your architect now, and setting a relaxed, stress-free schedule for the design process, then starting construction the following year than it is to break ground during the rainy season. That said, our climate has changed in the last decade to include a few summer rains each year, and during several recent winters the rains held off (for the most part) until January or ended in January for the most part. So even though one never knows what will happen, we don’t want you to rely on luck. We still recommend (at least for now) observing the traditional SF Bay Area construction season and starting in the spring.
How Long Does a Project Take? What are the Steps?
That depends on the project. Since every project and every client is different, there is no standard length of a project. However, if you contact us and let us know what you have in mind, we can give you an idea of how long your project might take. But there is a general schedule we can tell you about. We list the major steps below, and provide some estimates of the time required for some of them.
Choosing Your Team
Getting the right team together is the first thing you should do. We talk about selecting your architect in another section.
If you already have a trusted contractor who’s capable of building your project in the correct style, the architect and contractor will complete your team for now. If you don’t have a contractor selected yet, let us help you with some names. Klopf Architecture works with many contractors who specialize in Mid-Century Modern, Eichler, and warm modern construction. If it’s Net-Zero Energy you’re looking for, we have contractors in mind for that, too.
Starting the Design
Once you have a team, we need to measure your house. This is called the Existing Conditions (or As-Builts) phase. At Klopf Architecture we create a 3-D model of your house in the computer. The model helps us all visualize the designs as we proceed, and also makes it more efficient for us to create the technical drawings. This phase can take about 1 week from the day we measure.
After the Existing Conditions are modeled, the design can begin in earnest. This is the Conceptual Design Phase. We draw floor plan layouts by hand in this phase, and sometimes create perspective views, elevations, etc. – usually also drawn by hand. At this stage we’re working on the flow of the building, the admission of light, and the connection to nature, the massing, and the preliminary proportioning and materiality. This phase can take as long as you want it to, or we can rush it for you (not recommended for most clients). If you want to let the designs soak in so you really get to know them before moving forward, we’ll take our time between meetings. If the project is big or complicated it can take longer. Most projects fall in the 2-3 weeks range for this phase, but a new house may take a month or more, and for some straight-forward projects you might see concepts in as little as 1 week.
Deciding on Your Design
Once you’ve reviewed a few conceptual designs, we invite your honest criticism and feedback. Providing clear direction about what you like, don’t like, and would like to add really helps us move your design forward efficiently. The objective is to get going in the right direction as much as possible from the get-go. It’s easy to change the designs now when they’re no more than a few lines on paper. Changes get progressively harder as the project goes on.
Once everyone has agreed on a single design the Schematic Design Phase starts. From that point on the time each project takes will vary significantly. Some projects can go from here to contractor bidding in 6 weeks. Others can take 6 months. Larger and more complicated projects will take longer; the longest we’ve seen so far is 12 months.
At some point along the way, we’ll tell you if your project requires a separate Planning Department review. If so, that review can add anywhere from a couple months to 6 months to the schedule of a normal project. In some areas (like San Francisco) neighbor complaints during the Planning Review process can cause serious delays. This hasn’t happened to any of our clients yet; hopefully this will not happen to you!
Once the Planning Department approves the project, the Building Department needs a chance to review everything. They usually distribute your plan sets to Public Works, the Fire Department, and the County Assessor. Depending on the project and the jurisdiction, your building approval can be as quick as over-the-counter (instant approval) or as lengthy as 4-6 weeks for the first round of comments. Typically there are comments, although Klopf Architecture has gotten several addition / remodel projects through recently with no architectural comments. Each member of the team (usually the structural engineer and the architect) will respond to their comments quickly and re-submit to the Building Department for what is hopefully the final review. This could add another 2 weeks to your schedule.
Entering into a Construction Contract
Once the drawings are at the appropriate level of completeness for your project, contractors will need anywhere from 3-4 weeks to create accurate fixed-price bids, or maybe a bit longer for a complex new house project. This is true whether you’re competitively bidding the project or just asking one contractor to bid. You’ll probably spend another couple of weeks agreeing on a contract and signing it. This can be done along-side of project design and documentation if you enter into a negotiated situation with a contractor instead of bidding the project competitively once drawings and specifications are complete. We usually allow for roughly 2 months from the date we send out the pricing documents to bid and the start of construction.
Construction time varies significantly depending on the project. A bathroom replacement could be done in two months or less, but an addition / remodel of a Mid-Century Modern home could take 8-9 months (or longer if the project is extensive). The Manzanita House took about 9 months to build; the Cupertino Net-Zero Energy Modern House took about 17 months.
What Else Can Make a Project Take Longer?
That is covered in the risks of construction section. Additionally Covid-19 and local requirements to promote safety have had a side effect of making construction last longer as contractors are unable to schedule multiple subcontractors to work at the same time. Furthermore increased demand on labor has and will continue to make it difficult for contractors to build quickly. We expect this to continue in 2021 as people rebuild burned structures from this year’s wildfires.