Building a home is much more than determining your preferred style and number of rooms you require; it is an opportunity to assess and articulate what it is you want out of daily life, your relationship with your family and the environment. Narrowing your vision invites you on an excursion into the depths of what you need versus what you want. Developing your concept requires translating your vision into clearly articulated ideas to share with your family and your designer. As with any journey of this magnitude, you will need a map. Residential designers will help navigate this often overwhelming, yet exciting process to determine a timeframe, budget, and after many manifestations of your ideas, a final draft of your dream home. MHV sat down with local residential building designer, Ryan Hoyt, of Ryan Hoyt Designs to break down the design process into concrete, manageable steps.
A designer is an astute translator. Transforming design needs into tangible concepts and features, Hoyt uses state-of-the-art software tools to visually communicate with his clients. “Building a house is a process of determining what your needs are and then finding the right person to help translate those needs,” says Hoyt. “Before hiring a designer, it’s important to invest time assessing your needs and creating your own vision for the project. Some clients approach us prior to looking for a property to acquire information on what to look for: a vacant lot, a house to bulldoze and any topographical questions they might have,” explains Hoyt.
Design Consultation – A design consultation is an opportunity for a client to introduce their ideas, to get a feel for how a designer will approach the project and to learn about the process. “One of the first questions I like to ask clients is about their timeline. How much time do you have to plan and build? We also like to discuss financial commitments at this stage. Builders are often beneficial at this stage to discuss the building process, to determine a time frame and how that will impact their life. Time frame can be a hurdle for some clients and will determine if the process is actually feasible or not. If we can caution one thing, it is to avoid rushing the design process. Rushing can cause you to overlook important details that you may later regret,” explains Hoyt.
Design Phases – “We approach a typical new custom home or renovation design in two distinct phases: conceptual design and construction documentation. During the conceptual design phase, the designer begins to shape the client’s vision and presents a full-colour, three-dimensional, digital design to clearly convey ideas. Several concepts and ideas will be explored and using the latest software, we can easily flush out all ideas and make necessary changes and revisions. Once we have a final concept in place, we can produce technical drawings that will be required to obtain building permits,” states Hoyt.
The conceptual phase is an interactive and collaborative process. Hoyt states that, “it is common to allow approximately six weeks to work through the entire design process, from the initial consult to final drawings for permits and construction. Many people like to take additional time between stages, and at any point throughout the process, to thoroughly digest the design and ensure it is exactly what they want.”
Budget – Budget and square-footage seem to drive design more than anything. Another initial question Hoyt likes to ask is, “how much space do you need to live comfortably? It is important to sort through your wants versus needs at this point to determine the parameters for the amount of space we will pursue. Cost per-square-foot is something we provide clients in this initial phase.”
Site Analysis – “Once the client has a property, the first thing we do is conduct a detailed site analysis. We determine the buildable areas of the site and look at elements of the property: sun orientation, wind, noise, neighbours and how the clients plan to use the space. Once we determine house location on the property, we can start to loosely see different rooms and space layout on the site.
“Trying to keep the drawings to a non-technical level, this stage is about how the house looks, how it feels, and how will it translate on the site. This is where we like to invest a lot of time. We work with three-dimensional models at this stage to help clients really understand what’s going on in the design.”
Communication tools – “The design process has evolved significantly in the last decade with vast improvements in digital presentation and software suites. Architecture originally started with two-dimensional drawings and sketches on paper that were not very interactive. With software, we can develop digitalized versions of the site characteristics such as specific contours and topography. Site features such as trees, rocks and outcroppings can all be considered in the evolution of a 3-D digital model.
The power of this model is the ability to look at the design from any angle and dissect all the different components. It allows for a greater understanding of what the designers are proposing to do. Both clients and designers have ideas and we have to find harmony to ensure our ideas are aligning; the software allows us to communicate exactly what our ideas are in an efficient way.”
“On that note, the classic paper output will never die. However, taking the it from a black and white, 2-D drawing to a 3-D colour drawing elevates the design to a new level of visual communication and allows us to send ideas digitally in pdf form. Taking snapshots of a model in any perspective and putting it into a pdf document is beneficial, especially when we are working with clients in other cities. In an ideal world, we would have clients in our boardroom to look at the plans from every angle. In-person consults allow us to narrow ideas more efficiently and toggle back and forth between idea comparisons. The end result is still a set of 2-D drawings on paper for the builder, but the software contributes to client confidence knowing we have explored every option without making it too onerous a process.”
Construction Documentation – “Once the final concept is in place, we move into the construction documentation phase of producing the technical drawings required to obtain building permits. In most cases, we recommend a contractor procure any building permits because they will be responsible for municipal inspections and requirements. The technical drawings are then handed off to the builder to move into the construction phase.”
Permits – Considering its 13 different municipalities, the Greater Victoria area is unique in terms of building permits. Each with their own unique set of rules and regulations, municipalities can make permits a complex situation for clients. However, Hoyt ensures that, “we will go in and investigate the property details for clients in order to get a sense of what is feasible and what is not. Our firm will provide the construction drawings in order for the client to get a building permit.”
Final Phase – “The designer will coordinate any sub-consults that need to be made, land surveyors or geotechnical engineers for example, and tie the plans into one comprehensive set of drawings for the builder. We will step back at this stage and the builder will become the point person as the clients move through the construction phase. We maintain an ongoing relationship with the builders and work as consultants throughout the construction process.”
Design in Context of a Neighbourhood – “We design custom homes to make a statement about each individual design with careful regard to context. New builds that complement established architectural themes enhance quality neighbourhoods and grow communities. As a hub for global architectural influences, Vancouver Island is an epicentre for exploring new trends in cutting edge modern and contemporary styles. With a unique respect for historical structures and classical architecture, Victoria’s designers play an important role in paying homage to our history while embracing a progressive west coast design aesthetic. With the right consideration for context, we can embrace these diverse styles moving forward.”