Q: “I’m planning to purchase a property in Saratoga, CA and build a new house. What is the process from design through construction?”
A: When you’ve chosen a property and have decided to build a new home, first interview several architects. You will want an architect that will help you through the entire process. To find an architect, a good place to start is at the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects. (www.aiascv.org).
Once the architect is hired, he or she will usually visit the property and take note of topography, soil conditions, microclimate, solar orientation and any other unique features at the site. The architect will also let you know if you need to hire any consultants to do soil testing or topography surveys before a design can be created.
The design process begins after you and your architect have discussed your requirements for a home. Your architect will ask you questions relating to your lifestyle that will help to customize the design of your home to your needs. This list of criteria for the design of the home is often called the “program.” Once this program has been developed your architect will put together a design for the home either on paper or computer and you will meet to review it and discuss this design.
Once you and your architect have agreed that the design of the home is complete, you need to determine if your city requires a design review through the Planning Department. In Saratoga, any new home requires a review and some remodels do not. Your architect will put together a design package for the city to review and approve.
When the city has approved the design, the next stage is to create the drawings and specifications for construction of your new home. These documents will be the instruction manual for the builder and are called the construction documents. The construction documents are submitted to the Building Department and are reviewed for code and regulation compliance. When the review is complete, a building permit can be obtained and construction can begin.
During the time that you are waiting for approvals from the city, you can get bids from contractors to build your new home. Your architect can help you find qualified builders and can help you make sense of the bids as they are received.
Construction begins with demolition and/or site preparation. The builder will set up a schedule of construction and payments with you. If you choose, your architect can review submittals from the builder and can make periodic visits to the construction site to help you keep abreast of the progress and answer any questions that may have arisen. Remember that a custom home is essentially a prototype, something that’s never been created before. Because of this, issues that may not have originally been anticipated will arise and your architect should be able to address them to prevent delays in the project.
When the home is nearly done, your architect will walk through the home with you and put together a “punch list” of items that still require completion and deliver this list to the builder.
At this stage your home is completed and ready for you to enjoy.