Bay Area For Sale Magazine
THE ARCHITECTURAL PROCESS
“ An Interview with Elizabeth Suzuki at Sutton Suzuki Architects.”
“We begin with floor plans only, to locate the building on the site, to explore orientation and layout (adjacency and size of areas). When these initial schemes are presented to the clients, they are accompanied by a rough construction estimate, so that clients can make sure that it's the project they want.”
THE ARCHITECTURAL PROCESS
Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation.
Ron Sutton and I established our firm in 1990 and we currently have a total of 13 people. We have a couple people who have worked for us almost that entire time. Our youngest employee is the daughter of a guy who worked for us for 20 years and retired a few years ago - we've known her since she was a baby.
What are some important questions to ask the architect before beginning the designing process?
Discuss a realistic construction budget as well as design and construction schedule. People may not want to hear this, but it will affect decisions made by the client. It's important to understand how the architect works, and the client's role in the process.
If you could, please list the steps of the general architectural design process:
BASIC ARCHITECTURAL SERVICES
Schematic Design Phase
Step 1: We begin with floor plans only, to locate the building on the site, to explore orientation and layout (adjacency and size of areas). When these initial schemes are presented to the clients, they are accompanied by a rough construction estimate, so that clients can make sure that it's the project they want. If changes are needed, they are easiest to make at the very beginning.
Step 2a: Based on the response to the scheme(s), the floor plans are revised for their review.
Step 2b: When the floor plan meets their approval, very schematic exterior elevations are prepared, for purposes of erecting a few preliminary story poles if desired. At this point, if deemed necessary, we could call on the adjacent neighbors in a casual manner to view the site from their vantage point.
Step 3a: Based on information gleaned from the visit with neighbors, the floor plans will be further developed as needed.
Step 3b: Based on approved floor plans the design of the exterior elevations will be finalized.
Design Development Phase
Based on approved Schematic Design/Design Review drawings, we review the major design elements and begin selecting materials and products, to assemble the palette for the House. Design of the interiors begins at this time, and runs concurrently with the construction documents phase. We will also develop basic concepts for the structural design, as well as mechanical and lighting systems.
Construction Documents Phase
Based on approved Design Development drawings, we prepare the construction documents consisting of drawings and specifications describing in detail the requirements for construction of the project. Regularly scheduled client meetings are helpful to break the project ? and decisions - up into manageable portions, always keeping an eye on the overall project. Consultants are included in the meetings as needed to keep the team on the same page and moving forward.
The thoroughness and level of detail in our construction documents is immensely valuable. Not only does it make accurate pricing possible but it leads to more efficient construction.
Bidding and Negotiation
As desired, we can assist with whatever method of pricing is preferred, including any review and clarifying that is necessary.
We coordinate and submit for the building permit. We visit the site at intervals appropriate to the stages of construction to become familiar with the progress and quality of the work, and are available to assist with any decisions that might arise.
How do you suggest clients prepare for this process?
It's very helpful for clients to have a collection of images of materials, furniture, color schemes, vignettes of rooms that give them a feeling they like. Anything that helps us visualize how they see themselves living. We won't try to recreate the exact image, but we want to evoke the same feelings that they get when they look at the images they collect. Obviously we discuss their existing home and what works or doesn't work for them.
What are some common issues you face when it comes to designing homes?
First we like to know that our client's expectations (budget and schedule, typically) are in tune with the project they have described.
We work very collaboratively with our clients, and want their home to feel like their home. The best way to get the most creativity from any designer is to give them parameters without dictating the final results.
What advice do you have for the homeowner during this strenuous process?
A sense of humor is helpful. But mostly they should not rush themselves, if they need more time to make decisions, especially during the initial design stages. The project evolves based on those early decisions, and making changes later is very costly in time and money.