Can I Sue My Architect if Zoning doesn't pass?

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My husband and I have been working on an addition on our house. We have the plans from an architect and were working with builder in the planning stage. The builder took all the setback from the property and worked on the plans for the addition with the architect. Unfortunately, the permits did not get passed due to some zoning restrictions (set backs from the property line). Now, we need to go to the zoning board (about $1K in costs). We paid quite a lot of money for the plans. Can I hold the architect liable for the cost of zoning? If we don't pass the zoning board can I hold my architect liable for the cost of projects done to prepare the house for the addition? Can I get the reimbursed for the cost of the drawings? My understanding is that the architect and builder should have known what the zoning issues were and planned according to that. Any ideas, links or advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks ...
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Personally, I don' think you give us enough information to offer advice (although lack of information has never prevented many members of this group from offering advice!)
A lot depends on what you hired the architect to do.... in other words, what does it say in your contract? When I design a home, building, addition, or whatever, my responsibilities normally include reviewing ALL legal issues related to the project. Typically we get an official copy of the property's plat from the county courthouse....which shows the property lines, easements, setbacks, etc. We also check with the published regulations. This usually includes maps that show what zoning requirements govern the property, including setbacks and lot coverage, maximum floor area, building height, etc. Here in San Antonio we usually have to investigate neighborhood districts and deed restrictions, etc. Only then are we ready to begin designing. In districts covered by historic conservation regulations we usually request preliminary board approval of the basic design before starting the working drawings. If we do all this well, there should never be a zoning problem unless it is a particularly complicated situation. The only time I ever needed to hire zoning consultants was for high-rise projects in New York City.
Of course.....the services I describe above are not cheap, and many clients prefer to buy a plan.
Now then....if your architect's contract called for him/her to be responsible for designing the addition with reference to the local zoning conditions, then it looks as if they dropped the ball and owe you the necessary revisions. However, if you bought plans from an architect...or from a non-architect.....and asked the builder to take care of the permit process, then the builder has the responsibility.
I hope this helps!
Christopher Egan Architect Egan/Martinez design San Antonio, Texas y Mexico City
www.egan-martinez.com
snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

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wrote: >> My husband and I have been working on an addition on our house. >> We have the plans from an architect and were working with builder in >> the planning stage. >> The builder took all the setback from the property and worked on the >> plans for the addition with the architect. >> Unfortunately, the permits did not get passed due to some zoning >> restrictions (set backs from the property line). >> Now, we need to go to the zoning board (about $1K in costs). >> We paid quite a lot of money for the plans. >> Can I hold the architect liable for the cost of zoning? >> If we don't pass the zoning board can I hold my architect liable for >> the cost of projects done to prepare the house for the addition? Can I >> get the reimbursed for the cost of the drawings? >> My understanding is that the architect and builder should have known >> what the zoning issues were and planned according to that. >> Any ideas, links or advice would be greatly appreciated. >> Thanks ... >
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Hmmmm....
P. Fritz wrote:

Hey....I've been so quiet recently that I had to include at least one dig in my reply, Paul!
Recently I've tried to keep my head down and focus on work. Someday you guys may learn about a medical adventure I seem to have survived this year.....but it's too soon and too recent.
Now I'm back to drawing!!
Christopher
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Hope things are well.....both personally and business wise........we are treading water in the weak Mich economy :-( thought we are chasing a 80k s.f. builind expansion......which would make for a good couple of years.

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snipped-for-privacy@egan-martinez.com wrote in

Is that a building pun ("dig")...?

That sounds unpleasant - hopefully all is now well.
I was looking at your website recently (a couple weeks back). I'd be interested in any new photos you get to upload :)
- Kris
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ya gotta wonder, what is the value of a plan for something that Shall Not be built...
-- R'zenboom
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Of course you can sue the architect - unless your contract says otherwise.

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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

I agree with Don & Christopher... but there may be other mitigating circumstances. For instance, did the zone regs. get changed between starting the process and applying for the permit? (I've had this happen) Did the architect and builder get bad information from a zoning official (I have had this happen more than once--and now I require the zoning official to put what they say down in writing. If they refuse, and they have, I let the client know that there are no guarantees and plan for the worst). Did the architect interpret the ordinance one way and the local building official a different way? Did the architect represent the plan from the beginning as one that would require a variance? Did you ask them for a design that resulted in one that would require a variance?
Yes, they should have known what the issues were prior to designing, but sometimes the story isn't as simple as you might see it to be.
The fair thing to do would ask the architect for a revised plan that meets the ordinances. If you were my client, I would be more than happy to provide you with such a design. You'll probably get further along with this request.
Just as a side note, I have one client who I've learned is a bit whacked. Apparently, he's called the zoning office several times to register complaints about his neighbors doing "illegal" things. He's the proverbial "boy who cried wolf." He then needed the zoning office to approve a variance on an addition. The zoning office has given him the worst run-around. After talking to some of his apparently more sane neighbors, I think the zoning office is just playing with him at this point. They are, um... "returning the favor" for his neighbors. Fortunately for me, the zoning office shenanigans have mostly squashed the project and I haven't done much more work on it.
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

One quick question... Are you sure you're working with a licensed architect (no offense to Don)? Up in our neck of the woods there are lots of "designers" running around who really don't have a clue (again, no offense to Don). I've been called several times to try and fix a mess some guy with a drafting table created. These designers are often not up on the current ordinances, don't ask the right questions and generally are not really qualified to do what they do. Most of the people who call me refer to their previous designer as their previous "architect" when the person was not really an architect (as defined by the State, which has taken it upon itself to define).
IF the person you're working with isn't an architect, but have passed themselves off as a licensed architect, then you certainly may have more leverage in getting the issue resolved.
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I'm just curious how it works. I realize that most architects (?all?) like to build what they design. What I don't know/understand is whether architects (perhaps opnes who concentrate more on the engineeringside of things?) ever work with designers (or visa versa, however one wishes to phrase it...)
Or would it be more like, designers and engineers?
There are a lot of specialties and, although it's fairly clear that plumbing and HVAC, for example, have to be subcontracted, some other things seems less defined.
I'm also curious about visualizations (OK, no surprise, since I've mentioned that I'd like to eventually get into doing that <g>!) But, do architects and/or designers work with 3D? I'm assuming not all architects and designers also do 3D - or am I mistaken? Does one have to be one, before one can be a visualization specialist?
Again, just looking for more understanding on how it all hangs together.
If there is a website that explains this (or more than one), URLs would be great.
Thanks in advance!
- Kris
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Soon as you get a commission in a state where you aren't licensed, you gotta find a local or not take the job. Well, or get licensed.
Colorado takes very few dollars and >ping< it's done. California has their own test and it can be real annoying. NCARB can make getting registered in other states more easy, I THINK; been a couple years since I looked at it.
And really, isn't having more than one partner in a firm collaboration?
I know this firm has done some collaborative works, but I am not familiar with the circumstances.

All the principals yell at each other while the interns draw the drawings then take them to the one guy in the office whose ego isn't enmeshed in it. He stamps them then the contractor makes the city submittal ;-)

From this tiny office - not much. Only one partner, one receptionist and one intern can even DO 3d. The partner will slap some thickness on some plines every rare now and then to have a look at something. Recently he had the intern build up something more proper with solids to help with visualization (mostly for the lighting guy) of a tricky interior. Sometimes the receptionist is lucky and gets to do a pretty exterior rendering. One for a sales pitch (you may remember that from earlier this year (we finally did get the job)) a couple for "Hi, won't this be cool? Give us money to build." and one for a city guy who can't read drawings.
That reminds me, I've got another "give us money" job that sorta needs to be done. One of these days. It's interesting, as it'll be my first "integrate to site photo" attempt.

Our senior partner doesn't even bother to do 2d. He owns a pencil and a straightedge. What's all this computer crap for? ... And in the end, he doesn't need it.

One? And architect? No, I don't think so.
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Oh, yeah, I forgot that it's 1 state, 1 license - no national license. Duh...

I don't know; I'd assume it'd depend upon how the labor is or isn't divided...

<LOL!>
Congrats :) !

Ah.
I know that CAD is the "big gun" for illustrating thins like plumbing and electrical systems, and can be used to generate 3D views - and 3D is better for realistic visualization but it is possible to lay out various systems, and show them in a "ghost" (i.e. semi-transparent) building.
I'm mainly wondering whether 3D visualization is actually useful. ((Personal angle is that, although I love modeling structures and just do it for that reason, maybe I ought to stick with using 3D to model, and generate plans for, my woodworking and hopefully (space permitting) stained glass projects, and concentrate on trying to peddle that sort of thing, as opposed to trying to break into doing visualisation for pay.))

Do you mean compositing...? ((I have 3D on the brain so I do tend to interpret everything in terms of that...))

Well, that's pretty cool tho'. Some architectural drawings IMO are art in and of themselves, and there's a real sense of the mind-to-hand connection, I supposed one could say "craft" but I do not mean craft in the sense of poorly-cut-out-magazine-designs of plywood piggies painted pink :p ... I mean in the senst of "handwork done with precision and excellence".

Smae here but I just wasn't positive.
Thanks for your input!
- Kris
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Only partly. The compositing part is straight forward Photoshopping. The hard part is camera matching and light matching.
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Oh, I'm thinking Compositing using 3D, as in, replicate the lighting in the photo, use it (the photo) as background/forground, with the modeled structure inserted into the photo, IOW the lighting on it melding with that of the photo.

Lighting *is* difficult. 3D cameras are mobile so that's not bad, but lighting can be a bear; you've got the "sun" complex of lights, the "sky" dome lights, shadow-coloring lights, ground reflection light, poss. other fill lights, and, when you go indoors for a view, floor and wall reflected light. Radiosity cane do a lot of the work but not always all. Bad lighting makes the best model look poor.
OTOH if it wasn't maddening, it wouldn't be any fun ;)
- Kris
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Well, here's my opinions & experience: I'm not an Architect (call me a designer or drafter, whichever fits your criteria). I've done work for Architects so I'll explain a little about how some of the projects were handled:
1. - A new concept restaurant - The Architect was hired but had a full time job that seriously limited his available time. The Architect also knows nothing about CAD (or computers in general). The Architect's abilities are great in project management and construction management but his design skills are average at best. He hired me to "help" him. Together we worked up schematic design sketches. Then I did all construction drawings (I'd draw it up and then he'd redline it as necessary). I also dealt with all day-to-day coordination (i.e. with Kitchen Equipment Supplier, Aquarium manufacturer, HVAC, Structural Engineer, Landlord, etc.). The Architect was only available for meetings only after 7pm so we would meet one or two evenings a week. During construction he did construction management, but this required very little since the GC is a personal friend and has lots of experience. A couple of issues or note did crop up though: A) The clients decided 2 weeks before submitting for permit to "flip" and "redesign" the entire layout which really screwed up my schedule. I ended up work ~120 hours in 2 weeks to get the plans ready for permit. B) The original aquarium manufacturer was fired. They said they could do it but once construction started they realized there was no way to get the damn thing into the building (we even considered temporarily removing the front windows and bringing it in through there but it wouldn't fit). The GC decided to make it on-site (picture a 50' long "S" shape) and so I plotted out full size drawings so that the welder could use it as a template.
2. - A free lance Architect occasionally calls me to help when he gets real busy. Typically I'm given a CAD file of the final Schematic (or maybe partially completed CDs) and I finish the CDs. Any changes or redlining by the Architect is then picked up by me.
3. - A free lance Architect does just sketching for a builder. Big remodeling/addition jobs where the builder finds color sketches help him sell the job. I draw up as-builts and take photos (sometimes I'll quick sketch the preliminary design). I send this to the Architect who draws up "presentation quality" color sketches. Once the builder has shown the homeowner these then I do construction drawings. Problem is, 80% of the time the finished CD's don't match the sketch (I can't tell you how many "headroom" issues come up from a sketch that just doesn't "work"). Once the HO sees the sketches though they tend to fall in love with THAT. Any slight change or deviation from the sketch inevitably cause grief.
I think the Architect-Designer relationship can work, but there needs to be clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Another issue is software compatibility. I did a project for an Architect who was using different software than me. If I use his software it costs him more because I'm slower, if I use mine, then anything he does potentially slows him down. My suggestion is to have a clearly define "hand-off" point that will minimize some of the software issues.
In #2 above you see that once I start it's all mine to finish (so software isn't really an issue). In #3 above it's mine from start to finish with the exception of the sketching so again, it works smoothly. If roles aren't clearly defined than you could be opening a can of worms.
You also mentioned 3D. I've done some 3D rendering of my projects. Some Architects use 3D software, most I know just do perspective sketches. 3D work can be somewhat time consuming (i.e. costly) so it's not warranted on all projects. If you're working on a screen porch addition than usually the budget can't afford a $1500 photo-realistic rendering. However, if you're doing an airport, then there is room in the design budget for 3D stills and video.
As a "non-Architect" I normally relish the jobs I do with an Architect. It gives me the chance to work with someone else who knows what they're doing. However, if my role was to only do as-builts and then hand it off I wouldn't be happy.
HTH,
Michael (LS)
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<<snipped>>

I actually love working with the "sketcher" Architect I mentioned. Years ago we worked together at a firm and our personalities work nicely together. The reason we work so well together has more to do with mutual respect than anything else. He values my input and I his. When I had off a project to him I'll typically include some sort of napkin rough design sketch and then he flushes out some of the details and makes it look real purty! When I start the CD's there's always issues/questions and we both bounce ideas off each other. Are approach differs quite a bit to the design and it allows us to look at things from two ways (he's a "design" guy while I'm more of a "how the hell will it work" & "is it in the budget" kind of guy). This allows us to push each other while also making sure we give the client something "doable".
Anyway, over the years I've learned a ton from him (and I like to think maybe he's learned a thing or two from me - at least I know he's learned CAD from me, he didn't know it at all when we first started working together).
So while a lot of people can be a real pain, if both parties share a mutual goal then it can be a joy to tag-team a project.
Michael (LS)
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[ snipped for bandwidth ] Well it sounds to me like you're a lot more than a designer-drafter, if you're also dealing with the various contractors...you seem to wear many hats, including 3D person. What caught me was this part:

Are you kidding? $1500 for a 3D render? That's a lot more than I'd assumed one would get.
It *can* be time-consuming but mainly if one has no system. To develop a system, I'd have to know what I'd be getting (?blueprints?) and practice with it a bit. IOW, if I received a black-and-white image/drawing/pront/copy/etc. floorplan, I could scan, save as 2D DXF, clean up the lines, import to 3D, and simply sweep, then open uo the windows as per the measurements, and so on. If I would just be getting perspective drawings or elevations, with no floorplan, I'd have to figure out how to do the insides.
So I'm trying to decide what to practice with; scan, import, and sweep I suppose, as opposed to subtracting out spaces.
But in any event, $1500 seems to me to be a lot...I guess it's charged by the job rather than by the hour, since the more expereinced one is, the faster one can work, and some of the 3D I've seen strikes me as being rather less then photorealistic.

Thanks for your input, it does help - all info is grist for the old Mental Mill and more insight is always good :)
- Kris
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I guess it depends upon a bunch of factors (project perameters, budget, needs, etc.). I did a copy of 3D renders last year for major residential remodel projects (budgets of $400k-$600k). While the construction drawings ran ~$5000 the 3D portion added another $1500. To clarify, these renderings included 4 views (still images) of a couple of different color schemes, no interiors were modeled or rendered and no motion renderings/movie/fly-bys. The quality level was photo-realistic (well, as close as I could get them) & detail level was moderately high (doorknobs, chamfered trim, shutter slats, etc. but did not include minor detailing such as flashing, window screens, client specific landscaping - they got what I chose).
Is that expensive? Depends. For the builder and homeowner it was money well spent. Being able to SEE what the finished project is going to look like and pick exterior finishes/colors prior to construction is potentially a big money saver.

Ideally you'd start with a CAD file. If you start with anything else the potential for error is higher. Also, you'll find that if you're just doing the 3D portion of a project you'll have a lot of question to ask/have answered because you're not involved in the rest of the project. Another thing to think about is who your client is and their needs. If your client is the Architect, then during the design phase a lot of changes will need to be made. If your client is a developer than you're rendering a finished design (therefor potentially less changes).
As a side note: I don't think a person that's great with 3D rendering necessarily means they'll do Architectural renderings great (though obviously they know the software well). Angles/views, lighting, "ambiance", materials, detail level, etc. is different for Architectural rendering than say mechanical renderings. Also, if the person doesn't know how to read a set of plans and spec book they're screwed.

Depends upon what you're looking at. The crap put out by Chief Architect or 3D home design is not worth much. SketchUp can give you reasonably good output vs. time spent but still isn't going to big the big $ renderings. The "pros" doing photo-realistic work are putting out some absolutely amazing stuff, and for that they get paid really well ($5000-$10,000/project for 3D rendering isn't that rare). But to get the big dollars you have to get the prime jobs and have the talent to do them really well. If you want to see the good stuff that people who do it for a living are putting out you should check out the Autodesk.Viz.Vizions group on Autodesk's server (especially look for stuff done by Fran. If you can match her ability to capture the "soul" of the space you'll get all the work you could ever want and can charge top dollar. Some other people's work to look at would be "CDI"-"Conceptual Design Studio" and "Fermi"-"F.Bertran", their work tends to be slightly less than phot-real but certainly presentation quality and they're kept constently busy). I've got a lot of bookmarked websites of people doing high quality work, if you'd like I could post some or you can just do a Google for architectural rendering sites.

HTH,
Michael (LS)
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[ snippage ]
I worte:

Well, I guess it *is* more work than I sometimes keep track of. ((And my thing is the details, I prefer that to using bump maps when possible.))

I wasn't thinking expensive for them - I was thinking more in terms of "hey, that's a good wage!" <G!>

Actually, that sounds pretty dynamic and potnatially interesting. ((I get bored quickly when things become rote.))

A lot of 3D (as opposed to CAD/CAM, which I assume is what you mean by "mechanical") emphasizes character modeling, and the tutorials etc. also emphasize that. I don't like doing character modeling. Even back when I was drawing by hand, I never bothered with trying to draw people. People are the little things you put into scenes of buildings to give a sense of scale and because people like seeing themselves so to speak, so they often prefer works that have people in them.
I haven't yet worked from a spec book or plans, that's the problem. How to practice doing that when you need to know it to get work, but you can't get work unless you know it (and where else would one get materials with which to practice). I did get Francis D.K.Ching's book about Architectural Illustration (plus his other books), be there are no examples of plans or specs.

OK, found it! Did a search and I'm looking at some of her work.
Now *THAT* is what I call 3D :) !!
I'm definitely not that good yet, to be sure, but I really (and I mean *really*) appreciate you sending me that info, because what she does is what I would like to be able do, so you've given me a good solid example of what I aspire to do, and someone to emulate.
Sometimes everyone needs some inspiration ;)

I will definitely look! Thanks =8-D !
If nothing else, I really do enjoy seeing that sort of work. When done well, I think it can be very artistic.

I've tried searches but a lot fo the results aren't the sort of quality I've been hoping to find (meaning, that makes me want to run to the computer, and sit down and practice until I get NumbBum). A few links would be a great favor, if you have the time, but the VIZ site is definitely a good place to start. I'm flipping back and forth between typing and looking, and some of the work is really beautiful!
Sorry this spiralled into being just about 3D - the other info you and the others have provided is also interesting and educational, and I appreciate all of the posts -
- Kris
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