Alright, I figured I had a choice between Googleing or Usenetting first,
and you guys seemed to be a better place to ask for help. I didn't
think dealing with building inspector requirements is a easily reachable
topic on google, and I haven't advanced this far into my studies yet.
In other words, I'm about 2" from being in over my head in the first
thing I'm doing in the "real world". This is my rationalization behind
not following #'s 2 and 9 on the FAQ as posted by Don on the 12th of June.
So, imagine a small (38'6" x 20') single story lakeside cabin made of
CMUs. Now, I want to add a light wood frame second story to said cabin.
I've been finding out what the building inspectors want by
trial-and-error (highly inefficient, I know). So, after finally getting
a clear idea of what he wants, I've some questions that haven't been
answered enough in classes I've taken so far:
~ Best way to secure the second story to the load bearing first story
walls? Both "Building Construction Illustrated", 3rd ed by Ching and
"Fundamentals of Building Construction", 4th ed by Allen, don't really
answer my questions to my satisfaction. For connecting wood platform
floors to masonry walls, it's just that- the walls are masonry
top-to-bottom. Nothing for this specific situation. Best way I can
deduce from both books is to pretend the second story is sitting on a
foundation wall, and for that I'd attach a 2x8 sill plate to the tops of
the CMU walls of the first story, and attach the floor joists to that,
and the walls to the floor. However, that just seems a little...
"Polish" to me. Is there a better way?
~ How in blazes would I estimate the weight of said addition? I've
tables in my textbooks on what structure is needed for a given estimated
weight I need to support, but I don't know how to estimate said weight.
~ Where and how would I go about specifying specific parts? For example:
windows. Would I, for example, simply just go to the Anderson window
company website and use model numbers and such from there? Or is there
a central clearing house for said information? Or do I just say the
generic type of window (such as type, glass type, and opening
dimentions) and let the contractor figure it out?
If you've any other pointers that might help out, I'd appreciate it.
I'd ask my professors, but they're busy partying with, er... "teaching"
the grad students in Rome right now.
Right there I'd worry that requirements for a wall which has dirt on both
sides almost to the top are different than for a wall which has air on both
The framing I'm told we use out here most often is pretty much just that.
Except the ground floor is a timber frame.
You might want a code book and a Simpson catalog.
Start at the middle. Take a rectangular slice out to the edge. Add up the
elments in the slice. Multiply by slices count (perimeter feets).
I believe (Hey, I'm only a receptionist) that is an option. Put a number at
each window (in a distinct geometric shape, say a hexagon m'be) to indicate
window type. Then put a table up showing each window type, manufacturer,
model and dimensions. Oh, and finish and other options as needed.
You may be able to cruise Sweets to pick and chose (in my limited
experience, emphasis on "may") and then you'll probably end up going to the
mfr. web site.
This is a nice way to let the contractor find some squeeze space in their
bid. And end up w/ windows that aren't as nice/expensive as you might
Another victim of the present architecture school, Matthew Erickson wrote:
For dealing with a building inspector, the best place to start is to
google the local government for the locality that you're building in.
Then go into their building department and try to find out what building
codes they use. Chances are for your project it'll be the International
Residential Code (I'm guessing). There will also probably be local
amendments to it.
The code and amendments should be in your university's library. If not
or if you want to own them, you can buy them at Amazon; they cost about
what a textbook for one of your courses costs. You'll want to
familiarize yourself with them and get an understanding of them.
Most of what the inspector is calling you on is in some way from the
applicable codes (though often, in my limited experience dealing with
these matters, based on an overly strick reading of the code and a
limited review of the plans you gave him). By having a familiarity with
the codes you should be able to avoid going back and forth ad-infinitum
with the inspector.
"Building Construction Illustrated" and "Fundamentals of Building
Construction" are great books for a first or second year architecture
student. But sooner or later you'll want to get your hands on a Wiley
Associates "Architectural Graphic Standards". They're EXPENSIVE, and
your library will have a copy of it but keep it locked away in the
reference section no doubt, but as a resource it's invaluable. It'll
have the connection you need, and if it doesn't, it'll have something
close enough for you to alter some and use.
Well, there are rules and such for this sort of thing, and when I start
to study for the structures portion of the ARE I'll hopefully
temporarily know them. But really, most of us in the profession will
simply draw something we think is about right, then call a consulting
engineer to give us exact beam sizes to use.
I'd say go talk to whomever it is who teaches structures in your school,
and get them to help you with it. If you have an engineering school,
you might hit up some student or professor there for help.
Sweets Catalogue is online. http://sweets.construction.com/
Sweets is a catalogue of every imaginable construction product that
you'd ever need to specify in a building. Once you've gone through
what's in there, and picked a product you want to use, call the local
rep for it (or their central office). They'll have technical people to
help you specify the right thing for use in your building. (Specifying
products can be a huge pain in the ass, and you'll be very well served
by having them help you)
Depending on how you build, you may be urged by a contractor to change
the product you've speced to something else. Be very careful with doing
so, and always make it evident to whomever made the suggestion that the
new product must meet or exceed the performance specs of the one you chose.
I hear you. And truthfully, if they're anything like the faculty where
I went, they wouldn't be able to answer most of your questions anyway.
You're doing something I never did as a grad student, though. You're
taking it unto yourself to do some real building. However the faculty
might brush it off, remember that you're doing the right thing.
Already had to fish out the codes from Uni's library to prove to my TA
that I could use an elevator as an accessible egress method if
sufficiently bulletproofed. However my Uni is about a two hour drive
from me, so it's a bit of a hike.
My local library has one set of encyclopedias, an atlas, and a
dictionary in their refrence section, thus I'll need to roam about to
see if someone in the area has one. My University has one, but see
above problem about that.
I'll try some of the faculty I haven't met yet. Hopefully I won't make
an ass of myself before I actually get to enjoy their presence in class.
I attend UIUC, so the School of Architecture, which is in the same
college as Music, Pottery, and Basket Weaving, doesn't really talk that
much to the College of Engineering.
My last two studio professors (one each for structures and design) were
both "Real Architects" who practice in the real world outside of studio
on a regular basis, and incorporate that into their classes. It's just
that they can get to their email at best once a week, and I don't have
the time to communicate that slowly with this project.
I guess you haven't had Professional Practice yet, or you slept through the
part about not undertaking work you're not competent to perform.
You don't know dick, and you're a hazard to the public. Stop what you're
working on, refund the client's money, and apologize.
Are you sure the local building department accepts residential plans
without an architect's seal? If so, who's sealing the plans? Will they
review your work and redline it?
Building departments will usually have a checklist of what they require
on plans. That is where you need to start first.
If an architect's seal isn't required, be careful even so. Though it's
only a cabin, some general questions you should consider:
plumbing fixture count and sanitary plumbing requirements, detailing of
wood framing at exterior walls, around doors/windows, detailing of roof
framing, detailing of roofing, flashing, any mechanical units,
electrical requirements, additions to electrical service, outlet
spacing, basic structural calcs to verify floor loads, joist spans and
spacing, adequate framing, nailing requirements, etc.
I'd be very careful about this; you could burn yourself by getting in
way over your head, risk the client's ire, and that of the state board
for operating without a license, or worse.
Matthew Erickson wrote:
I suggest (and have others) that you have a serious think about what
you are getting into here. I'm sure that most of us have been in the
same situation once.
If you are going to proceed with this project then avoid disappointment
and ring your lawyer now so that they can start your defence.......
Understood, and you raised valid points that I didn't even think about
(I don't know that I don't know...). I did, however, know that I was
about 2" from being in over my head to begin with. I /did/ tell the
client, who's been trying to rush this through, that I need the full set
of codes for the place (already contacted City Hall to find out what
they use, just the International and MI codes, nothing too phunky), and
was already looking into other requirements. And I'm making my honest
appraisal of if I can actually accomplish this (not in the architect's
seal sense, but in the "Can I do this and not fear for anybody's life
when it's done?" sense) next week, after I've had a couple of days to
get away from it. If I can't, I won't. That simple.
I'm an architecture student entering my 3rd year of undergraduate
studies. I have only had one structures course upto this point. I
refuse to call myself a bona-fide architect. I acknowledge that I am a
legal liability to myself. I understand that if I fsk up a design that
gets built, people may die. I feel confident that with enough time, I
can teach myself the mechanics that I need to get said project done with
me being able to sleep at night with two above major issues I have,
especially with an architect to redline drawings for me.
However, said client is pressing me for time, and I get the impression
that I'm being tapped to "just get it done" as opposed to "get it done
right". She also is my contact with the building inspector, and
apparently was attempting to set up some sort of deal with him involving
a state senator or something. I just thought to myself "oooook" when
all I thought she needed was just some rough plans of what she wanted
for the upstairs, and she'd have her contractor figure out how to do
something similar to that. Now, it turns out that I will be producing a
full set of documents, with calculations and other fun stuff I was under
the impression that the contractor would do. "A general idea, like a
sketch" has turned into "senior design project" right under my feet.
I have no architect to redline stuff save for you fine men and women of
this newsgroup. I'm pressed for time, and have a nearly full-time job
working at a park district on the side. As brudgers so kindly put it, I
don't know dick.
Especially after pondering the above, the only thing that keeps me from
out-and-out saying "no" is that I want to see if I can know dick...
wait, that just sounds wrong. I want to see if I can accomplish this
without being a hazard to myself and others if I complete said project.
In otherwords, it's a great learning experience if I can pull it off.
Alright, during the course of writing this long-ass message, I have Come
To A Decision.
I will make an ultimatium on my client:
~ An engineer must look at the foundation and walls of the house to see
if it can support a second story.
~She must find out if the city requires architect's seals on plans.
~She needs to obtain me a copy of the MI state codes if I cannot google
~She must give me more time. An extra month would do me right. If I'm
gonna do it, I'm gonna take the time to do it right.
I won't even consider continuing this project if she cannot respond to
above demands on my part to my satisfaction.
And I do realize that if I'm gonna do this project, I need an architect
who can redline my drawings and otherwise offer knowledge for me to
leech off of. If I decide that I can indeed handle this, can anybody
here offer some time to look at CAD drawings and such? Of course, I
won't mention said person more specificaly than "A real architect who
helped me" so if I fsk up, I don't make others look bad- "This idiocy is
mine. There are many others like it, but this one is mine." Only thing
worse than fsking up myself is fsking up others.
Thanks for everything all of you have already given,
FWIW, I'd have walked right at that point -- there's something
fishy going on, and guess who's going to carry the can if it all goes
(Hint: it's not going to be her, nor her building inspector, nor the
Definitely walk away. Don't insult the client, but just tell her that
(a) you know you're not ready yet for that level of project
responsibility; (b) she needs someone who's better-versed in the
building regs and who's done something similar before; and (c) you'd
be happy to work with whatever registered professionals she hires for
Also, *don't* let her act as your contact with the building inspector,
and don't rely on someone else -- particularly a client -- to supply
and interpret the regs for you. (You have no way of knowing how
reliable her interpretation is going to be, or whether you're being
spun a line.) You sound very level-headed, and you're right to be wary
To those of us who've been round the circuit a few times, what you
describe smells: it definitely sounds like you're being set up to
achieve a quick-n-dirty job for the client, and you'll unquestionably
be the fall guy if -- or it sounds like when -- the proverbial hits the
air circulation system.
My tuppence, anyway: it sounds like the client in this case needs a
shill way more than you need to work as one.
Architectural and topographical historian
You're onto something here. If I were in your position, I'd give the
client a well written letter stating in simple terms exactly what you
said above - that you had initially understood this project was going to
be a ""A general idea, like a sketch;" now the project has become to
produce a full set of architectural drawings and manage the construction
of the project, which you (your office if you want) is not equipped to
handle. You should research immediately whether or not the drawings
require a registered architects' seal and signature. If they do require
it, you can use that to your advantage - tell the client that not only
would you not feel comfortable doing it, you'd be party to a crime doing
it, and therefor refuse. If they don't require architects seals on the
drawings, then you ask for a HUGE add services fee plus reimbursables
Chances are when hit with the add services fee, your client will say
"no, I can't afford that, I'll find someone else" Then you're off the
hook. If she says "I need this done now, so here's your money" you can
afford to purchase the codes, a copy of the Architectural Graphic
Standards, and (most of all) use the reimbursables to hire an engineer
and/or a registered architect to help you out.
(I've gotten rid of projects I didn't want or projects for clients
who've burned me before by quoting fees I know they won't want to pay).
If it makes things any better, I went to the dentist this afternoon, and
literally at the moment they start drilling in my mouth I get a call
from a contractor asking me to approve a substitution request for door
hardware, sight unseen, right away, in order to meet the buildings'
grand opening less than 3 weeks away. And this was after the AM, when I
discovered that the lady we had handling a master set of CDs on a
$70mil. project flat out wasn't doing it for the last 3 months - meaning
it's on my shoulders to deal with that as well.
Life of an architect.... Love it or leave it.
Thank God for 3 day weekends.
You must find out if the seal is required on your own. Do NOT ask the
client. They have no particular interest in your (future) career,
whereas you do. Call the building department yourself and ask the
shows a seal may not be required, but you would do well to do the
Apart from that, I would abandon the project anyway. From what you
describe, you are probably getting into real trouble. Do not proceed
any further. Refuse the job. Better to risk her ire now than later.
Tell her flat out you are not competent to do the job.
There is a reason why there is 5 years of school and 3 years of
internship to become a professional architect. If you really want to
learn, read up on L.B. Alberti's 10 Books on Architecture. It's as good
a starting point as any.
I haven't heard from the client, but I've been stewing over this all
day, and have decided to nix the project.
To start, I want to thank everyone who helped me since I asked for
assistance, both with regards to construction, and with regards to my
I know my client came to me because she wanted to cut corners. I didn't
fully realize just how deep she wanted said corners cut until further
in, and views the building inspector as an added inconvience to be delt
with as cheaply and quickly as possible. As I don't know anything about
the real world, as many of you have pointed out, some eloquently, some
not, the allure of this project to me was being able to learn about this
real world, though I knew that I ran too much of a risk of learning too
much about our legal system first-hand.
I figure that I could still learn a lot, while not jumping out of the
freezer and into the fire by still working on this on my off-time, but
not handing this to anyone as "completed plans" or whatever- not the
ex-client, not the inspector, nobody. The project never sees the light
of day, but gets worked on just to see if I can do it for myself. I
found a copy of Architectural Graphic Standards and the building codes
applicable to Cook County, IL at my local library that I'll run with
(why design for MI if this project will only be built on my computer
Anyone here want to help me in /that/ respect? If anyone here is
interested, I can send you more detail about the project and my so-far
completed ACAD drawings if you'd want to see what I've been (un)able to
Don't worry too much about it. Pick up, and move on. I'd ditch the
project and leave it at that. You've had a very educational experience
already. You're light-years ahead of where I was at the end of my 2nd
year of architecture school.
What I would suggest is to find work with a registered architect in your
area. One of those professors you were talking about who were
practicing maybe? At your stage you may be able to count your work
experience towards IDP and licensure - it never hurts to get that stuff
going early. But moreover, you'll be able to learn there how to deal
with building codes, inspectors, how to detail buildings, how to get
projects, etc. etc. while being insulated from clients and their ire.
In fact, chances are you'll learn more there than you ever will in
school - sad but true, though hopefully (I pray) that will change when
people of my generation who are interns today become deans of
Good luck with everything.
A good, level-headed decision. (Sorry, Don!)
(It could even be that before trying the route of corner-cutting
through you, the client's already sounded out some licensed architects
and received a "no thanks" from them.)
Architectural and topographical historian
No question -- it's not *necessarily* a bad thing, but it certainly
could be -- it's a judgement call, and has to be made on a case-by-case
basis, on the grounds of what you know and what you've done.
You've been around long enough and seen enough jobs through that your
radar will let you see the pitfalls *before* they happen. (I'd be a
bit suprised if your antennae didn't twitch a bit when the client
doesn't want you to deal with the building inspector and mentions about
getting approvals through a state senator she knows....)
Your ability to foresee trouble before things go pear-shaped and the
ability of a still-at-school arch student to do the same are in a
different league. What was described sounded potentially fishy to me:
the client sounds like one of those that may (not for sure, but may)
have to be watched closely by someone with more on-hands project
experience than a second-going-on-third year student has.
Yabbut: you're entirely capable of doing and controlling that job. If
you were being pushed towards doing something you figured *isn't*
within your area of competence, saying "no" isn't bailing in my books;
It's a judgement call, and I think he made the right judgement for him,
at this stage of his learning curves.
Architectural and topographical historian
I am and have been frustrated by architecture education. It wasn't
until I started working in a firm during the summer between my second
and third years that I was struck by the tremendous divide between what
is taught in school and what architects need to know in order to
function in the profession.
Matthew Erickson has just learned the same thing, in my view. The
difference is that he learned it the hard way by facing a project he
couldn't complete, with no 'safety net' as it were; whereas I learned it
in the more 'gentle' environment of an architects office, where my
bosses were more than happy to give me some help if I got into a
position where I had no idea what I was doing. Granted, the professors
should be the ones to give help to students who have no idea what
they're doing - they garner pay checks to teach after all - but too
often architecture professors say 'oh, well don't worry about that, read
this article by Roland Barthes instead".
Now, 2 years after completing my education, I've begun to appreciate the
interest one might have in the architecture theory taught by the
schools. It's fun, after all. It can be a nice diversion from the real
world. Maybe someday I'll be in a position to apply it to buildings I'm
designing. But not for a long time, and before I do I'll need to know
many other things. Which returns me to the question I've had all along
- why are the architecture schools concentrating so much on only one
small aspect of the profession?
This is the crux of the problem. To console myself I like to hope that
in 20 or 30 years, when today's students and interns are professors and
professionals, architecture schools are due for some huge changes.
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