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.
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!
San Antonio, Texas y Mexico City
>> 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 ...
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!!
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Thanks in advance!
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.
Oh, yeah, I forgot that it's 1 state, 1 license - no national license.
I don't know; I'd assume it'd depend upon how the labor is or isn't
Congrats :) !
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!
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 ;)
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
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
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
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.
[ 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 :)
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.
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!>
[ self snip ]
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
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 -
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