ANDY THOMSON   architect

Process

As an expert-level user of the most advanced, 3D Building Information Modelling software on the market, I can deliver results in a fraction of the time that it would take with conventional, 2Dimensional (aka. “CAD”) approach. This single, immersive modelling tool allows for fully integrated site planning and 3D terrain modelling and laser-accurate base building input for renovations.  I actually laser measure your project and build a 3D model on the spot!  This provides you with photorealistic interior and exterior visualizations at the same time as creating detailed project documents for your building and construction permits, saving you time and money and allowing you to see what you are getting. Together we can make extensive changes and refinements on the fly, without incurring extensive fees. This results in better design, that is simply better tailored to your needs.

Instead of simply designing shoe-boxes – I can design you shoes!

Each toggle below describes steps that are unique to my approach.

  • 1. Pre-Design

    Your project is like a box, inside are all of your needs, goals, wishes and likes, clippings of favourite things, materials, other projects, photos of spaces and places that have impressed you, as well as documents that describe your property, site, zoning, and other information related to your project. At our Initial Design Meeting, we will start to unpack all of these contents, carefully examining them, and we will determine an approach that will fit your timeline. If there is anything that is missing, a site-plan, a property survey, a geotechnical report, we can help you to track down exactly what you will need to advance to the next step, whether that means helping you evaluate a few different buildings or properties or providing measured drawings of your base-building. We will also explore the project’s program – the sequence and relationships of the various proposed spaces, the project budget, and all assumptions that may impact the look, durability and overall quality of the design, including project delivery (the type of construction contract) and administrative options.

  • 2. Basic (Schematic) Design

    Next we will sort the contents outlined above, into discrete groups. We will fill in the missing pieces, and determine what belongs in the project and what does not. Here we will also develop organizing principles for the project and an overall design approach. For example, let’s say you are an art collector, you will want a design to feature and protect your collection. Or perhaps your site has a number of incredible views that you want to capitalize on, or you’re a business that has a specific impression you want to create for your customers – we will prioritize these items together, and this makes the next step so much easier. 

    Now we will take all of the essential contents we’ve identified together, and create space plans or, on larger projects, bubble diagrams that will help you see these elements organized into a kind of nascent architectural form within the constraints of your site, zoning, budget and other defining elements. Just as there is a smart way to pack a bag of groceries, or load a suitcase, or even to compress data, there is a smart way to organize architectural space, which helps improve usability and actually lower overall construction cost and consolidate space requirements. We will refine the unique elements of your architectural program (i.e. building massing, rooms and areas) while finding ways to optimize your building on its site taking advantage of natural assets such as the sun, prevailing winds, orientation, views and topography.

    We will arrive at the overall shape of the building, and for some projects, such as renovations, dormitories, utility buildings, generic tenant improvements and simple cottages, this may be all that is required for advancing to construction documents and a construction permit application.

  • 3. Premium Design (Design Development)

    For premium residential, heritage or commercial projects, we include the Premium, or Design Development Phase, where we will continue to refine the design, and explore additional materials, assemblies, and details of the interiors and exteriors that will result in a more tightly integrated project where all elements of the design are in harmony with one another. For projects that seek to go beyond the ‘builder special’ set of materials, assemblies and details, found at the local lumber yard and specified on conventional or tract homes, Premium Design results in a more substantial set of construction documents, including schedules for every aspect of the design, from stairs, to doors and windows, casework and trim, finishes and fixtures, electrical fixture locations and schematics, detailed ceiling design (Reflected Ceiling plans), interior elevations and millwork elevations. These comprehensive plans and 3D drawings will not only make pricing and construction of the project much easier for the General Contractor, but they will also allow the owner to visualize their project, and to hold trades and sub-trades to account for the details shown. Several rounds of design exploration are typical to this level of design, and so multiple and updated floor plans, sections, elevations will result, until we have met your complete satisfaction.

    Your spaces now form discrete rooms, adjacencies and circulation with unique expressions of materials, light and views that result in an architecture that is often referred to as ‘form follows function’.  What is unique to my practice is an approach whereby redundant spaces are distilled or condensed, circulation spaces are shared through rooms, and rooms can take on multiple functions, such as where a bedroom can become an upstairs library and lounge with the use of clever, built-in ‘swiss-army-knife’ furniture solutions. This can reduce excessive square footage and redundant cost while increasing functional space (ie. fewer hallways, more liveable and open rooms).  We’ll explore this developing architecture in the computer, and as your 3D Model takes shape, plans, sections and elevations flow from the creation of your 3D digital model. We will explore every opportunity to align and rationalize interiors and exteriors, as well as direct and coordinate all of the mechanical, electrical and other service requirements to create an expansive architecture that brings the outside in and vice versa. An efficient layout creates a greater feeling of spaciousness, while a rationalized structure and geometry reduces gross building costs and improves thermal and construction efficiency. 

  • 4. The Construction Document Phase

    The goal of this phase is to complete and fully coordinate your architectural design with the information provided by other consultants to the point where it can be completely documented, and handed over to the builder to realize. Traditionally, architects allotted a large percentage of their fee to this phase, but as we design in 3D in the computer (BIM = Building Integrated Modelling) from day one, our drawings are created at the same time as we design the building, allowing us more time to explore design options early on. Ultimately, this also lets us discover potential conflicts and problems long before they make it to construction, giving us more time to coordinate and improve upon the design before it moves to construction, rather than ‘putting out fires’ during the construction process. It’s always better to be ‘proactive’ than ‘reactive’.

  • 5. Permits & Approvals

    Constructing safe, sound, thermally efficient buildings that conform to all required regulations and bylaws is fundamental, but codes and bylaws are complex documents, open to varying interpretation, with no one-size-fits-all solution. We will guide you through all of the options pertaining to how to best comply with the building code, zoning bylaws and any other special required permits, while achieving your project’s stated goals. As an architect with energy modelling expertise, I can help you achieve SB10/SB12 compliance by following the prescribed or performance paths, and having updated the new barrier-free standards for larger firms, I can also guide your commercial project through the most current requirements of the 2016 OBC. While the building permit is issued closer to the end of the design process, you can rest assured that I have anticipated all that will be required for this application from the first draft design. With every project, I will complete a comprehensive building code review and summary ‘OBC Matrix’ document, a project summary in table format that will help building officials read all information that is pertinent to the application, complete with construction assemblies and construction notes will reference the OBC assemblies for Sound Transmission Class and Fire Ratings, where relevant, and highlight best practices that go beyond code requirements. I will develop professional relationships with building officials on your behalf, and deal with any conflicts in code interpretation tactfully. On complex projects, or as needed, we can also recommend the services of an excellent building code consultant.

  • 6. Tender or Bid Phase

    Here is where we can help shepherd your project through the applications required by municipalities and governing bodies for the construction of your project. This is also the stage where we will determine the nature of your project delivery. Will you have multiple contractors bid on the job?  Or will you select a favourite by an interview process? We will guide you through the pros and cons of each approach, and get you all of the documentation you and your contractor will need to deliver the project to completion, including Contract Administration (CA) services during the construction phase. During construction, we will review progress, stand ready to answer all questions, and provide additional information as required. At the completion of your project, the essential elements of your project’s process will be used to create a project book that you can keep for your records.

    Tendering a contract for construction to multiple parties can often be the best way to arrive at a competitive price for a given project. When contractors are aware that others are bidding for the same work, whether in an open (public) or closed  (invited) tender context, the owner can expect not only competitive bids, but a range of prices that will validate the architect’s own pricing estimates. This process can be daunting for an owner to undertake on their own, as the process must follow a prescribed path, there are legal obligations and responsibilities to consider when tendering, reviewing, and awarding a contract. The architect can issue the same tender documents to all bidding parties, establish the conditions for bids, respond to questions from bidders in a manner that is fair to all, and help the client to award the contract not solely on price, but on any criteria that have been identified from the outset. I can help explain a number of additional project delivery options, from design-build, to sole-source, depending on the priorities of your project, such as timing, budget, or quality desired. On complex projects, or as required, we can recommend the services of a Quantity Surveyor that can assist to prepare construction cost estimates, or help to evaluate a contractor’s bid.

  • 7. The Construction Phase

    Construction Administration services are often not well understood (by less experienced owners) until construction is in full swing, so before ruling these services out as a perceived ‘extra cost’ – we are happy to explain how CA services can actually limit costs and conflict, and keep projects running smoothly. The architect, working always in your best interest, will negotiate through unforeseen circumstances encountered during the build, as well as to provide information as required by the builder, and to help to limit change orders and/or maximize credits as they may arise. If we can help you to achieve even a modest 0.5% savings in construction costs, whether by preventing cost escalations or extras, preventing unilateral substitutions, limiting change-orders or their value, or by providing credits, this would cover the Architect’s Construction Administration component fee.  Surely the value of pro-active planning and extensive contract documentation should not be underestimated.

    Whether you opt for CA services or not, The OBC requires General Review by the Architect and Consultants during construction.  General Review aims to evaluate compliance with code requirements as well as the contractor’s execution of the building as designed. The OAA, our governing body, recommends monthly visits during construction.  Additional visits or services during this phase of the project will be charged extra at $580.00 per visit.  We will always stand ready to respond to questions from your General Contractor, during pricing and construction at our proposed hourly rate.

  • 8. Premium & Additional Services

    Additional services such as Interior Design, Millwork Design, Architectural Landscape Design (non-floral), Graphic, Signage, laser scanning, thermal scanning, spatial scanning or detailed code or energy analysis can be added as required. Administration and Disbursement charges are found subsequent to this final category and they will vary with project complexity and duration.