Frequently Asked Questions

Why hire an architect? My builder says he will do the design and permits for free.

A builder's interest and expertise are usually in construction, not design, and he will make most of his profit by carefully managing costs during construction and minimizing what is spent on "free" services. Although I have seen good quality work come from these "design-build" arrangements, I also hear from clients who did not completely understand what they were getting until the project was built—at which point it was, of course, too late.

What style do you work in?

Although I was trained in contemporary design, I am also comfortable with traditional styles such as Arts and Craft, Georgian and Victorian. Style is a conceptual framework and a set of rules for making design decisions. The concept might include trim details, materials and colours as well as space planning. I try to stay consistent with the style of the existing house or the client's preferred style, or any other set of rules we may agree on.

Do you also do interior design? How about interior decoration? Do you design kitchens?

The answer is "Yes" to all three questions.

Interior design is a key determinant of design in most of my projects. Interior design includes choosing trim systems, finish materials, ceiling treatments and cabinet profiles. It may also involve relocating or removing interior walls.

Interior decoration is the selection of colours and fabrics, window coverings, wood stain colours and furniture. Although I have opinions on all of these elements and would like to be included in the discussions, interior decorators really do earn their fee in developing a comprehensive colour and scheme.

Kitchen design is crucial to the proper functioning of a house and requires careful design consideration. I have designed many kitchens. I've also worked with kitchen manufacturers.

How do you get work?

Referrals! Most of my contacts come from previous clients, contractors and, occasionally, other architects.

How many employees do you have?

I work as a sole proprietor and occasionally hire other professionals as the workload requires. However, since my practice is based on providing personal service, I have found that my best work and my most satisfied clients are the result of my total involvement—from first meeting, through design and documentation, to construction.

How do we get started?

First, we meet to discuss your requirements. I then prepare accurate drawings of your existing building if it is to be altered, taking careful site measurements. After I've completed these drawings, I prepare some very quick design drawings showing alternatives for comparison. These quick designs "smoke out " the critical issues that need to be addressed in design development, such as budget, planning conflicts and priorities.

Will I need to go the Committee of Adjustment?

Some projects are contingent on a minor zoning variance, usually for an increase in density or a reduction in the sideyard setbacks. However, I can often find design alternatives that do not require a zoning variance.

All reasonable options should be explored before going to the Committee of Adjustment because there is always the possibility the committee will not approve your request. If this were to happen, all the effort, time and cost to develop a design and make the application would be wasted.

I have represented many clients at Committee, and usually the decisions have been favourable. If your immediate neighbours do not object and if the request is truly minor, there should be a positive outcome. If your neighbours object to your plans or the request is unusual for your neighbourhood, however, a meticulously researched presentation to the Committee becomes essential.

How long does it take to get a permit in the City of Toronto?

The short answer is that it depends on the nature of the project, and also which district you are in. A one-storey rear addition might take just a few hours to get a permit from the city, but larger projects might take two to eight to ten weeks. Different districts in the city offer very different levels of service, despite amalgamation.

How long will it take before we start building?

This varies depending on the scale of the project, the municipality and its approval process, the length of the design process and the contractor. For a typical medium-size project needing Committee of Adjustment approval, allow one full year from start of design to end of construction.

How much will the construction cost?

I provide updated construction budgets, based on a per square foot value that I feel is appropriate for the scale, scope and quality of your project. These are offered as a guideline only, and I try to be conservative in the estimate to minimize the possibility of surprises when the tenders are received. I track financial data for all my projects and keep job histories.

Do you have contractors that you work with?

Over the years I have established relationships of trust and respect with many contractors, and I recommend them to my clients. I do not have any business relationships with any contractors, trades or suppliers, and I do not get any finder fees or gifts for promoting any company. I am happy to work with contractors suggested by the client.

What about construction contracts?

I recommend that my clients sign a standard construction agreement called CCDC2 with the builder, rather than the builder's own unique contract. This contract has legal clarity and validity, and ensures that all parties have clearly articulated roles and responsibilities.

Do you stay involved through the construction stage?

The client can choose to retain an architect for full or partial services. My preference is to stay involved during the construction stage. My role during construction includes ensuring construction is to the standard in the contract documents, finding design and technical solutions to the inevitable site changes, and acting as arbitrator between contractor and client if disputes arise.

One service I provide during construction is the administration of payments to the contractor. Requests for payment by the contractor are usually made every second week. I monitor those payments to ensure that the contractor is not paid more than he has actually contributed to the project. I also ensure that the requirements of the Provincial Lien Legislation are applied.

Site design by Ben Lewis.