Real Estate

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Creating great projects

Whether large or small, traditional or contemporary, residential or commercial, there are common factors to evaluate great projects. Building codes address life and safety. LEED and "Build it Green" suggest a strategy for sustainability and energy efficiency. These are part of the groundwork for great projects, but how are they really created?

They all start with a Plan.

A Plan begins with broad goals for your project, such as:

* We wish to accommodate a growing family.

* We would like to stay in our house as long as possible (aging in place).

* Our long-term goals are uncertain, and we may need to move in a few years.

* We would like to build a new house for ourselves.

Each of these goals is helpful for creating a Plan.

Many people are starting to work on their homes again. Some are updating inefficient older homes; some may be adding a room and others may wish to build a new home with the efficiencies of new construction.

There are a variety of ways to proceed. I have surveyed and interviewed many builders, architects and homeowners with this question in mind. I have also presented panels to discuss this subject over the last few years -- "Interior Designers and Contractors" and most recently, "Architects and Builders." The following are the highlights of agreement about steps that help guide great projects.

Step 1

Clients should create a list of goals, including their timeframe and their budget.

A reasonable timeframe is very important. A major remodel completed in the most efficient way requires that your home becomes a "job site." Finding short-term housing elsewhere speeds up the construction process. Adding a bathroom can be accomplished while homeowners are still living in their home, but many of the same subcontractors are used as on larger projects. Framers, drywall, electricians, plumbers, tile layers and painters are good examples. The sequence of these different trades is important.

An open discussion about an appropriate budget is vital. This allows the team to design your project in the most cost-effective way to maximize your budget. It is more efficient than having to redesign later. Creating a portfolio of ideas and a list of priorities can assist the team to help evaluate the budget. As an interior designer, my practice is to show a client a range of products in different price ranges to help them evaluate their style and assist in creating a budget.

Asking a builder to bid on a project without identifying at least most of the elements is unrealistic.

For clients with short-term plans we develop a punch list of priorities and assessment of each, based on time to complete and cost. Obviously, items that are broken or needing repair are first on the list. Fresh coats of paint, upgrading lighting and hardware might be all that is needed.

Step 2

Create a Plan and select a team.

The team should include an architect, interior designer and an experienced contractor. If desired, include a specialist in home audio/video integration and a landscape architect. The benefit of identifying each of these professionals at the beginning is to create a well-thought-out Plan, one that will allow the job to be well defined and efficiently constructed. Pre-planning is the key to accurate bidding and satisfying goals.

Architects are highly trained, creative people who visualize structural spaces and who enable a project to meet the planning, zoning and building codes applicable to the project. Interior designers concentrate on functional space planning and interior styles and details.

This may include cabinetry, lighting, flooring, wall treatments and colors, window coverings, details of stairs, moldings and doors. Interior designers personalize living and working spaces, and keep details on track by prioritizing interior choices, and providing the contractor with timely client decisions. Home entertainment and energy efficiency can be designed and coordinated with audio/video specialists.

Step 3

Create a realistic schedule and share it with all team members.

Early on, everyone seems to be in a rush to get started. Creating a realistic schedule, and sharing it with all the team members, will make the job more efficient. Staying on the Plan schedule is each professional's responsibility.

Step 4

Regular client and team meetings must address current problems.

All projects have challenges. Solve them with collaboration, not letting pride or blame derail the solution.

Step 5

Finishing a project is both a time of stress and joy.

Often, many people are trying to work in the same place to finish their " punch lists" of items. This can be the final test of collaboration, as well as the culmination of meeting client goals.

All recent panelists surveyed agreed that their real definition of a great project was having a happy client. They share a passion of building and design that they have felt since their youth. Their success has been a dedication to helping and educating

clients and the service of working with a professional team to create great projects.

Rise Krag, ASID, associate AIA, IESGG, is founder of RKI Interior Design, a full-service interior-design firm. She can be reached at 650-854-9090. Design problems can be sent directly to

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