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Architect » Our Sustainable Home
Browsing Topic: Architect

Plans partially into the city

August 13th, 2008

Unfortunately our Civil Engineer has become swamped with other projects and like many in his industry are just so busy with other things, don’t have much time for a small project like ours.

Since I couldn’t be sure when I’ll actually have the Grading & Drainage plan in my hands, I decided to take what I had down to city hall.

Unfortunately when I tried to hand in the revised drawings 4 of them were rejected because it had the wrong stamp. A set of plans can either have the architect’s seal with a space for them to sign by hand, or it can have the signature embedded as part of the seal. Mine had the former and since they had been sent electronically, weren’t signed.

I was able to submit the new Mechanical drawings (now showing the HRV lines).

I’ve now received the drawings from the architect with the digital signature, and will reprint and redeliver them to city hall in the next few days.

I should mention: when I had to get the plans printed I used Sure Print and Design. They are a little bit out of the way for me, but their pricing for 2’x3′ engineering-bond pages was significantly lower than anywhere else I found. (And they were really nice folks, too!)

Posted by Colin
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We’re holding us up

July 19th, 2008

Due to an unfortunately ambiguous email exchange in regards to our permit requirements it turns out the thing that’s holding up our project at the moment is: us!

Somehow we thought someone else was going to be looking after providing a Grading & Drainage plan for the new house but it seems we were the ones who were actually intended to scout out a Civil Engineer for the task.

Apparently all the other issues have been addressed in a series of email messages referencing building codes and jargon that I confess I could not decipher. Once we have submitted all this additional information, the city may still come back with further concerns (but hopefully not).

Posted by Colin
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Permit application short on two counts

June 9th, 2008

We received one call and one letter letting us know that our building permit application could not be approved until we:

  1. Submitted a Grading and Drainage Diagram with our build plans (a new requirement for all new construction in the city).
  2. Submitted revised mechanical drawings that show the location of the HRV ducting. (Because our heating system is entirely radiant flooring, one has to show how the ventilation will work.

We’ve asked the Mechanical Engineer to start work on the HRV ducting but we’re not sure who will provide the Grading diagram yet.

Even though it may seem like we have lots of time with our start date being moved back to August 1, we know all too well by now everything that can be rushed, should be rushed or it will never get done.

Posted by Colin
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Plans submitted to city!

May 29th, 2008

This day has been a long time coming: we’ve finally gotten a full set of plans into the city for final approval.

Our initial PAL Review in 2007 was for a stick-frame house with a proposed forced-air heating system. The final plans call for an ICF house with a radiant floor heating system. Several key structural members were also changed in the roof truss design.

While everything has been signed off on by the appropriate professional, we won’t know for certain that the plans are approvable for 10 days. I’m especially concerned about the Plumbing form which the clerk just accepted and said “the plumbing guy will figure it out.”

In addition to our concerns about approvability, we don’t yet have the final budget numbers from the various trades and sub-trades.

At this point we are tentatively looking for places to rent during construction, but probably shouldn’t sign any leases until we receive final approval from the city and finalize the all the significant budget numbers.

Posted by Colin
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Plans in hand!

May 28th, 2008

I picked up the final plans from the Architect this afternoon and signed over a final cheque for their services. We started our contract with them as a variable rate with the cost of the project, but with the plan to switch to a fixed-rate contract somewhere along the way.

Since we decided not to have the architect oversee construction (our Project Manager is an architect himself and we decided it would be a duplication of effort to have them both overseeing the project) it made sense to close the contract with them at this stage. We may still bring them in (just paid on an hourly basis) to look at the project if we encounter any unforeseen issues.

After leaving the architect’s offices, I tried to submit them to the city today, but ran out of time.

I arrived at the City Planning office shortly after 3pm and the appointment sign-up book was already removed from the counter; There were more people signed up than they felt they could see by the time they closed at 4:30pm.

But if I chose to wait, I was second in line for a ‘stand by’ appointment. My patience paid off.

While there wasn’t enough time to complete an application when I was seen at 4:20pm, but the clerk there reviewed what I had brought. He provided me with the 4 forms for the demolition permit and 5 forms for construction and mechanical permit that I had not brought with me. I also only had 2 copies of the site survey, but needed 4 (2 for construction, 2 for demolition).

AND, I didn’t have additional copies of the tree-removal permit or the Final Binding Decision from our visit to the Committee of Adjustments in 2007.

I completed most of the forms this evening, but the Plumbing form was fairly confusing. I completed it about 3/4 of it based on what I could discern from the plans and with some feedback from the Project Manager. I hope to ask for a little more guidance from the city clerk when I submit the plans tomorrow.

Posted by Colin
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Redesigning for ICF

March 25th, 2008

Today the architect and Project Manager (PM) had a conference call to discuss the design changes that will be required to move to an ICF system for framing the house.

The PM performed a quick estimate indicating the cost of stick-frame materials and labour would probably be about equal to the materials for ICF. The labour for installing ICF walls for the entire foundation and house came in around $20,000, making it quite reasonable considering it will leave us with around an R50 wall!

Note: The ICFs will frame the house as a ‘box’ only. It seems using ICF for the gables would have involved quite a bit of additional labour so a different wall system will be used for the entire roof area of the house.

The architect has someone redesigning the plans as I type and hopes to have them ready by early next week.

Posted by Colin
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New builder on the scene

July 17th, 2007

It has been a long 5 weeks since my last post and unfortunately not much as happened as we’ve been mired in budgetary issues… until tonight!

We met with a new builder this evening and he seems to think we can bring our construction project in on budget after all. Wow!

I should mention that we did not try to mess them about. We went with the ‘cards on the table’ approach and informed them that this project was, to others who had seen it, very expensive to build, and that even an independent coster said so. On the other hand, we also did our best to illustrate the design elements that should make it much easier to build.

They need to put in a formal bid, of course, but their initial impression of the plans was that we were not, in fact, building a rocket ship; That while the materials were unique, the way in which the house went together was not all that different from traditional construction. And the house was so well thought out in its design, that it should be reasonably simple to build.

In short: they ‘got it.’

The anticipated construction time would be 6 months, and if all goes really well, we might be able to break ground in September. Here’s hoping!

One item that did concern them (and you should be aware of if you plan to build in the city) is that they were quite keen to be able to put scaffolding on our neighbour’s driveway while building the exterior walls. I hadn’t considered it before but building on a narrow lot such as ours (well, at 25′ ours is actually wide for the area), it would be very difficult to erect an exterior wall if you couldn’t put scaffolding outside the property area (unless it was a VERY narrow house).

Posted by Colin
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Revising architectural plans

June 9th, 2007

Today we met with the Joanne at her office in Hamilton, along with Alex and a prospective contractor.

The purpose of the meeting was to try to identify the portions of the house which were causing it to be so expensive. We made some good progress and identified the following items:

  • The ‘c’ shape of the house introduces 4 additional corners to the foundation. It would be cheaper/easier to build a rectangular foundation. This means our ‘cold room’ would be inside the foundation, but if it is well insulated from the house interior and unheated, it should provide us with nearly the same effect.
  • The stairs to the basement are quite expensive and could be added at a future date.
  • According to the energy modeling team, the radiant floors on the ground floor and 2nd floor are excessive for our needs. The house’s structure is going to be so efficient, that it simply isn’t going to take much heat to keep the house comfortably. It’s felt this amount of heat can be easily distributed through the ventilation system. Radiant floors should apparently still be used in the basement because, as Alex pointed out: we’re pouring concrete anyway. It’s hardly any extra work to put the tubing down before we do that.
  • Move Stacey’s writing garret inside the roof of the house.
  • And other smaller changes.

That last point is the hardest one on the list. We think that part ads a lot of character to the house and we’ll be quite sad if it has to go to appease the budget gods. Alex is working on an analysis of what savings we might find from each of the features taken away from the house and we’ll make our choices once we know what we’re saving for each item we’re giving up.

We still haven’t settled on a solution to resolve our parking dilemma, but have mentioned the issue to our neighbours to see if they would be interested in creating a shared laneway to the back yard for parking to be set up there. The other option we’re exploring is narrowing the ground floor to leave enough space for a full parking space at the side of the house.

There is a major difference between these approaches as the former only requires 2.2m of space between the houses, whereas the side-parking requires 2.6m of space between our house and the property line. It also leaves the 2nd floor overhanging the first floor. (I can’t say we really understand why the city wants us to make one of these choices instead of just parking in front of our house as we, and as many others on our street, do now.)

Posted by Colin
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Committee of Adjustments decision revision

May 30th, 2007

I went down to the Committee of Adjustments desk at City Hall to discuss the parking pad stipulation on our variance and it was suggested we contact the Manager of the Toronto East York Panel to discuss the issue.

I sent her an email describing the issue and received a phone call in reply. She patiently explained that the committee’s decision actually indicated we must obtaining a parking pad permit before being approved for our plans to build a parking pad, but that our request to provide no parking was approved on its own. (This seems different than what we thought we heard at the meeting, but it’s hard to say for certain. Regardless, that’s how it was noted in the official decision.)

So we are not blocked to build the house as it is, providing we remove the parking pad and plan to provide soft landscaping across 75% of the front of the yard.

However…

She also made clear that the city will tolerate no shenanigans. If we go ahead with no parking pad and no legal parking, cars parked on the existing driveway in front of our house would be ticketed, our curb-cut across the sidewalk would be raised to normal height and cars could park in front of it.

She indicated that they prefer we do this because every parking space added back to the street “adds parking for 4 or 5 other people and is for the greater good.” (I don’t see how this can be true but she seemed quite adamant on this point.)

We’re not sure if the city is just talking tough on this issue with no intention of enforcing the bylaws, but it’s got us thinking very seriously about finding a new layout for the house; One that includes enough room for a legal parking space. We’re discussing our options with the architect and hope to come to a decision reasonably soon.

Posted by Colin
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Detailed plans tendered

April 27th, 2007

We received the detailed plans from Joanne (the architect) on Thursday along with a 40 (or so) page document. The document includes the tender to the contractors that describes the obligations of all parties to each other, and details about what materials will be used. I’m only about half-way through the document at the moment and have been jotting down many questions for the architects.

There are two contractors making formal bids for this project and each picked up two copies of the plans and 2 copies of the tender documents. According to the documents they must return their bid by May 10.

Posted by Colin
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