Keri Murray Architecture - Awarded Best Of Houzz 2019!

January 24, 2019 – Keri Murray Architecture of Sharon, MA has won “Best Of Customer Service on Houzz®, the leading platform for home remodeling and design.

The Best Of Houzz is awarded annually in three categories: Design, Customer Service and Photography. Design award winners’ work was the most popular among the more than 40 million monthly unique users that comprise the Houzz community from among more than 2.1 million active home building, remodeling and design industry professionals.

Customer Service honors are based on several factors, including a pro's overall rating on Houzz and client reviews submitted in 2018. A “Best Of Houzz 2019” badge will appear on winners’ profiles, as a sign of their commitment to excellence. These badges help homeowners identify popular and top-rated home professionals in every metro area on Houzz.

"Best of Houzz is a true badge of honor as it is awarded by our community of homeowners, those who are hiring design, remodeling and other home improvement professionals for their projects,” said Liza Hausman, vice president of Industry Marketing for Houzz. “We are excited to celebrate the 2019 winners chosen by our community as their favorites for home design and customer experience, and to highlight those winners on the Houzz website and app."

About Keri Murray Architecture - KMA is a practice that specializes in Architecture & Interior Design services for small and large scale residential projects. Delivering thoughtful and timeless design solutions that are responsive to the needs of today's lifestyles. Keri Murray's design philosophy revolves around creative and cost sensitive design solutions, while rigorously providing a unique and cohesive design vision. Keri is committed to transforming the client’s desires into reality, and brings high levels of design sensitivity, technical expertise, and management experience to every project regardless of scale. Keri enjoys working with clients to problem solve and finds the adventure of taking a client from design through construction very exciting.

About Houzz - Houzz is the leading platform for home remodeling and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish – online or from a mobile device. From decorating a small room to building a custom home and everything in between, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals across the country and around the world. With the largest residential design database in the world and a vibrant community empowered by technology, Houzz is the easiest way for people to find inspiration, get advice, buy products and hire the professionals they need to help turn their ideas into reality. Houzz and the Houzz logo are registered trademarks of Houzz Inc. worldwide. For more information, visit houzz.com.

Deciding on an Architect

You have been thinking about a new build, addition, or renovation project for a long time and you have finally decided to hire an Architect. This major decision can bring about a variety of emotions. The first emotion might be that of relief; you finally decided the timing is right to proceed through the process of reaching out to Architects. The next feeling you are experiencing is that of excitement, you have met with a few local professionals and started to share your needs and desires. Another emotion that may soon follow is that of fear. Fear is a reasonable response during this process. You are going to spend a lot of money with people you hopefully can trust, trust to meet your expectations and deliver a project you are happy with. So there's the initial fear of choosing an Architect you can trust. The solution is to select an Architect that will meet this fear with assurance. You want to feel assured and confident that the job will be well done and the experience will be positive, and if things go awry, you have confidence that the Architect will be able to work things out. It is also important to trust that the Architect will work well with the many other professionals that will come on board throughout the process, such as the Contractor, various sub-contractors, Kitchen Vendor, Building Inspector, etc. While pretty pictures of past projects are great to discuss, during the interview process, focus on understanding how the Architect will guide you through the design process, manage the project, address budget issues, and address challenges that come up along the way - in both the design and construction phases. Gain an understanding of the design techniques that will be used throughout the process and how a timeline for deliverables is set. Also, what is expected of you, the Client, throughout the process? While your project is unique, the design process itself is defined and consistent with proven successful outcomes. Deciding on an Architect should be an exciting process, and the best Architect for your project is someone you connect with and who provides a clear explanation of the process and offers assurance that the job will be well done.

Keri Murray Architecture - Awarded Best Of Houzz 2018!

January 17, 2018 – Keri Murray Architecture of Sharon, MA has won “Best Of Customer Service on Houzz®, the leading platform for home remodeling and design.

The Best Of Houzz is awarded annually in three categories: Design, Customer Service and Photography. Design award winners’ work was the most popular among the more than 40 million monthly users on Houzz. Customer Service honors are based on several factors, including the number and quality of client reviews a professional received in 2017. A “Best Of Houzz 2018” badge will appear on winners’ profiles, as a sign of their commitment to excellence. These badges help homeowners identify popular and top-rated home professionals in every metro area on Houzz.

"The Houzz community selected a phenomenal group of Best of Houzz 2018 award winners, so this year's recipients should be very proud,” said Liza Hausman, Vice President of Industry Marketing at Houzz. “Best of Houzz winners represent some of the most talented and customer-focused professionals in our industry, and we are extremely pleased to give them both this recognition and a platform on which to showcase their expertise."

About Keri Murray Architecture - KMA is a practice that specializes in Architecture & Interior Design services for small and large scale residential projects. Delivering thoughtful and timeless design solutions that are responsive to the needs of today's lifestyles. Keri Murray's design philosophy revolves around creative and cost sensitive design solutions, while rigorously providing a unique and cohesive design vision. Keri is committed to transforming the client’s desires into reality, and brings high levels of design sensitivity, technical expertise, and management experience to every project regardless of scale. Keri enjoys working with clients to problem solve and finds the adventure of taking a client from design through construction very exciting.

About Houzz - Houzz is the leading platform for home remodeling and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish – online or from a mobile device. From decorating a small room to building a custom home and everything in between, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals across the country and around the world. With the largest residential design database in the world and a vibrant community empowered by technology, Houzz is the easiest way for people to find inspiration, get advice, buy products and hire the professionals they need to help turn their ideas into reality. Houzz and the Houzz logo are registered trademarks of Houzz Inc. worldwide. For more information, visit houzz.com.

Why homeowners should not pull a permit

As an Architect I come across many homeowners who would like to perform their own renovations or pull their own permits to oversee the construction team or project.

By law, MA homeowers are allowed to obtain their own builing permit for renovations and improvments to their homes. While you are allowed to pull a permit it is very important to know that it comes with significant responsibility and risk.

I do not recommend any homeowner who isn't a licneced contractor pull their own permit. It is exteremly important that the permit holder has significant experience and an up-to-date knowledge of all related state and local requirements. It is imperative that you have a keen knowledge of all that is required to comply with the MA codes and not knowing can cause significant problems and potentially cost thousands of dollars to rectify. Meeting Structural and Energy code requirements are one of many examples of code requirements that will need to be removed and rectified if not complient.

When a homeowner obtains a building permit they are not eligible to access the Guaranty Fund established by the Home Improvement Law that was created to protect homeowners from losses incurred as a result of contractor or sub-contractor work performed in a poor or un-workmanlike manner, or work that violated code. Even if a contractor abandonds the job beacuse he priced it to low, the money lost cannot be recovered.

Even if a homeowner obtains the building permit, everyone performing construction work is required to be registered in accordance with the Home Improvement Law. This includes contractors who perform remodeling, window replacement, siding, insulation, demolition, roofing and masonary work. I recommend avoiding any contractor who agrees to perform work without permits for code related work, for cash payments, or don't provide evidance of insurance.

Further, it is a requirement that all state (IRC) and local codes be present onsite during construction. If you do not possess these books, it is a clear indication that you shouldn't pull your own permit.

I only align with homeowners who intend to hire a licenced contractor to build the project. While many homeowners feel they have a good handle on building and remodeling I strongly discorage anyone who isn't a licenced contractor from pulling a building permit for construction / remodeling projects.

Cost of Construction

As someone that directs and designs building projects, clients often assume that I will be able to provide them an accurate and up front price to have their project built. However, it's not always easy to estimate - project price is affected by any number of factors and the combined matrix of these factors determine the ultimate cost, the primary being that I ultimately don't build the project, contractors do! In general, there are a few givens that will always affect the price of a project:

  • Location - different geographies, building codes, and economies affect costs
  • Size and complexity - will a contractor need multiple subs? is the scale and shape of the design complex? will new construction marry up to old construction?
  • Quality - is time important? materials? etc.

Architects may have an idea of a range of Construction Cost, but no rule of thumb can determine actually cost.  There is however one certainty about construction costs: owner(s) don't accurately anticipate the true cost of construction and are often surprised that their project is going to cost what the number(s) come in at.  Owners planning on building a custom house, building an addition, or renovating their existing home in New England should expect estimates to be an average of $200+ SF; and it can be upwards of $300 SF depending on location, topography, desired features, materials, size, etc.

In my previous blog:  A Fee Based Expertise, I wrote about the way in which an Architect structures their compensation. This blog elaborates on how that relates to the Cost of Construction.  An Architect may base their fee on the Range of Construction Cost based on their better knowledge of construction costs.  For the Architect to have an understanding of what their fees should be, they may conduct their own guesstimate of what they believe the cost of construction will be based on standard Basic Services, past projects, and the knowledge of specific project needs.

On Residential projects in New England, it is common for Architectural fees to run between 8 and 15 percent of the cost of construction. The range in percentage has to do with the specifics of the project and the quality and level of services offered.  A smaller percentage reflects the minimum requirements to obtain a building permit while the larger percentage reflects full architectural services and a robust drawing set required to build the ideal project with fewer surprise costs during construction.  

The best approach for a homeowner is to first know how much they can spend, and then discuss their budget with the Architect. This will sever as the limiting factor for size, materials, customization, etc.  When preparing for a realistic cost of construction, owners should understand that architectural services are an important and vital component of the total design project budget and just like how construction cost are determined by a matrix of factors so too are architectural fees.

FEASIBILITY STUDY

My previous blog post Working with an Architect touched upon the various steps and processes that define the services of an Architect.  After working with a Client in Cambridge MA to determine the viability of a project on a unique lot with many zoning restrictions, I thought it beneficial to discuss yet another aspect of service that benefits dimensionally challenged sites in towns with restrictive zoning - a Feasibility Study.

Most often an Architect will get hired to perform a feasibility study in towns that are known to have multiple lots/properties which don’t conform to typical zoning laws.  The benefit of a feasibility study is to determine the viability of a client’s anticipated project prior to engaging in full-blown design services.  The study will establish if the project is possible or what the potential problem(s) may be.  

A Feasibility Study investigates in detail the requirements for the Client’s project as well as the constraints, resulting in a written and graphic documentation of the Client’s project’s potential. This service is performed in combination with Phase One: Existing Condition Documentation and Code/By-Law Research yet results in a more robust gathering of information related to challenging sites.   

The process begins with an initial meeting to discuss the requirements of the project and to establish the overall scope and preliminary budget. A thorough investigation of the existing house, in conjunction with a zoning code review, and a site analysis is performed. It is important to have an accurate and up-to-date Plot Plan generated by a licensed surveyor prior to beginning the study. Meetings with town inspections personnel such as the Building Inspector, Zoning Specialist, and Conservation Administrator are imperative to the accurate completion of the study.  The end result from this phase is the establishment of the overall parameters that will affect the design and determine any/all viable options to support zoning code compliance.

Performing a feasibility study is the ideal way to thoroughly evaluate a site in towns that are known to have strict building constraints, non-conforming lots, and dense by-law requirements.  It is important to engage the services of a Registered Architect to assess the viability of an anticipated project.

Working with an Architect

Chances are you haven’t worked with an Architect before.  This is a new relationship and your understanding of how it unfolds is unclear.  Below I will describe how Architects go about designing your project and the various steps and processes that define their services.

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) defines industry standards for professional services by an architect.  The AIA formalizes the design process in three parts: schematic design (SD), design development (DD) and construction documents (CD).  These are followed by two construction related activities where the Architect has an administrative role: bidding and negotiations (with contractors) and construction administration.

For all residential projects preliminary research is a necessary part of the process therefore some studios begin their services with a Pre-Design phase and combine SD and DD into one Design Development phase.

PRE-DESIGN: This is when all of the fact finding begins.  A very personal relationship between the Client and the Architect begins to form. Meetings are set to discuss design objectives, program needs, aesthetic desires, and construction budget.  Additionally, the Architect becomes familiar with the existing house, or plot of land, to gain an understanding of both the site and structure.  To develop this understanding, the Architect performs existing conditions documentation, extensive code research, and town by-law analysis.  This phase concludes with a set of existing conditions drawings to be used during the following phases.

DESIGN DEVELOPMENT:  This is when design begins and the exploration of preliminary spatial concepts and layout options unfolds. Design Development is typically the longest of the three phases.  A good Architect will provide the necessary guidance to keep the project on track while effectively meetings design objectives.   Multiple meetings with the Client contribute to the evolution of the design while any obstacles or constraints are address.  Ideas flow from Client to Architect and back again in an involved, imaginative process. Based on these ongoing conversations, two or three design options consisting of plans, elevations, and 3D vignettes are presented and a final design selected.

CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENTS:  Typically the Client is less involved in this phase since the design has been finalized and agreed upon. Now the Architect will create a technical set that conveys construction methods which are permit and code compliant.  Once the Construction Documents are complete the Architect will take on an administrative role to assist with construction efforts.  

The process of designing a home - from incorporating spatial quality, program, and building code requirements- is actually a formal, defined process.  Working with an Architect is a creative and exciting process that is ever evolving within a defined framework of service.  My next blog with discuss the administrative role an Architect plays during the construction phase.