Things My Architect Said

musicgalJune 22, 2014

Just had some random recollections about the "process" we've been in over the past few years, and remembered an incident that left me a little befuddled. It occurred after the first major HVAC walkthrough with our AC guy and our son who designs residential and commercial systems in Waco. It was a good thing my son was around or the poor AC guy would have borne the brunt of my ire when I was told I did not have enough space above the 2nd story ceilings for the necessary ductwork (which would neccesitate MAJOR floorplan changes). When I told the architect about this, his response was, "That happens sometimes."

Postscript... we figured something out without dropping the eight foot ceiling:) But, the remark stuck with me. Anyone else have any stories of memorable comments from their architects?

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That can in fact happen if the contractor reveals the duct design after the house has been framed. Even when the hvac design is the responsibility of the architect, the hvac designer is still responsible for coordination of the ducts with the framing so you should ask the architect if the framing plans were available to the hvac designer\builder. And ask when the architect saw a duct layout with sizes and if it called for metal or flex ducts. This is often information not available to an architect if he/she is not in control of the project.

It should be made clear in any construction contract that all parties are responsible for coordination of systems and that all conflicts must be reported to the architect or owner immediately. Holding people responsible for things over which they have no control is poor management. Follow the path of control to find who had the opportunity to avoid a conflict.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 10:40AM
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" Holding people responsible for things over which they have no control is poor management. Follow the path of control to find who had the opportunity to avoid a conflict."

Hire an architect who actually has job-site experience, instead of office to bank.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 11:13AM
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Thanks Ren8 and snoonyb for the excellent post facto suggestions.

Does anyone have any interesting comments from their architect to share?

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 12:12PM
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Job site experience is irrelevant. An architect does not design hvac systems or supervise their installation. If that service is in his contract it is done by an hvac designer who would coordinate and review the installation with the contractor. The last thing anyone wants is an architect on site directing the subs.

In my experience an architect is rarely asked to design the hvac system so if that system is not given to the architect in a timely manner it is unfair to hold him responsible for fitting issues.

I have provided conditioned attic space for ducts only to have the contractor ask to run them vertically during construction and the reverse or insisting on excessive flex duct. Without an hvac design an architect can only guess.

I have a project in construction where part of the roof has a 2 in 12 slope. It was not easy to get the ducts to the outside wall but the hvac contractor found a way and submitted it for my approval.

It is not always possible to design a roof around the hvac system. Sometimes it is necessary for the hvac contractor to help find a solution. And that issue should be raised when the hvac designer/contractor is hired not after framing or during an owner walk-through. That would be evidence of a GC with very poor project management skills.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 12:25PM
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The OP is new to the forum so probably does not realize how nasty the response can be from the architect haters on the forum to such a leading question and how such disrespect has ended the participation of so many very skilled and generous professionals in the past. I miss their support and excellent advice and find it strange that a forum dedicated to home design would treat those who do it for a living with disdain.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 12:49PM
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Ren8- yes, if someone dropped the ball, it was most likely our GC in this case, because the architect did a lovely job on the HVAC plan as far as I could tell. We even ran the plans by our son prior to framing to make sure the systems placements were feasible- so the weak link occurred during framing and that was probably due to lack of communication between the framing foreman and the GC.

Now, having said all that... I do think it is helpful to have these suggestions out here for people to see, since we felt sure we had done due diligence with the architect, the HVAC company and gotten a second opinion on top of all that. As I said, we were able to figure something out- so the upshot of the story is that we are on good terms with everyone still, architect included. I am not laying blame at anyone's feet. Just wanted to start a thread about some of the unexpected interactions that occur verbally between architect and client.

And yes, I did find your observation salient.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 12:51PM
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Thanks for the clarification. The only way I could imagine the architect's comment to be memorable is if it was considered inappropriate. Tight duct spaces are common with home building because of gaps in responsibility and communication. It will be interesting to see how others interpret it.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 1:48PM
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Musicgal - We had the same issue; however, we used an internet house plan and we are our own GC on the build. No architect involvement. The blame falls on us (home building rookies) but it stings when no one can explain to you why things can't be the way you envisioned them to be. We have a 1-1/2 story house with only a heated/cooled storage closet and a bonus room upstairs. To run vents to our MB and bath, they had to build a chase in the storage closet and at the entrance to the bonus room. It really irked me that I lost some of my precious storage space and now have that stupid bump in the wall in that bonus room. We didn't know any better. I hope your thread will keep it from happening to someone else.

We don't have an architect advising us but our builder likes to tell us, "that's not how it's normally done. Most people want [whatever]."

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 7:24PM
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"Avoid room bleed"
"Don't forget the back" (expression actually was a bit more colorful)
"Outdoor spaces should be integral to the design of the house"
"We can build this house on paper as long as you want, but at some point you might want to start building in real life"


    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 9:12PM
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"Job site experience is irrelevant."

And the fact that the architect hadn't bothered to become cognizant of the space required for the HVAC system, having designed the building shows a lack of job site experience, as well as the hallmark of an amateur.

I have over 36yrs. experience in the construction industry, from laborer thru draftsman, in both residential and commercial enterprises and if I come across an architect without job site experience, who still thinks he's in charge, who's ego won't let him learn, I get him replaced.

"In my experience an architect is rarely asked to design the hvac system"

It's been my experience that when an architect is contracted to design a building, they design it all. They have a team of associates with whom they confer throughout the project.
When additionally the architect is contracted to build the project, all the difficulties have been for seen and resolved.

It's called professionalism.

The client benefits, finically, in the long run.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 9:13PM
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Oaktown- I don't even know what room bleed is! ;-)

JDez- Yes, I totally get it. If I had a dime for everytime one of my subs said, that's not how most people want it done, I'd have gold-leafed crown molding. The HVAC guy wanted to take out half of an already small Jack and Jill bathroom to run his ductwork and I threw a fit. FWIW, my son agreed with the HVAC guy. Needless to say, that was an interesting day in my life. But, as I said, we figured things out. The comment from the architect seemed rather nonchalant in the context of my angst. On reflection, it wasn't inappropriate... just something he runs into in the course of his work. It just struck me as rather cold that week, so that's why it stuck with me.

My husband and I are about 12 years older than our architect and his building partner. We must seem ancient to them because they fought us tooth and nail on our idea of a dropped living space- which would have utilized our slope beautifully and fit our aesthetic. The reason they were opposed is that they saw us hurting ourselves on the drop, which I found mildly amusing and a little ageist. It is the one huge design element I really regret not fighting harder for now that I see how the room would have set up.

But when it's all said and done, there is a lot of our heart and soul we managed to sneak into this place- regardless of the ductwork in the secret passage:)

    Bookmark   June 22, 2014 at 9:54PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

There was one architect who told us that if we wanted shutters on our house, we'd have to get a new architect. We did. And we don't have shutters on our house....

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 9:29AM
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It's been my experience that when an architect is contracted to design a building, they design it all. They have a team of associates with whom they confer throughout the project.

Are you saying the architect hires an HVAC person to do the Manual J calculations?

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 12:08PM
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I think you heard my story about the exterior doors? He had spec'd 4' wide doors for every external opening on the site. Including the man doors on the detached garage. We didn't notice until we went to a window place for quotes. They told us we'd have to have those custom made. We asked the architect why the doors were all so big. Because DH commented that he wanted to ensure there was never an issue bringing furniture in. Did the architect know these were custom?

"Oh, yeah, nobody makes a 4' door."

I never asked him why the 16' doors on the garage wouldn't be enough.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 12:44PM
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What is Room Bleed?

I'm glad this didn't turn into an architect bashing thread.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 8:50PM
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Epiarch Designs

looks like the line between residential and commercial is getting smeared a little too much here.

Typically architects do not design the hvac for a home, exactly has Ren indicates. Perhaps performance based specs are issued for equipment, duct testing requirements and tightness to be met. Its then up to the hvac installer to provide products and install, along with design, to meet the requirements of the design and the home's needs.

On the flip side, us commercial architects do include full hvac design and drawings with the bid set of plans. Hiring engineering consultants to design and draw the plans based off of sizing requirements for the building, codes, and other requirements are paid for out of the fees to the architect.

Since the architect is the designer and the said professional, its the first and easiest person to take the blame for any mistakes. Joys of the profession I guess... Ironically I spent 40% of my day dealing with issues on projects, nearly 0 caused by my office. Having said that, I completely agree with the requirement for field experience of architects. I feel all architects should be required for have a min. of 3-6 months in the field. My field experience is invaluable and would not trade it for anything. They don't teach that in school or on the tests you take.

I think I would like to start a thread of memorable comments from clients :)

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 10:42PM
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I had a thread on "room bleed" last year (will try to edit to add link later when I'm not on a mobile device).

For the most part, our house has traditional rooms rather than a more contemporary open floor plan. When working on the kitchen layout I had considered eliminating part of a wall to allow the counter to continue into the workroom/pantry (hence the "bleed"). It just would not have worked with the rest of the house. We kept that portion of the wall and the cased opening. It worked out much better in the end, the short wall turned out to be the perfect spot for light switches and a recessed spice cabinet, and I have a spot for a whiteboard on the other side in the workroom. I am glad the architect and the good folks here kept us from making a big mistake!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 10:52PM
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On the HVAC issue -- our architects did not design the HVAC. But they did design in two basic service cores, one on each side of the house. They stacked the plumbing areas on either side of the house to allow for very short runs to the water heaters (tankless). They planned for closets and chases and warned us we might need dropped ceilings (from 10' down to 8.5') in the master closet and powder room. Chimneys were located on either side to house vents so as to avoid roof penetrations. So, while our architects did not design the services, they certainly designed with those in mind!

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 11:14PM
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I have some war stories too.

36 years ago was when I started my architectural firm and designed my first house (not counting the one I had built for myself). A French Canadian roofer who didn't speak English had his young son climb down and ask me why he had to put asphalt felt under the shingles. I shouted up to him that if he did it he would get paid. He didn't need a translation.

I once visited a project site where I knew I would have difficulty persuading the GC that some of his work was in violation of the building code so I brought the state code book with me. After showing him the section he said, "can I borrow that?"

Back in the early 70's cement backer board (known as WonderBoard) was being specified in showers by architects but few general contractors had heard of it. I specified it for the showers in a 12 story condominium. The GC convinced the owner to use greenboard but the winning tile sub included installing WonderBoard in his bid. When asked why he did that he said he had found it was cheaper than replacing the tile later. It took over 20 years for it to be required by building codes.

    Bookmark   June 23, 2014 at 11:57PM
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" dekeoboe (My Page) on Mon, Jun 23, 14 at 12:08

Are you saying the architect hires an HVAC person to do the Manual J calculations?"

In both residential and commercial, after all, who better to understand the compliance requirements of title 24.

Through a lengthy process of elimination where I naively believed what some egocentrics take from schools of architecture, "this is my building and never let the client forget it," too, "someones going to get paid to do this and it might just as well be me," attitude which is followed by the assembly of a group who, not only trust each other, but are dedicated to furthering their common business interests.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 12:30AM
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Manual J is used to calculate heat loss and gain for sizing HVAC equipment for homes but not commercial buildings.

The hard part is designing the ducts of a forced air system for comfort and efficiency. Due to the excessive use of flex-duct, duct runs are often designed on the site resulting in inefficient air supply compounded by insufficient air returns. In renovations I often find flex ducts that have been crushed or bent so that little air could pass.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 7:38AM
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Multiple choice question-

Room Bleed is-

a) a scene from a movie made in a recreated habitation from Amityville, NY.

b) the overusage of ochre tinted pigments in the drywall in humid areas.

c) lack of delineation between the dining room and the whirpool bath area.

d) all of the above

This post was edited by musicgal on Wed, Jun 25, 14 at 14:51

    Bookmark   June 24, 2014 at 10:16PM
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"bleed" is a term used in graphic layout. It occurs when an image extends over the crop line. It is how you get the image to go to the edge of the final product without a border.

I've never heard it used to describe a floor plan but I suppose it could mean a room has poorly defined boundaries. IMO this can be a good thing or a bad thing but I suspect it is used to characterize a bad layout.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 7:15AM
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Yes, "room bleed" means rooms have poorly designed boundaries. Often this is not picked up until the homeowner goes to paint, doesn't want the entire first floor the same color and has trouble figuring out where to start and stop paint colors.

Sometimes even good architects do not know exactly how something is going to resolve itself when actually built, and sometimes this is the architects fault and sometimes it is the clients fault, although the client will rarely take the blame.

I worked on two projects where (1) in a couple of rooms, the way that the ceiling was designed was not really a function of the floor plan. The ceiling could turn out at least three ways, one of which was horrendous, and two of which were variations that looked completely different from each other but it was a matter of preference.

I can guarantee if it was left up to the framers and sheetrockers, "horrendous" would have won the day.

This I think was the fault of whoever in the firm designed the bathroom. They should have known that the ceiling could be tricky. (The architect offered me a job after I sketched out the scenarios that could happen off the top of my head).

In the second case, there were tons of unresolved design issues when it came to how ceiling and walls came together, what happened with trim, and other various conflicts that arose along the way (doorways that had to be moved inches and things like that). To a great extent this was the fault of the client who refused to pay to have detail drawings done for the house. Many houses don't need too many. This house should have had a lot. On the other hand, it was partly the fault of the architect who said about some of these issues. "Oh I Never specify some of those things...I leave details like that up to the builder to figure out". Again, for most of the things he built, maybe this worked, but it should Not have been so with this particular project.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 2:45PM
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I didn't hire an architect, but rather a design engineer as I had already drafted my own construction blueprints. I just needed someone to sign off on the loads and engineering side of things. He did design houses for many large developments in my area, so would day-to-day, serve the same function as an architect. His designs are very popular in our more pricey neighborhoods...

...and every time I sent him a copy of the blueprints, he renamed them "Lexi's Cottage", despite the fact I told him over and over it was a HOUSE, and would rename the file: "Lexi'sHouse" every time I sent it back to him with my corrections.

...My final bill read: "Lexi's Cottage" and I cried a little.

Seems 1350 square feet was cottage-sized :P

    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 3:14PM
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Awnmyown- I feel your pain.

This house we are building was supposed to be a downsized house. The front presents very modestly to the street but it is over 4300 sq ft. Someone remarked to me the other day that it was not "so big" after all. Sigh.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 3:33PM
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Cottage has several meanings; the most common of which is a small house but in the Northeast it can also mean a retreat of any size. Some on the Maine coast are in the 5,000+ s.f. range.

    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 3:43PM
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There you go Lexi- a cottage by any other name... might a mansion be;-)

    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 4:45PM
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Lexi -- bet he was just jealous ;-)

    Bookmark   June 25, 2014 at 9:25PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

In our town you can't even build a house unless it's at least 1500 sq ft...

    Bookmark   June 26, 2014 at 8:39AM
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