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#33388 - 02/02/16 07:07 AM Design Process Question from a Client
steve2 Offline
Member

Registered: 01/29/16
Posts: 9
Hello,

I am an owner-builder who came to timber framing about 10 years ago. During that time, I have read a lot of books, attended workshops, done lots of internet research (I chuckled when I wrote this), laid out and cut a few joints, attended and participated in a few raisings, stood at the end of a sawmill and honed my eye to spot interesting barns and structures out in the world. Recently (6 months ago), I have finally put pen to paper (figuratively, of course) and taught myself to use Sketchup. A couple weeks ago, I saw this thread which was a great discussion about how a Timber Framer guides a client along through the process. Instead of hijacking that post out of respect for the original poster, I thought I would start my own and ask a few questions along the way.

For a bit more background, I own a small lot and hope to raise a small frame on it someday in the near future. I have designed a 4 bent salt box barn house (24' x 32') with plates and common rafters (enclosed by SIPs). Since we all know how complexity adds to the cost of a project, I have really tried to balance the simplicity of the design with creating something that is practical and comfortable for living. From the architectural canon, I used "A Pattern Language" to organize and guide my floor plan. As I arrive at a point where I want to start engaging a timber framer, I find that sometimes folks want to sign me up for more design work than I can afford or that I need. Although, I haven't built a house before, I am an engineer by trade and understand the level of complexity and coordination required to complete a project successfully. From a design standpoint, I have done a fair bit of due diligence to "mind the sheet size," avoid odd roof pitches, allow the bays to define the rooms, sized (load calcs) the tie beams, floor joists, rafters and even isolated my plumbing in a single service cavity to simplify the mechanical (with one AAV for the kitchen sink). Along the way, I consider my research and design to be a bit of the sweat equity I have put into the project. Essentially, I need some help alleviating my concern that I enter into an agreement with a pro who wants to unravel my design and bill me for it. I always feel compelled when I speak with a pro, to introduce myself with an 8 minute elevator pitch citing Traditional American Historic Joinery so they get a feel for my level of knowledge, albeit limited.

Don't get me wrong, I certainly want to leverage the expertise of whomever I hire and I want the project to be successful (it IS going to be my home). I guess I just want to avoid paying someone a lot of money for redrawing lines I have already drawn or drawing something that pushes me out of my budget.

To reiterate, I am hoping to learn how to best engage a prospective pro in such a way that I feel comfortable with entering into a design phase. There seem to be more pros here who have built homes (and I definitely understand the increased complexity with mechanicals and consideration required of a home versus an outbuilding). I also know that I have a lot to learn. Just hoping to avoid expensive mistakes as I enter the project.

Hopefully, I don't sound too paranoid about it. I just want to have a positive experience. Also, if anyone has any other questions, fire away. I have a great deal of respect for anyone who cuts joints for a living.

Thanks in advance.

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#33389 - 02/02/16 09:53 AM Re: Design Process Question from a Client [Re: steve2]
Hylandwoodcraft Offline
Member

Registered: 03/23/11
Posts: 141
Loc: Western NY
Hi Steve,
It sounds, first off, that you have a pretty clear vision of what you would like to accomplish in your house design, and have done due diligence on making it workable. I'm glad to see that you have been reading Christopher Alexander, by the way, there is great wisdom there!
From a pro's perspective, if I was approached by someone in this position, my main concerns would be on verifying the engineering and offering and modifications that might improve efficiency or function.
To address the first, have you considered sending your plan out to be engineered by an independent 3rd party? You could send it to Fire Tower Engineered Timber or someone like that and have them verify your calcs. I don't think on a small simple design like what you are talking about it would cost more than a few hundred dollars. Joinery is always a personal choice for each timber framer, but should be able to conform to certain engineering guidelines (ie. these tie beam should bear X amount onto the posts, etc.) without cramping their personal style.
To address the second, you sound like you are pretty comfortable with the house you have designed. It might not hurt to pay someone, be it an architect or builder to consult for an hour or so, look at the plan you have so far and let you know if there are any potential problems that you may have missed.
At the end of that, if you are willing to take responsibility for your design, you can approach timber framers to cut the frame you designed and had engineered. They will just have to apply their joinery conventions in accordance to the engineering. You can also approach architects to make a full set of construction drawings based on your design, which should not be too expensive if what you have is basically sound. Accept and consider all input along the way, but at the end of the day, YOU are the one who will be living in this house, not the architect or builder, so if their advice runs counter to your guiding principles don't be afraid to question it and reject it if necessary.
If you chose this route, you will also have the satisfaction of living in house primarily designed by yourself, as well as saving some money.

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#33390 - 02/02/16 10:32 AM Re: Design Process Question from a Client [Re: steve2]
steve2 Offline
Member

Registered: 01/29/16
Posts: 9
Thanks Hylandwoodcraft. I appreciate your thoughts. I definitely will be having a 3rd party engineering firm stamp the plans. I chose to size the timbers and solve for shear, deflection, etc. as part of my design exercise/process so I could get a feel for how a pro's decisions about the posts/tie beams/floor height are informed. Good suggestion too about deferring to each timber framer's personal style on the joinery as well. As an example, along the way, I opted for plates and common rafters instead of purlins to reduce some joinery. These are great suggestions. It helps me frame how I can approach a seasoned pro and use the right language to discuss buildability and design. Thanks a ton!

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#33391 - 02/02/16 10:52 AM Re: Design Process Question from a Client [Re: steve2]
studio Offline
Member

Registered: 02/01/08
Posts: 18
Loc: Minneapolis, MN
Hey Steve,

I understand your concern that you “enter into an agreement with a pro who wants to unravel my design and bill me for it”. The key will be to find someone you trust. If you are working with a good designer, they are there to help not just tear apart your design. However, they may have a lot to say about the design and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. You need to find someone you are comfortable working with and you feel is adding value to your project. If there’s no trust you will have a difficult time accepting any of their advice and always feel like they are just trying to you’re your money. Are you building in an area that requires an architects stamp on the drawings? If so, that adds another level of complexity to the issue.

It sounds like you need to find someone that is willing to start by just provide consultation services in lieu of full design services, someone that will review and “redline” your design with any concerns or suggestions. It may be that once you get into the discussion you will decide that you need a little more help that initially expected. If not, you get their advice and move on. In the end, it is your house so the decision is always yours.
_________________________
Steve Tracy
Minneapolis Minnesota
www.bigrivertimberworks.com

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#33392 - 02/02/16 01:43 PM Re: Design Process Question from a Client [Re: steve2]
steve2 Offline
Member

Registered: 01/29/16
Posts: 9
Thanks Steve. I think your suggestion about building trust is a good one. I also liked what you said in the other designer-perspective thread about telling "clients that a timber frame can be made to fit just about any plan, but it may be overly complicated and costly. Conversely, (one) can make a plan to fit a frame, but they may have to make compromises in the design in order for it to work with that timber frame. The best way is to integrate the 2 from the beginning of design." This sentiment has always resonated with me and is what has motivated me to learn as much as I can (about the constraints of timber framing, plumbing, heating systems, mechanical) before entering the "getting real" phase of my project. I certainly am going to be open to feedback (and am looking forward to it). But as you say, trust is key.


Edited by steve2 (02/02/16 01:47 PM)

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#33395 - 02/03/16 03:35 PM Re: Design Process Question from a Client [Re: steve2]
Jim Rogers Online   confused

Member

Registered: 03/14/02
Posts: 1618
Loc: Georgetown, MA, USA
So, what is your next question?

Jim Rogers
_________________________
Whatever you do, have fun doing it!

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#33397 - 02/04/16 07:18 PM Re: Design Process Question from a Client [Re: steve2]
steve2 Offline
Member

Registered: 01/29/16
Posts: 9
Based on these recommedations, here are a couple more questions:

1. If I have a fairly detailed Sketchup model of the frame, can I approach a pro and ask for an RFP (as was described in the designer thread) to get a general sense of what the frame might cost?

2. Will a Timber Framer want to redraw my design in their own program as part of the design process?

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#33400 - 02/04/16 09:08 PM Re: Design Process Question from a Client [Re: steve2]
Roger Nair Offline
Member

Registered: 10/20/99
Posts: 450
Loc: Bakerton, WV, USA
Question 1: You can ask, however every builder has a preferred manner of working, so you get what the individual is willing to give. I personally dislike ballparking costs (creates expectations that may not be accurate) and would rather give an estimate based on a well developed plans.

Question 2: Most tfers will to some degree want to produce shop drawings. Expect your plans to be marked up, expect revision and be willing to accommodate stated needs through the building process or you can release the reins a little and allow experience to have a voice. I fear that you may be setting up a situation that devolves into endless haggling.

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#33401 - 02/04/16 10:01 PM Re: Design Process Question from a Client [Re: steve2]
Jay White Cloud Offline
Member

Registered: 11/06/08
Posts: 484
Loc: Vermont
Hi Steve,

As with Sean's comments/advice...I think you are thinking through this brilliantly. Being and engineer yourself and still willing/wanting to have a PE still stamp your frame speaks volumes to your level of dedication to detail.

It also appears you have done a great deal of reading and research. As a teacher and Timberwright I am keen to point out to most folks without a background in design, art or architecture, that they may "think" they can design...but often can't. With that said, you have followed the "wise path" of actually following the "vernacular." I personally take little credit for my work as it is usually a "team effort" and so deeply vernacular in nature as to be hubris to believe I did to much than "replicated" and make a few adjustments. You have chosen a "salt box" and that is as vernacular (and beautifully simplistic) as they come...Hard to go wrong there or fault.

Quote:
1. If I have a fairly detailed Sketchup model of the frame, can I approach a pro and ask for an RFP (as was described in the designer thread) to get a general sense of what the frame might cost?


Yes...

Anyone actually doing this for any length of time at all will have no issue giving you a fixed price for your frame in a metric of square metre (or feet), or board foot. Both standards for a very long time...

You can expect to pay no less than $25/ft2 and should not see anything higher than $50/ft2 depending on region, wood species and Timberwright's experience.

Quote:
2. Will a Timber Framer want to redraw my design in their own program as part of the design process?


Most (all???) shops today of any note are more than comfortable with Sketchup...that really should not be an issue at all. Small adjustments here and there, but with such a design as you have described, I would not normally anticipate much of an issue at all...

Good luck and keep us up to speed with your thought process and progress...I (we?) learn as much from these exchanges as you do..


Edited by Jay White Cloud (02/04/16 10:04 PM)
_________________________
http://about.me/tosatomo

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#33406 - 02/05/16 07:32 PM Re: Design Process Question from a Client [Re: steve2]
TIMBEAL Offline
Member

Registered: 12/10/07
Posts: 1875
Loc: Maine
I can't see pricing a frame by the square foot of the building or board foot of timber, both being very different things. All my work is priced on the individual frame, they are all different. The base of my caculation is the joinery. Other consideration are bent spacing and how complicated the joinery decisions will be. Will you be lodging joist and purlins or using pockets? Compound joinery or not? What is the finish of the timbers expectation, planed, sanded, oil, raw with no finish at all, dirt included. Bent spacing on a building can double the price alone, with no other factors.

How do you consider all these factor when using a square foot number?

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