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Realities of Renovating- Part 2 : DIY vs. Bring in the Professionals

A few weeks ago I started a blog series titled: ‘Renovations: Reality vs. “Reality” TV’.   My goal is to share with you years of experience in the design / building industry and to offer some insight on how to best prepare for the realities of renovating.  Let’s dig into step 1 of 3:

Understand the scope of your project.  Is it a ‘do it yourself-er’ or do trained professionals need to be involved? If it’s the latter, then become knowledgeable on what types of professional are available and their roles.

D.I.Y. has been a popular acronym for the past 20 years or so.  (Actually according to Wikipedia, it was introduced in 1912 and came in to common usage in the 1950’s, but it really took hold once the world wide web and HGTV came along.) D.I.Y. primarily exists in the residential realm where homeowners plug into websites like Pinterest, Houzz, and You Tube where endless creative ideas exist.  Do-It-Yourself is meant for simple projects where weekend warriors can roll up their sleeves, put in some time and elbow grease, save some money and feel proud about the fruits of their labour.  IKEA was born out of the D.I.Y. movement. (A favourite place of mine, I’m not going to lie.)

 

 

 

 

 

‘It’s lovely. Have you actually built a flat-pack kitchen before?’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So when does a project go from D.I.Y. to “bring in the professionals”?  Here’s a top 5 list that indicates you should start hiring:

  1. Your renovation requires a permit and the stamp of a design professional.
  2. Your renovation requires structural, mechanical and / or electrical alterations.
  3. You have no design experience and don’t want to waste money on costly mistakes.
  4. You’ve never picked up a tool in your life and can’t decipher which end is up. Especially if the tools are sharp.
  5. Your time and energies are better spent focusing on what you’re good at so that you can pay a professional to do what they’re good at.

Once you’ve decided that your project is not a D.I.Y.er, what types of professionals should you be calling?  Here’s a list of options and the types of work they do:

Architect:  A licensed professional responsible for planning, designing, and reviewing the construction of buildings.  They create total environments, focusing heavily on the building shell. Architects often act as the prime (coordinating) consultant on major building / renovating projects, especially commercially.

Interior Designer:  A professional responsible for designing functional and creative design solutions for interior environments. They work within the building shell to design for the health, safety and well-being of occupants. Interior Designers often act as the prime (coordinating) consultant on interior focused commercial or residential projects.

Architectural Lighting Designer: A professional responsible for the design of lighting systems, including  the control of natural light, electric light, or both, to enhance and strengthen design and to  serve human needs. They work closely with Architects, Interior Designers and Electrical Engineers.

Structural Engineer: A professional responsible for ensuring that structures to withstand stresses and pressures imposed through environmental conditions and human use. They make sure the building doesn’t fall down.

Mechanical Engineer: On a building or renovation project, the Mechanical Engineer is the professional responsible for the design, construction, and testing of mechanical systems.  This often focuses on heating, cooling, fire protection, plumbing and air quality systems.

Electrical Engineer: On a building or renovation project, the Electrical Engineer is the professional responsible for the design, construction, and testing of electrical devices.  This often focuses on calculating & distributing electrical loads, wiring, communication & building controls and specifying electrical systems.

General Contractor:  A general contractor, or G.C., is hired to take the plans created by the professionals and bring them to reality.  He or she will orchestrate the comings and goings of the trades, order mate­rials, inspect the work done and coordinate an ever-changing schedule.

So now that you know when a project has gone beyond D.I.Y and the range of professionals available for hire, where do you go from here?

 

Start by talking with design professionals who specialize in the area most appropriate for your project (see definitions above).  Have phone conversations and / or face to face meetings with a few until you find someone you feel has the expertise you require and understands your needs. You’ll be working closely with this person / team, so don’t underestimate the importance of finding someone you mesh with.

In my next blog post we’ll dig deeper into how to establish clear goals and objectives. This will help you to focus yourself and the design professional(s) you select.

Until then, I wish you success in your D.I.Y. or in your search for the right team of professionals!

 

Tracy

tracy dyck photo

Would You Take Out Your Own Appendix?

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I was having a conversation the other day with my sister-in-law; a physician working in a rural community where their clinic is over capacity.  She is on the committee that is looking to renovate the facility and has been given the responsibility of compiling ideas for the new design.

My first reaction was (and I’m thinking this in my head):

“This is crazy!!  Why is a doctor trying to redesign a clinic??  I wouldn’t take out my own appendix!”

My more diplomatic response was “have you considered bringing in professional designers to look at your space?”

The conversation made me think about the ‘Do It Yourself’ society we live in.  Now don’t get me wrong, I like to DIY with the best of them (I’m a Mennonite girl, so if I can get it done without outside help, I can save some money…), but I’ve slowly come to realize the value in utilizing the expertise of others.  The reason why we have experts is because the problems we need to resolve are more complex than we realize.  And often the result of doing it wrong results in wasting our time, money and feeling frustrated when the outcome wasn’t what we’d hoped for.

The built environment, for example, is extremely complex.  There are physical, social, emotional and mental elements to consider. Not everything is tangible, but in the end the intangible has a massive effect.  How will people use the space?  How do you want them to move through it?  How do you delineate public and private areas? How do you accommodate for individuals with physical limitations? How do you want to direct behavior? How do you want people to feel? How do you design spaces that contribute to wellness?  Believe it or not, these are some of the questions that professional designers ask when starting a new project.  And if we’re not, then we should be.

Food for thought.

Tracy

tracy dyck photo

“A great building must begin with the immeasurable, must go through measurable means when it is being designed, and in the end must be unmeasured.”

– Louis Kahn