This is a question I get a lot: What does an architect do?? The simple answer is that architects design buildings, but there is a lot more to it. Let’s grab some coffee and I’ll fill you in.
When you hire an architect, you are hiring someone to understand your dream and make it happen. I may of course only be speaking for myself here, but at Heather Murray Architecture, I am in it for you! Whether you’re searching for the best architect to make your dream family home a reality or the best architect for your dental practice, chiropractic practice, or physical therapy practice, an architect will make sure that you get a space that is not only beautiful, but it flows and functions exactly the way you need it to. Read on to find out what I, an architect, actually do to make your dream a reality.
The first thing a great architect does, and what I do at Heather Murray Architecture, is complete a programming exercise. This is the equivalent of bringing all the pieces of the puzzle to the table.
Most people, especially builders, think that there are only a few pieces of the puzzle and putting them together is easy: a living room piece, a kitchen/dining piece, a piece for each bathroom, and a piece for each bedroom. But just because you have all the pieces on the table, does not mean the puzzle is finished. In fact if you tried to finish the house design puzzle with just those few pieces, you would find some serious holes in the finished product.
During programming, architects find many more pieces of the puzzle through conversations about how you and your family live day to day. Do you walk into the house and immediately drop your mail/purse/hat/keys/jacket on the first horizontal surface you see? Does dropping all those things in that spot (the dining room table perhaps) completely drive your spouse nuts? Does your spouse try to clean the kitchen while you’re trying to cook, ending with both of you frustrated and in each other’s way? Do the kids constantly take their shoes off right in front of the door making it hard to open? Through our conversations, we might uncover things that you might not have even realized were possible to solve through design. And guess what? With a great architect, most of them are!
Not only do architects design a beautiful home that functions for you and your family, but we also make sure your family is safe and healthy, beyond what the building code stipulates is necessary. Do we make sure the stair railing is narrow enough your toddler can’t squeeze through and fall 8 feet to the ground below? You bet. Do we make sure each bedroom has a window big enough and easy enough to open that your family could be saved by a fireman in case of a fire emergency? Absolutely. Do we design the kitchen so that you and your spouse will never get in each other’s way while cooking/cleaning, thus preventing your currently nightly argument and frustration? Why yes, yes we do!
(Side note: the building code is simply the minimum requirements for safety, typically as a result of a past lawsuit. When someone says they can build to code, they are setting the bar very low. Yes, you’ll be safe, but you will probably not be thriving in a code minimum design.)
Architects listen to your hopes and dreams, annoyances and pet peeves, needs and wishes, and weave everything together into a custom home for you and your family. This home will allow your family to thrive just the way you always imagined you could!
Continue to “after the design is done” to see how architects help you through the permitting and construction process (it doesn’t have to be as overwhelming as it sounds!)
First, through a programming exercise, you, your staff, and your architect will figure out exactly what you need and want in your medical office design. Here at Heather Murray Architecture, I love programming and making sure that your dental office functions smoothly.
During programming, we discuss topics like this: Do you want your dental office layout to flow so that incoming patients never see the outgoing patients and thus prevent gridlock at the reception counter? Do you want your chiropractic office design to calm your patients and give them privacy during their visit without feeling too clinical? Should your staff to be able to come and go from the building without having to interact with patients until they are in scrubs and ready to work? Are soundproof rooms for your pediatric dental office necessary to prevent scaring the other little patients if one child is particularly hysterical?
We can incorporate all of these functional aspects to your design with the aesthetic aspects of your brand. What does your brand say to your potential patients and how can we include that feeling and message in the design? Is it with light and airy waiting rooms that instill calmness and healing? Is it with kid friendly colors and activities to make visiting your pediatric dental office fun instead of scary? Whatever you are basing your business on is the inspiration for Heather Murray Architecture’s design criteria.
Once we have ALL these pieces of the puzzle, I draw up floor plans and three-dimensional renderings so that you can see how the space will look, feel, and flow. Together, we critique the floor plan and design until we come to a mutual agreement of the best design for your medical practice. This process is iterative, and we go over and over it until we are all happy, whether it takes one or twelve design iterations. The cost is the same and the desired outcome is a dental/chiropractic/physical therapy office floor plan that best represents your business.
After the design is complete, which includes picking out all your fixtures (light, plumbing, and appliances), finishes (wall, floor, counter, ceiling, interior and exterior), and hardware (door handles, window frame finishes, etc.), then the best architects help navigate the world of permitting and construction with you. We are there to fight your battles and make sure you come out of this process with the building we dreamed up and put down on paper.
The first potential hiccup is typically with the City or County permitting process. Before beginning the design, Heather Murray Architecture conducts a Feasibility Analysis, which is a throughout review of the rules and regulations governing your property so that the permitting process can be completed without a hitch. In the event that there is one, I make sure that any conflict is resolved with as little effort and bruises to you and your dream as possible.
Once the design is done and the permit is in hand, I stick with you to the very end to make sure that the builder is building exactly what we designed. While builders are very talented and of course, a crucial component to the design/build process, they often will not understand why we chose to design things the way we did and will suggest changing things to make their job a little easier. I completely understand, who doesn’t want their job to be a little easier most days? But we didn’t design your house or building for the builder. We designed it for you! Architects check in throughout the construction process to make sure you are getting what we spent hours and hours putting down on paper.
All in all, good architects are here to make your dream come true so that you get to wake up every day in a home custom fit to you and your family or a custom medical office fit for you and your staff. Life is short and every day should feel like a dream come true.