Balgowlah Heights - Week 10
If its not obvious from the street, or difficult to see….does that mean its contribution to a design is not as important as that which is prominent…and based on that its ‘ok’ if its not quite resolved or finished off?
I remember a heated discussion with another student during my university degree when he said (about a component of his museum building) ‘thats alright if its not resolved, you don’t see that elevation from the street anyway’.
For some reason this really annoyed me! Perhaps its because I thought he was unable to resolve it, or perhaps I just thought that just isn’t good enough. My belief is that part of your role as an architect is to think about all of those little details that the client is unlikely to think about, or devote energy to, predominantly because they aren’t things that are front of their mind….in other words, they aren’t designers. They are charging you with the responsibility to address these items on their behalf, putting a great deal of trust in you in doing so to fully resolve their building.
Buildings are experienced from all different angles, by many different observers and users. You may not care what the cleaners cupboard looks like or how it functions as a student of a high school, but I would be almost certain the cleaner would be very interested. My point here is that details are important for different reasons depending on their function, you may not realise why at the time but they all serve contributing factors to the completeness of a design. Whether it be handles on a piece of joinery, insulation in a wall, or even the rib profile of a metal deck roof. They all play their part in telling the story of a complete, resolved and finished product at the end.
You never know who may be walking by, peering from your neighbours yard…. all wishing they lived in your house because it all just seems to work and look great! This is no accident.
Doesn’t that brick corbel look great on all four corners of that building! :)
Image of extension from the rear above, taking shape!
Balgowlah Heights - Week 9
Well underway now on site with all lower ground concreting and the majority of lower level enclosing walls in place. As the rear of the home begins to take shape you really do appreciate the fantastic views back to Manly.
One of the things that becomes more obvious to me each time we start on site with a new project, especially renovations, is the concept that you can most definitely over document. Building is not a laser accurate process, walls are not necessarily always square and structure that looks perfectly sound and stable is quite often hiding something sinister beyond!
This project is no different. To manage this as best we can our approach to documentation is to attempt to describe an intent and/or a design outcome when we compile drawings and prepare a scope of work. We have had several items already on this project where documenting the detail of exact connections, final ceiling heights, final levels would have all been time wasted on the drawing board.
Much of our documentation will state things like ‘ensure minimum clearance of’ or ‘design levels to ensure seamless connection with existing’ rather than confirming exact numerical dimensions. This especially rings true for things like staircase levels and connections at ground level.
To date here at Balgowlah Heights we have liaised with the builder to review and finalise stair riser dimensions, floor depths, structural connections, ceiling heights, door threshold details….all as part of the contract administration phase. Why now and not earlier….because it is simply impossible to get these items and other laser accurate and consistent with the site condition on the drawings board.
In short, design doesn’t stop once the drawings are finished, and the stage and which something is documented in the timeline of the project can have a large impact on the relevance or not of what was once drawn with the best of intentions ‘on the drawing board’.
Happy to take topic suggestions from here forward for the weekly blog!
Image above demonstrating the scale at the rear (stair void to lower level)
Davidson Resting Well
We now have some professional shots of our Davidson project thanks to Luc Remond. Again fantastic images that really show the attributes of the home that we focussed on. Great colours and composition as always. Thank you Luc.
Great client, great project, on time, on budget and an architectural result that we are all proud of….that the entire street is talking about!
I will have more details on the site as a select project very soon, but for the moment enjoy the below images.
Underway in Balgowlah Heights
That time again where we track one of our projects through the construction process. We are currently working on a large renovation in Balgowlah Heights involving a complete refit of the existing structure along with front and rear additions. We are very excited about the potential of this one. Working with a switched on builder and a client who understands the process always makes things enjoyable.
To date we have completed most of the demolition, some remedial underpinning works and new structure is starting to commence.
A very simple message this week. It is likely, even with a lump sum contract in place that there will be cost and time variations in any build. These variations can be unforeseen circumstances or client driven changes, and more rarely omissions in documentation.
We always advise clients to have access to around 5% in addition to the contract sum available for variations should they arise. With good documentation and a well managed process variations can be limited and in some cases can be in the owners favour (if you have a good architect keeping an eye on scope changes :)). In all our recent work where we have administered the contract the variations have been well within 5%.
Watch this space for weekly updates, completion due for early February 2016.
Image: Dwelling from the rear with enclosure brickwork underway
Colour Selection at Queenscliff
Early studies for external colour selections at Queenscliff. I’ve always been conscious on this one about how we manage the bulk of the building at the street front. This is due to the fact that the majority of the view toward the building will be accentuated because of the topography. We are always looking at this building from below.
I like to refer to it as a ‘wall building’. This means not a lot of the roof form and volume will be seen. This requires us to concentrate on how we manage the scale and proportion of the walls and avoid the roof looking like a ‘thin lid’.
We have chosen to divide the elevation through material use, and break up the heavier masonry elements through the use of colour. In terms of the roof we will introduce some texture to the ceiling, accentuate our overhangs and oversize the gutters and downpipes to provide detail and relief.
Next step is to present this strategy to the client :).
Hyams Beach Complete
All complete on a substantial beachside renovation in collaboration with Salt Building Design. Not our usual aesthetic. It was fun however to work within the architectural language of the existing building and with the building techniques promoted by the builder whom the client trusted well.
Looking forward to the professional photos soon.
Underway in Curl Curl
Second half of the year looking busy for the practice with 3-4 projects to be in their construction phases. The first of these, a large 6 bedroom dwelling in Curl Curl is well underway with the framing almost complete.
Starting to get a real sense of what will be a very unapologetic strong form. As always we love to see the balance of volumes and material mix in our work. This will be a further development of that mantra. Great exposure to the reserve also!
A pic below to give you a sense of the scale. Cladding enclosure due in next few weeks!
Davidson - Getting Close!
More of a visual diary this week. Detail external carpentry is almost there, painting touch ups to complete and pool works to finalise weather permitting. Enjoy the shots!
More detail and finishing photos over the next few weeks. Our Christmas break begins next Friday the 19th December and we will return on the 12th January 2015. Have a safe and happy Christmas break!
Davidson Construction - Week 20
Apologies for the lack of posts over the last few weeks. Things have been moving forward quickly. We are all about the details now, tile setouts, lighting, door hardware, paver patterns, screen details, carpet selection, cornice resolution and so it goes.
We often discuss here in the office to what level we should go to when documenting. In my experience, you can never really over document, and no matter how far you go there will always be something you don’t describe that needs to be resolved on site.
As each project has a budget (including a consultancy budget), it is not feasible to continue to document forever and a day and produce tens of tens of drawings. In our experience however, it is important to understand at what point in the process you document and what purpose the documentation has.
For example, last week we documented (during the build phase) tile setout drawings for the ensuite nominating where tile joints should be, how wall and floor tiles relate to each other and where the starting setout point for the tile feature wall in the room should begin.
This is only being done now for the main reason that, as we often find, the room as built is not exactly the size of the room when documented. We are only talking about 10-20mm here and there, but when setting out tiles this is significant. In other words, any tile setout drawing done at the time of tender would have been a waste of time because the dimensions we were designing to would have been wrong, and subsequently a waste of the clients money for us to do at that time.
In summary, understand when it is the right time to document based on the information available and the detail required at the time. In a case like the above the costs could be determined at tender as the tiles were known as were the details required. Setout has no effect on costs so holding back documenting to this level of detail made sense.
Image above of tiles being laid in the upstairs ensuite.
Davidson Construction - Week 16
Well into the finishing components of the build now. New flooring going in, tiling about to commence and external painting well advanced.
In regard to painting, generally, when we document a project for tender we will govern the number of coats, the paint type and finish and a code (when using the same type of paint but several colours). We rarely, (although we have an overall balance of colours in our mind), specify an exact colour selection. This week we were reminded why. You never really know what a colour is going to look like until its on the surface in situ. This week we tested our original board colour selection of 50% strength colorbond gully. When we saw this on the wall it looked way too light, so we switched back to full strength. In the office the lighter colour worked well, but not on site.
A few other tips:
Listen to the painter, its what they do everyday and their expertise is useful, particularly regarding knowledge as to how paints will go with particular surfaces and their inherent textures.
If you are using colorbond for roof cappings and flashings etc, consider selecting colours for external walls from the same range. Results in a much more integrated final look that doesn’t focus on those little necessary construction components that you may not want to feature.
Image of upper level deck showing external colours in combination. The board colour has a brown base that works well with the spotted gum column covers.
Davidson Construction - Week 15
Interesting week this week with a whole bunch of design questions arising as we delve further into the detail elements of the project. Finer elements of the cladding now being resolved as are several window details.
As my practice has developed we have refined the way in which we document buildings, particularly renovation projects. In short, we tend to draw less than we used to, and describe more by scope or written description that notes a desired outcome.
When you are dealing with and considerate of an existing structure, a lot of which is hidden at the time of design detailing, a lot of time and clients investment can be wasted drawing something, that just won’t work because you may have anticipated something that is hidden that was incorrect. Another inevitable outcome is that things won’t always be square and accurate. We have found it far more successful to ensure that the builder is aware of the outcome we are hoping to achieve, and that based on this, he or she makes a reasonable allowance in their costs to to cover such work.
We have one such consideration with a detail over the existing windows that we have been resolving. We have found that every window is at a slightly different height and a different setback from the brickwork face (which of course is not straight!). We have managed to resolve an outcome (after some heated discussions….) that recognises we are working with an imperfect base, but results in a neat consistent detail for the home.
The other important thing to remember in this process however is that, when you do know the exact condition, a drawing is the best way to present this to the builder. Keep it simple, and put it in writing. Limits confusion and ensures you get the result you were seeking.
Image above of one of the windows in question, which has been constructed incorrectly. Builder currently correcting to match our earlier instructions :)
Davidson Construction - Week 14
Details, details, details. I have to say, this for me is the most enjoyable part of my role as an architect. Its the time where all of those little decisions begin to reveal how important they are to the overall aesthetic of the building.
This week we have seen the inclusion of the spotted gum elements for the first time on the project. The cover elements for our long T-section columns supporting the deck are now in and their balance with the ply is looking great. As they are relatively bold sections of timber we needed to ensure that the fixings we proposed were consistent with their scale. Based on this we have gone with 12 gauge dome headed bolts (slightly bigger than needed structurally, but consistent with the architectural scale).
Can’t wait to see the spotted gum awning to go in place above our first storey corner window. We have also thought in detail about its fixings and connection to the house with the aim of ensuring a neat balance of elements in both scale and proportion. A bit of a bug bear for us here at HJA!
I made a strategic decision around 12-18 months ago from a practice perspective. I decided only to take on projects where the intention was to have the architect involved throughout the course of the project, from concept, right through to final lock up on construction completion. It is at this stage of the project that you begin to see why. Without all of this detail thinking and management a large building can run the risk of being what I call ‘under thought’.
Remember, design doesn’t end on the drawing board. Just ask someone who’s renovated or built without the involvement of an architect (or someone managing the design). You will discover the number and frequency of issues that arise where design decisions need to be made. If you can make them with the collective result in mind, and with the benefit of someone who understands what the original vision was…..you and the building will be much better placed.
Image obove showing detail spotted gum column flanks.
Davidson Construction - Week 13
Starting to move a bit slower now that the basic enclosure is almost there and we begin to move into the detail. Upper level deck ceiling now clad and roof flashing well underway. Internally stairs starting to go in and electrical setout taking shape. Exciting to see the detail begin to inform the aesthetic.
As we move further into the project the architects role in managing and ensuring the detail as designed is followed through becomes more and more important. When I arrived on site this morning, internal install of wall insulation had begun. I noted a small but important oversight on behalf of the contractor resulting in the insulation not being installed in accordance with the detail provided. Without boring you all with the scientific detail, our wall section not only considered the insulation capacity of the wall, but also its role in managing as best as possible condensation issues. Essentially condensation management relies on ventilation and the seemingly very small difference between our detail and the way in which the subcontractor was installing could have a very big impact down the track.
We are all for making things functional and not complicated to build, but in this case a little extra labour results in an outcome that is not just ‘what is always done’ but is actually best practice. Remember little decisions in one area can have flow on effects in other areas. Whether technical or aesthetic make sure you try to address and understand ‘all’ of the design challenges when detailing.
Image of now complete deck ceiling above. Liking the warmth of the material!
Davidson Construction - Week 12
Exciting site visit this week with the first panels of plywood now installed to the upper floor external deck ceiling. The balance of colours is beginning to become apparent. Great attention to detail again from the carpenter this week. A real pleasure to work with…even bought me a coffee today!
I have been consulting with the client this week on colours and finishes now that we are starting to see the impact of the plywood external elements. The next big step before we attend to the painted surfaces will be to see the impact of the spotted gum (darker timber) trim elements to the columns and screens that will act as a nice natural finish colour and balance for the ply.
In our original thoughts we had specified a spotted gum garage door finish as well. Having now seen the scale of this door and the visual presence it will have I am considering moving away from the dark colour spotted gum will give us. This is on the basis that some attention may be taken away from the ceiling. In short, we want the eye to be drawn to the feature element being the ceiling, not the garage door. As lovely as spotted gum is it may be too much surface area for the project as a dark colour, given that the use of spotted gum elsewhere on the project is all in smaller trim and batten detail elements.
I am leaning more toward a more muted colour to match our FC finish. This will fit very well with the overall scheme and attract a little less attention to the door :). Now time to see if the client agrees.
My point here is, colours and finishes are very difficult to get 100% correct on paper. Give yourself the opportunity to think about these things as you see the build come together. Certain things will be become apparent that may have been less of a concern on paper or difficult to see at the time. Design is a process of constant flux with no one correct answer. Best to acknowledge this and go with it!
Image above of the ceiling as seen upon entry to the home.
Davidson Construction - Week 11
Getting a little bit done between the wet days over the past few weeks. Although the pace is slowing the external fabric continues to move closer to lock up stage. Really starting to get a sense of the various volumes of the home now that most external walls are clad.
I had a good experience on site today with the carpenter who is subcontracting to the lead builder. I’m a firm believer that any good build project is the result of a good team, from the client to the architect to the head contractor, including the subcontractors under their supervision.
We were workshopping the details for the plywood ceiling (with the carpenter) just about to go in for the upper level ‘signature’ roof element. It will be a key element both materially and colour wise for the build that will draw the eye, so it is important to get the detailing correct.
There are several things to resolve including how the plywood ceiling sheets are laid out, how do we fix the sheets, how often do we fix them, is there a pattern, what finish are we applying, how many coats. What veneer are we using, what is the sheet thickness…and the questions go on. A lot of the time this level of detail is not fully described on a drawing or in a specification due to budget constraints during the documentation process. Having the ability to work through these with a subcontractor who has an eye for detail is a fun and rewarding experience. We can combine the design skills of the architect (who is predominantly concerned with the end result), with the buildability knowledge of the carpenter (who is generally concerned with the how we do it).
If you can get a tradesman who thinks ‘how we do it WELL’ then you are on a winner! We are lucky enough to have that on this project. Image above with street elevation clad!
Davidson Construction - Week 10
Apologies for the missed post last week, plenty of things going on!
As you can see from the above photo things continue to move forward at a good pace on site. External cladding is now underway, roofing is predominantly complete, windows are all in and full enclosure is not far away.
The past few weeks have seen a bit of wet weather so I thought we could talk about how building contracts deal with delays. Essentially most building contracts will note wet weather as a reason for delay. The differences can be however, does the overall program for the project allow for wet weather days or are they considered additional to the program.
In the contracts we are mostly using for our single home projects the option exists to nominate an amount of days, that the builder needs to allow for in their overall program for wet weather delays that do not effect the overall program and completion date for the project.
In other words, it is expected over any 6-12 month build cycle that some time will be lost to rain. By allowing a number of days within the contract pre execution (we tend to allow for 10 days every 6 months as a reasonable and fair measure) it is acknowledged by the builder that no delay claim can be made if the days lost do not exceed the allowance.
We do this for a number of reasons including managing the expectations of the client regarding completion, limiting the time required to process delay claims from the builder which require consultancy time and therefor money and acknowledging that wet weather is likely.
Remember though, any day it rains is not necessarily a day to be advised by the builder as lost, or if the allowance is exceeded, a day for which the builder can claim an extension of time.
The rain needs to have affected the ability for work to continue that will effect the critical path of the project timeline. Most legitimate rain delay claims will come before the building is at lock up stage and watertight. After that works can mostly occur inside to keep things moving.
in summary, when assessing claims from your builder for rain delay, confirm that the rain has directly affected the critical path for the project before approving the extension of time. Or, have an architect in place that will manage this for you :). Also remember that delays cost money, particularly if you are having to pay rent, eat out or whatever it may be because you are not in your own home. Every week adds up.
Davidson Construction - Week 8
Week 8 just complete and the majority of the external framing is now in place. We were excited to see the roof framing for the first floor deck erected. The adjusted angle from the main first floor roof creates a striking finishing statement and balances the proportions of the other elements of the home. Always good to see those decisions made on paper beginning to realise themselves on site!
Kinking the roof angle allows for the winter sun to penetrate into the upper level living spaces during the middle of the day and create an open, yet covered feel to the deck below. Its impact when viewed from the street as an architectural element is also creating some ‘interest’ in the otherwise quite little suburb of Davidson.
Image above of the build when viewed from the street boundary as of 14th August.
This week I wanted to discuss contingency within a building contract. A contingency is basically an amount of money available for use, if needed, if the scope of the project needs to change. The intent is not to use this contingency if at all possible, but to have it available if unavoidable. We generally suggest, for the types of projects we are working on that 5-7% of the contract cost would be a reasonable contingency to have available.
There are three key areas that variations fall into that may require you to call on a contingency. Contrary to popular belief they aren’t generally because the architect wants to make things more expensive because “C’mon…its going to look fantastic!”
Variations are most commonly caused by changes to the scope requested by the client, generally related to fixtures and finishes amendments, electrical upgrades or joinery additions. Or, unforeseen circumstances, like wall framing with termite damage not able to be seen until demolition has begun for example. Also, less commonly, variations can come about due to changes in the design suggested by the architect. This does not necessarily mean the variation is an addition to the cost. It can also be a reduction in the cost or be cost neutral.
In reference to this project, we have worked closely with the builder and the client to resolve details for balustrades, awnings, screens etc that were amended during the tender stage in an effort to reduce costs. The original designs were outside of the overall budget and based on this, allowances were set at the time of contract signing for these items. As construction progressed we revisited the designs for these elements and presented to the builder for pricing and comparison with the allowances made.
All of the time we have been working hard for the client to retain the intent and finish quality of the original design intent whilst making these changes ‘cost neutral’ when compared against the contract allowance. We continue to work with the builder work shopping alternative methods so this can be achieved.
So remember, your architect is there to help achieve an outcome in line with the brief for the project, that always includes a budget. Ignoring this fact when considering the value of variations particularly would make for an unhappy client and an architect who is not acknowledging the parametres of the project.
Design is very easy when there is no budget…. but it is much more challenging and rewarding when there is, and a good design outcome can be achieved.
Davidson Construction - Week 7
Several things happening this week with wall and roof framing continuing, all windows now in and external first floor decking structure progressing. Image above shows corner windows to upper level sitting room in place. Great spot to sit in winter!
All of this activity means lots of questions to answer.Site discussions this week focussed on power and electrical schematics, external colour selections and tile /paver specifications.
Many design decisions are left over to be resolved in detail once the project is underway. We like to specify the performance and or specification requirements for things like painting and fitout, but we do not necessarily select actual finished colours and finishes for example. We will note material, number of coats, preparation of surface etc. There is a sound reason for this.
Colour samples can look very different in a fan deck or at the hardware store compared to what they will actually look like on site. The location of the build, the orientation, and the combination of colours together can make individual colours look very different in reality when compared to the design intent.
We always find that when selecting paint colours, that they should be reviewed not only in relation to other colour elements in the build (roof colours, clear finished timbers etc) but also reviewed when up on the wall on the site. This means selecting a few samples and painting them on the wall so the reality of the selection can be easily seen. Also, just as importantly, the client can see the reality when compared to those design discussions early on in the process with the architect that may be now forgotten.
As a general rule, we find that external paint colours are two to three shades lighter outside than inside. So when selecting a specifying we often select darker than the intent for this reason. As another tip, we also often specify a 1/2 gloss, 1/2 semi gloss finish (sprayed if the painter doesn’t growl at you!) as the finish is much sharper and clean than a regular roll on finish.
Until next week!
Davidson Construction Update
Based on some positive client feedback from the weekly blog we posted during the construction process of our North Manly renovation project just on 2 years ago we have decided to do it again. The opportunity has arisen once more thanks to our willing clients in Davidson! Thank you Rolf and Tanya :)
I will aim each week to post an update on how the build is progressing focussing on a particular item that i believe may add some knowledge to your understanding of how buildings get built and the issues that arise for address during a construction program. Hopefully you will find it useful and interesting!
If there is anything particularly you would like the blog to focus on please feel free to ask. Looking forward to walking you through the process again!
Above is an image of the home from the street front before we started and a model of the end result. We are approximately 6 weeks into the build and are due for completion mid January next year.