Tag Archives: Architect

Signed, Sealed and Delivered…


Posted on May 8, 2014 by


We got all the permit paperwork, including the tedious residential energy code compliance paperwork, done.  In the end, the inspector said that due to the unusual nature of the home, he would like the plans to be “signed and sealed” by the architect.  I assumed that this would cost me a pretty penny, but it didn’t.  The architect just charged me for the cost of the prints ($2.25/page).

This may not be as momentous as it feels, but it sure felt great to drop off those plans and permit applications…




Tomorrow night, I need to stake out the property because the zoning guy is going to go out and check the setbacks this weekend.  The lot is pretty large, so we are at least 25 ft past the setbacks.  I already bought the stakes and paint, it will be interesting to lay it out and then walk through it… Certainly a lot more fun than paperwork.

Part of the residential energy code compliance paperwork was asking if a number of key features were explicitly shown in the construction documents, including things like the outdoor air supply for the wood stove and the insulation on the footings.   I had plans and sketches already worked out for everything they asked for, but my architect had not included most of them in the actual construction documents.  When I dropped off my plans, I saw a few other rolls from my architect (he has a distinctive logo) on the building inspectors desk.   I asked and they said they work with him a lot.   I guess that means my architect knows what it needed by my inspector, I just hope he put enough into my drawings and I don’t have to go back and pay him to add it later.


I called my loan officer today.  He was on vacation and is still trying to catch up.  He said that he thought the poor job done by the appraiser was unacceptable.  On Monday, he asked the appraisal company to fix the errors I pointed out.  It may not make a difference to the final $ amount, but at least it will be “more right”.  In the mean time, my wife sent the “bad” appraisal to the insurance company to put the insurance quote together.  Having the site insured from the start is a condition of the loan and the proof will be needed at closing.  My loan officer thinks we will book the closing date next week.



Posted on June 16, 2013 by

Earth Sheltered Timeline, 2013

January: Finalized the design of the Storm Room, which meant we finally had a good idea of what the house would look like.  I also worked out some details of the mechanical room, etc. with 3D models.

February: I shared the architectural plans with the building inspector who then contacted the architect directly to discuss some minor changes that would make things easier to approve.  Got a set of engineering drawings and had a lot of concerns, set up a meeting for March 1.  Finally settled on a set of windows, also got quotes on things ranging from ICFs to a glass floor between the storm room and the rotunda below (it was too much).  Sherri met with some kitchen places to get some quotes. I had a google hangout with the architect to discuss water drainage and other issues.

March:  Met with architect and engineer to try and get things back on the right path and fix some aspects of the design, especially simplifying the structure at the front of the house and fixing some thermal issues.  At the meeting, I mentioned the high cost of the glass floor and the architect suggested a steel grate instead…  At this point the hours of work remaining seem few, but the weeks stretch on…   I also met with the Shotcrete contractor to make sure things still looked build-able to him, he seemed very comfortable with the whole idea and that made me a little nervous, but not as nervous as if he looked nervous ;^).   I also got quotes on the large precast ribs from several precast companies.

April: Perhaps as an April Fools day joke, the architect/engineer sent a bill stating they were 100% done…  and the Engineer was asking for more money beyond the agreed amount for “scope creep”.  Instead of paying, I wrote out an itemized list of the issues along with dates of emails sent on each topic.  Basically, I established that the things I had asked for were in the very first emails and the later emails were just trying to get them to pay attention to the original emails.  Instead of forwarding the letter to the engineer, the architect decided to continue working on everything else so he would only need to go back to the engineer once at the end.   In April, I was sent the “penultimate update” of the drawings, but I still found many issues (many I had already mentioned, but some were new).  The neighborhood where I am building also had a “work day” to trim and remove trees that were too close to the road.  I went out to help out


I will come back and fill in the missing months when I get a chance…

=> Things really get going in 2014

Early May Update


Posted on May 9, 2013 by

Here is a bit of an early May update…

Architect/Engineer You may recall that the last bill (5 weeks ago) said everything was done and payment was due, but everything was not done and there were a number of errors to correct on both the architect and engineers drawings…  And on top of that, my engineer wrote to the architect to say that he thought he should get more money. I disagreed and sent in my argument to the architect who hired the engineer.  You can go here to catch up on some of the past details.

Anyway, my architect decided that we should just wait until we had everything else done and then send the engineer a “final” list of issues.  I guess that is how we should have worked from the start.  In the mean time, they drafted (but have not sent) a letter to the engineer based on my arguments.  Last weekend, I found at least one more big problem in the form of a support bracket that doesn’t fit inside the wall and would radiate heat to the outside…  So that whole engineering issue is just waiting on hold, more to come.

Meanwhile, the architects assistant and I have completed our exams (I got 95% on mine) and got back to work on the plans.  He is working his way thru my comments and most of the serious issues are sorted.  We have some disagreements to work out in a few areas, but the biggest remaining problem is the windows.  We had visited the architect after getting our final window quote but they seem to have lost or confused the notes we gave them with notes from an earlier meeting and some other things they thought they should figure out on their own, so I will need to get that sorted out…

I decided not to wait any more before talking to the neighborhood association.  I wrote to them asked what they want and how they wanted it.  Maybe things will be ready in time, but even if not, I would still like the approval process to get started.  The current state of the drawings is probably enough for that process.  The association requirements that that the plans need to be submitted along with landscaping.

I am planning to do the landscaping myself (along with help from my wife) and bought some software (Punch Lanscape Deck and Patio) to help out, but first I needed the topology.  I played with it a couple weekends ago to figure out how to create the topology for the landscape.  One way to do it was to trace the lines of the survey pdf (image) in Autodesk Revit and export that as a DXF and then set the elevation for each line in Punch… but I asked the architect for the AutoCAD files and he sent them over…  I have not done anything with the file yet, but I really appreciate that he was willing to do that because it will save me a lot of time.

I have also installed AutoCAD on my machine so I can do the shop drawings for some of the steel beams that the architect/engineer do not see as part of their scope, as well as to design the forms for the concrete ribs.  When I was in high school, I won awards for my AutoCAD skills and I worked as TA in my Engineering CAD classes, but that was all a long time ago.  Hopefully the skill is still there and the newest version is not too different ;^) 

Sourcing This week I am working on getting prices for the steel arches and the construction loan… Again, the plans are not quite done, but I am hoping that I can get these started now so everything will be ready when the plans are done.

Temperature Probes I really want to put a number of sensors into my house so I can understand the heat profile and hopefully validate my theories.  They will also help me keep the home comfortable by giving me understanding about the temperature conditions in the soil around my home under my umbrella.   The sensors that I bought for the soil temperature experiment were expensive.  I didn’t feel I had much choice because I needed it to work with a data logger…  However, for this application, I will need a lot more sensors to really understand the umbrella.   I will also be able to connect the directly to a computer, so I am looking into designing and assembling a much cheaper array of “1-wire” sensors (DS19B20).  These sensors cost about 1/10th the price, so I can afford 10 times more, but I will need to build my own circuit board, program my own code, etc…  I bought a book, Weather Toys, which is the best source for information about how to build these systems and I am reading thru it now that school is over.  I am looking forward to the engineering of it, but I am a bit short on time and will probably want the array to be ready and tested before I bury it so I will probably need to get started on buying the components soon.

Eye Candy  These are just some of the fun things that have caught my eye lately, even if they are not all related to earth sheltering.  I appreciated the engineering and creativity of the bicycle chain clocks (the simpler looking one retails for a ridiculous $2400) and I also really appreciated some of the good construction techniques shown on the RM Dev blog. (I just included a few relevant pics here)  You can tell that I have been thinking a lot about how to cover the trellis lately…  No I don’t plan to use hundreds of colorful umbrellas, but that pic still caught my eye and colorful fabric might not be a bad idea while I wait for the vines to grow in.

I also found two more interesting “earth sheltered” hotels, but I will put those in as another post.