By Lorianna Kastrop, Vice President, The Kastrop Group, Inc. Architects
Clients often come to us ready to start a project and ask us “How soon will the drawings be ready?” Surprisingly, the simple answer is misleading. If we tell them how long it will take to do the architectural work, they assume that’s when they will be able to start building. Here’s why that assumption is incorrect.
Professional consultants are in high demand whenever there is a lot of construction work going on in your area. These include (but aren’t limited to) engineers and surveyors. Many projects require several engineering specialties such as structural, civil, geotechnical (soils analysis), and Mechanical/Electrical/Plumbing. Each engineer will review the architectural design drawings, and often require a site visit. Then the engineer will prepare drawings for the project in their area of expertise. Those drawings are added to the “Construction Document” set that is submitted for a building permit.
In addition, many jurisdictions are requiring a property survey to be completed to verify whether the assumed boundary lines are correct. Over many years, property lines might have drifted from the correct property boundary due to inaccurate placement of fencing, pavement, landscaping, etc. When planners are reviewing setbacks and maximum lot coverage they want to be assured that they are measuring from a professionally verified property line and that there are no unknown easements.
Other requirements really catch people by surprise. For example, in our area some jurisdictions are requiring a “sanitary sewer video inspection” as part of the Building Permit application for projects of a certain size and scope. This entails having a plumber run a remote video camera into the existing sewer lateral (pipe) from the existing building to the sewer main. A Public Works inspector must review the video and complete an inspection report to determine whether the sewer lateral needs to be repaired or replaced. (The rules on this vary from one jurisdiction to another, so check with your architect to see if it would apply to your project.)
One of our clients has old and large trees on the property. To build an accessory dwelling unit, their property must have a certified arborist’s report about possible “heritage” trees that cannot be cut down. The root systems must be protected from damage from the planned construction. That means the placement of the building must be shown on the architectural drawings to be the proper distance away from the trees’ drip lines. The arborist is very busy, and is taking a while to get his report done. That is slowing down the project.
When several consultants and specialists are required for a project, the timeline for the project will grow, sometimes by a huge factor. Let’s say the architectural documents will take a month, but the Structural Engineer can’t look at it for two weeks. Since the structure affects the design, the schedule moves out by at least two weeks. If a survey is required, the architectural work might not even be able to get started until that is done. Sometimes surveyors are so busy that it will take two months just to get the survey completed. And so on.
In summary, we wish we could give a short answer to “How soon will the drawings be ready?” We can’t answer how long will it take for the architectural work without first explaining all the other possible factors that could affect the timing.
It is essential to give yourself lots of lead time for design, engineering, planning and permitting if you are considering a building project. (All bets are off on the timing if your commercial project is subject to the California Environmental Quality Act.)
For your peace of mind and to get an accurate assessment of the timing for your project, consult a licensed architect well in advance and be prepared to hear a detailed explanation!