How We Work
How Does Klopf Architecture Work with our Clients?
Our main goal is for your project to work out the way you want it to. We use a step-by-step process we’ve been developing over the years to make sure that happens.
Before You Engage Klopf Architecture
How do you start a conversation with us about your project? Typically you would review this website first, then contact us to set up a time for a phone conversation. We’ll talk about your specific project goals and program, your specific budget, your project-specific schedule, what’s involved with a project of your specific type in your area, how we work with our clients, and anything else related to your project. During that conversation we’ll both decide if we may be a good match for each other. If so, then usually we set up a time to meet in person, usually at your house. This is explained in more detail below.
Step 1 — Setting Goals
You should always ask yourself “what are we doing and why?” But we find that many people have forgotten to ask that question! From our initial meeting we’ll work together to describe your project goals, design objectives, program, schedule, and overall cost. Nothing is set in stone up front, but we can help you develop a starting point and direction to work from before you sign us up.
We bet you would prefer to have as much as possible thought through, discussed, and written out before starting your project, so we’re not “winging it” as we go. If that’s true, then you’ll feel comfortable working with us from the start. We specialize in planning ahead and communicating clearly from the beginning. You’ll notice our commitment to communication and clarity as we develop our proposal for services. Instead of a relatively generic letter of understanding, for most projects we give most clients:
- a preliminary statement of your project program complete with an outline of your goals,
- a detailed scope of architectural services outlining what we’ll do (and not do) in each phase of your project,
- a fee estimate so you can see what you’d pay for the included services, and
- the rest of the paperwork needed to come to an agreement.
From working with us on these documents, you should get the feeling we’ll continue to work with you in this way after the agreement is signed.
Step 3 — Determining which of our Services You Need
At some point early on we’ll have a conversation about how Klopf Architecture can best help you. Here are some of the service levels we provide:
For new houses, large mid-century modern or Eichler addition / remodels, and net-zero energy projects you will only want to work with us one way and we only work one way: from the beginning of design through the end of construction. (Please see below for how a typical project might go.) Working together this way we dramatically increases the chances that your project will turn out the way you want it to. The design will be better worked out and carried out, you’ll have more certainty in your project cost and schedule, and your process will be much smoother. In some cases, you will save a good chunk of our fee by controlling your construction cost and schedule.
Although we really want your business, it is not in your best interests for us to commit to a project of this size if you’re not interested in keeping us on to see it through with you. It is pennywise and pound foolish, from the client’s perspective, to exclude your architect later in the project. Please read about the risks of construction and your budget, and/or contact us for more on this topic.
Smaller or Interior-Only Projects
Even if you have a smaller project, you may still want us to work with you from the beginning of design through the end of construction, as you’d want for a larger project. Because of the economy of scale, our fees as a percentage of project cost would be higher on your smaller project than for a larger project, but if reducing the risks of construction are worth it for you, we welcome the opportunity to work with you to handle your project professionally.
Master Plans and Conceptual Designs
In case you’re just mulling over your options right now, or are planning to phase several projects over the years, we can help you develop a master plan. Please read about the pros and cons of phasing before you decide that phasing is right for you. For conceptual designs or master plans we either use a property survey (for new houses), or (for remodels or additions) house plans you provide or that we create for you, then design various preliminary designs that show the potential scope of work. Normally there are different design options. We’d be happy to discuss this with you if you contact us.
For some large and small projects, some clients may be more interested in setting off in the right direction, so to speak, but my not want to get involved with an architect “for the duration” yet. In these cases, John Klopf can come to your house for a single paid consultation. He will walk through your house with you, listen to your plans for the house, discuss cost and schedule with you, give you design ideas, draw sketches on site, solve problems, and answer any questions he can. John charges from leaving the office until he returns to the office (contact us for hourly rates); there is no obligation to continue with our services after the visit. Our scaled-down services are only available for people with modern or mid-century modern / Eichler house projects.
For people looking to buy an Eichler or other mid-century modern house in the greater San Francisco Bay Area, we offer a flat rate service to help you evaluate your prospective home(s) before you close escrow. For $500/home John Klopf will travel to the house to meet with you in person, walk through the home with you, discuss the planning and building restrictions, discuss your possible schedule, discuss your possible costs, listen to your plans for the house, and give verbal design ideas. There is no written report. (For houses more than 75 minutes driving distance from our office in San Francisco, contact us to discuss fees).
John won’t initiate any sales conversations with you, but if you ask him he’s open to discussing how we work, what we charge, and our availability to work on your project should your purchase go through.
We are expert in listening to you and ascertaining what you want your house to be like. We’d love to use our expertise to turn your words into a custom design through a collaborative design process. You can see the past results of this process by looking at our portfolio. If you’re interested in talking to us, then here’s what normally happens:
After you contact us, we’ll either email you to set up a phone appointment or call (or you can call us) to talk over your project. This phone call is the beginning of our collaborative design process.
If we agree over the phone that we might be a good match for each other, the next step is for us to visit you at your house for an initial visit. The purpose of this visit is for us to see your house in person, to go over your ideas together, for us to provide whatever input we can to help you with your project, for us answer your questions (usually about what’s possible, what it costs, and how long it takes), to review how we work together, and to show you drawing sets of past projects relevant to your project. The drawing sets show you what services we can provide and how much certain projects have cost our past clients to build.
Next we work out an agreement (see above) and help you find and hire the other professionals you’ll need to complete your project.
Once you authorize us, we’ll come and measure your house, or in the case of a new house, we’ll meet with you to discuss design again before we go to the next step. We create a 3-D model of most houses, using a laser measuring tool that is highly accurate so the model can be as accurate as possible given that most older houses are out of square and/or out of plumb.
From there we develop conceptual designs based on our discussions with you. We usually give you hand drawings, normally floor plans. If we think it’s important and appropriate for your project, we sometimes include other drawings like elevations or perspectives to help you understand the first round of designs.
We’ll set up a time to present the drawings we’ve made to you. Remember, these are only a draft and you may say “I like this part but I hate all these parts.” Or you may say “can we combine this piece from option A with this piece from Option B?” And you may just love one design so much you want to go with that one, or (this has never actually happened before) completely hate all the designs. It’s up to you! We want your honest feedback so we can customize the design for you and your situation.
If you have a trusted contractor, it’s a good idea for you to include him/her in your project at this time. We always recommend a contractor who is well-versed in the project type, so for a new, modern home or a mid-century modern remodel be sure to only consider “modern” contractors. Not just a “new home” contractor or a “residential remodeling” contractor. At this early stage we recommend taking a small break in the progress of the project to get some preliminary price ballparks from the contractors.
Based on your comments and ideas, feedback from contractor (if any), and our knowledge, we may change the project scope, or just develop the design with you over time until it becomes more and more refined. This is essential planning, and it is our chance to get on the same page with you about the design. Your time is required in this design process, as it’s collaborative. But we strive to respect your time and make it easy for you to participate effectively.
Step 5 — Getting Ready for Permits and Construction
After we work together on your design, we get more into some technical issues. We take the design we’ve agreed upon and make a more detailed set of drawings and specifications that can help you get your building permit. As we collaborate more and more in ever-more detailed aspects of the design, we add to the drawings until we’ve provided enough detailed information for capable contractors to bid, schedule, and build your project accurately and smoothly.
We create a “building permit set” that either we or you will submit to your local building department so they can review and approve your project. Depending on the project and jurisdiction, we’ll have a strategy for you about how and when to give what information to the various governing agencies that may or may not be involved in the approval process.
NOTE: Some clients think this is the end of the architect’s services. But it’s not! If a contractor were to bid your project from a building permit set, many items will not be specified, and many details will not be included in the set. This leads to the contractor giving you a “budget” full of allowances instead of a fixed “bid” for the project. To learn more about this, please read about the risks of construction, and read on.
To make sure your design is worked out to the details, which is critical if you really want our design, and to make sure your contractor(s) will provide a fixed “bid” instead of a wishy-washy “budget,” we work with you to pick as many of the items and materials as possible and put them into details, schedules, and specifications. We also draw construction details that illuminate the “plans” so that the project has been thought through before construction. Adding details and specifications means including a lot more information in the drawings than would be required for permit (but will be necessary in our professional opinion for construction). Sometimes we select everything and present it to you because that’s what you want. In this case, you’ll see a uniform package of materials, fixtures, etc. to comment on. Other times you will want to collaborate with us on picking fixtures, finishes, materials, etc.
Bidding Your Project to Contractors
At some point we’ll help you with the selection of your contractor. We may have done it before in the preliminary pricing phase, or we may do it after we submit the permit documents. We’ll also help you get proper bids, and evaluate the bids until you feel comfortable selecting your contractor. This can happen early in the project or after the final construction drawings are completed, but in a bid situation you will not be able to know the accurate construction cost until the Construction Documents are complete and the bid period is over.
Step 6 — Construction
We give our clients more information on selecting contractors and what to expect in the construction process during the course of their projects. But in short, our role during construction is to represent you to the contractor in the realm of construction.
Assuming your contract meets typical standards of the construction industry, we should be authorized to reject work done by the contractor, review applications for payment before you pay, and help to settle disputes that may arise between you and the contractor.
Throughout construction we assist you by interpreting the drawings and specifications we’ve created for the contractor, meeting with the contractor to plan ahead for next steps on your project, solving problems by discussing technical difficulties with the contractor (or working with you when appropriate), reviewing supplemental plans and other items like window / door orders that the contractor submits so you don’t have to worry about them, and doing all within our power to make sure the project is built according to the documents we have created.
Since the documents are based on the collaborative design we have come up with together, in the end, it all goes back to us helping your project turn out the way you want it to.