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Who provides plans/specs/design help to owner?

GBA Editor | Posted in General Questions on

I love all the content here. Since I’m designing our new house right now, and trying to pick a builder, I’m near the point that I have to start providing plans/specs. Here’s the issue; how do I find the person to draw plans/specify all these complex iissues? Especially concerned with solar PV/mini-split locations, or solar thermal vs heat pump water heater questions. LOcation is Calif zone 11, ie mild winter, hot summer, great solar incidence. So who and how do I find a designer/plan drawer/specifier?

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  1. GBA Editor
    Martin Holladay | | #1

    Q. "Who provides plans/specs/design help to owner?"

    A. An architect, designer, or design/build contractor.

    Q. "I'm especially concerned with solar PV/minisplit locations, or solar thermal vs heat pump water heater questions."

    A. The answers to some of those questions can be found here on the GBA site. You can also consult with a mechanical engineer, HVAC contractor, or PV contractor.

    Q. "How do I find a designer?"

    A. The same way you find any professional: ask around. Ask your friends, building materials suppliers, home performance contractors and energy raters, and your local green building association. If you find someone you are interested in, ask for references and talk to former customers. Good luck.

  2. Acobo | | #2

    Selecting a Designer, an Architect or a builder for your home should be one of the most important decisions you'll make. I would make sure the person you select is knowledgeable and experienced in high performing homes. Literally, you have to live with your decision for the rest of your life.
    1. Ask for credentials, education and certifications on green building and high performing homes, at least which tells you if that person has some knowledge of high performing homes, new ideas and new methods of construction.
    2. Ask about their experience and how many homes they have certified to a true green building program. There is a huge difference from folks that “say” they know how to design or build high performing houses to those that have gone through the verification and certification process by independent third party programs. The more experience, the better.
    3. Ask for references, check them out and go see those referenced homes if possible.
    4. Compare their design work, quality of drawings and specifications to other professionals. You don’t have to be an expert to tell the difference.
    5. Most future homeowners and builders hire the cheapest designer they can. Folks start by cutting corners from the get go and yet they pay more throughout the project because their designer’s mistakes, wrong specifications, lack of knowledge on drawings and process, with incomplete drawings or not detailed. To “green” a set of plans that has not been thought-out completely from the beginning maybe to expensive or impossible to do.
    6. Good chemistry is important as well. Is the Designer or Builder listening to you? Will they be able to stay within your home size, budget and timetable? Are they enthusiastic about your project or are you just another paycheck? Be able to communicate and work properly with whom you select will make the process a lot easier, satisfying, positive and fun.
    Most of the important systems on a new house are “stuff” you can’t see, behind walls or under ground, so making sure you make a high priority and attention to that part. Always remember, you can always upgrade cosmetic stuff later on, but when it comes to all the major components, like foundation, framing, insulation, heating and cooling systems, plumbing, electrical, indoor air quality, moisture management, etc., you and your designer and builder should not be cutting corners.

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