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luxury residential design, high end home design, contemporary architect, contemporary home designer, custom architect, custom home design, residential architect, home architect, house architect, 

atherton architect, belmont architect, Fremont architect, Orinda architect, Menlo Park architect, Portola Valley architect, Redwood City architect, San Carlos architect, San Mateo architect, Woodside architect, Campbell architect, Cupertino architect, Los Altos architect

Los Altos Hills architect, Los Gatos architect, Monte Sereno architect, Morgan Hill architect, Mountain View architect, Palo Alto architect, San Jose architect, Santa Clara architect, Saratoga architect, Sunnyvale architect

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why in the world did you choose the name "Aardvark Architecture"?
    It's a fair question that even close friends asked me. So, why? I wanted something fun and memorable, something that would stand out from all the initials and last names, and I'm a sucker for alliteration. I also didn't mind that my business will appear first in nearly any Aalphabetical list, just in case the yellow pages make a comeback. The best reason, however, is the very first video I watched on YouTube about the huge mammals literally started off with: "The AARDVARK: ARCHITECT of the bush, builder of dens used by many other creatures." Seriously! Aardvarks quite literally are keystone creatures in sub-Saharan Africa, crafting homes for dozens of different animal species. Aardvarks dig large holes while feeding or evading predators, and dozens of animal species move into these new homes when the aardvark is done with it. How perfect is that for an architectural design firm that focuses on residential design for other people to live in!? I personally think it more than makes up for the Afrikaans translation of the word aardvark which means "earth pig". Welcome to Earth Pig Architecture, erm, I mean Aardvark Architecture, designer of wonderful homes for everyone to enjoy.
  • How much will my project cost?
    Probably the most important question but also the toughest to guess at right now with so many variables undecided. ​ However, architectural projects can generally be estimated based on Scope of the Project and the Quality of Construction. Your construction budget is a factor of how much (square feet) you want to build and the quality of the build ($/square foot). ​ Builders that I work with in the Bay Area are charging anywhere from $500-$800/sf for their new construction services (Feb 2022), and Owners usually still have to provide their own "allowance item" finishes which can range from $75-$150/sf. So an example 2,000 square foot home might cost 2,000 sf X $575-$950/sf = $1.2M-$1.9M in "hard costs" for the building and materials. ​ "Soft costs" include Jurisdiction Permitting fees, architectural design fees, consultant fees, PG&E fees, etc and usually come in at about 10-20% of your above "hard costs".
  • How long until we can start construction?
    This is largely dependent on your 1) Jurisdiction's Plan approval process and 2) YOU as a key decision maker. 1) All counties have unique hoops and separate approval processes. If just a standard Building Permit, figure about 3-4 months after you approve the Design. If a separate pre-requisite Planning Permit or a Public Hearing is required, then an additional 3-4 months may be added for that process. You need not do this research: finding out exactly what your Project requires is one of the first services I provide. ​ 2) Before we submit the design to the Jurisdiction for Permits, you need to approve the design. The time you need to think it over is ultimately up to you. Clients appreciate my video design presentations they can watch and rewatch at their leisure (or at 2x speed!). This makes our meting time far more productive as we focus on your prepared feedback, and I can usually sketch out proposed solutions on the spot. This is your home and I can't think of anything more worthwhile to noodle on!
  • What is the process of working with an architect to design a custom home?
    Though each project and jurisdiction is unique and this is typical outline: Owner and Aardvark have an initial consultation to answer questions about process, budget, fee structure, and other critical metrics. Assuming we both feel a good fit with each other, we'll sign a fixed free agreement and jump right into the process. Aardvark and early consultants research property and jurisdictional restrictions and approvals process, including site visits and detailed measurements of your property's existing conditions. Design Time! We'll start with focusing on layout and overall flow of the home. Expect at least a few rounds of iteration and back-and-forth with Aardvark here as it's quite normal for owners to revise their spatial requirements as they see their home starting to take shape. Floorplans translate to 3D models as we explore the many looks and styles your home can have. Owners start shopping for their major "allowance items" such as cabinetry, windows, appliances, and such based on preliminary schematic floor plans. Aardvark will introduce you to builders that can provide informal cost estimates based on the major decisions made to date and educated assumptions on details to come. Engineering consultants take the design and develop their share of the plans and calculations needed for Building Permits and Construction in parallel to Aardvark developing final detailed Architectural Construction Documents. Plans are submitted to your Jurisdiction for Building Permit approvals. Owners will start paying plan check fees and permitting fees at this point. The permitting process usually requires one round or revised plans to be submitted. Formal Competitive Bidding amongst an assembled General Contractor Bid Pool takes place at the same time as the Building Permit approvals process. Plans get approved and Owners sign a contract with their chosen Builder. That Builder then "pulls the permit" and construction gets under way! During construction, Aardvark Architecture remains available to coordinate with the Builder, as well as assisting owners make their final Interior Design material/fixture selections.
  • Should I hire an architect and a separate builder, or a Design/Build firm?"
    My advice to anyone hiring a Design-Build company is to speak with your assigned Architect first. Designing a home is a very personal matter and you want to make sure your builder isn't merely contracting out the design side to outside parties. ​ And while you certainly wouldn't want to hire me to actually build your home, you also shouldn't rely on Builders to help you arrive at your best possible design for your unique family, wishlist, and site context. That's where I excel as an architect, at figuring out the best possible layout and look for your home and then putting together a complete package of Construction Documents for Builder to bid on competitively, and then build from at full speed, all critical decisions pre-made and documented. This Construction Documents package is as comprehensive about the design and scope of work as practical, and is perfect for testing the Builder Market to see which company is offering the best currently available Cost&Quality&Schedule combination at the time. And even with such a clearly defined scope of work, we'll still get quite a range of prices from builders' dependent on several factors, such as 1) their current backlog, 2) their overhead and profit margins, and 3) their expected construction schedule. These packages, and the competitive bidding process is quite likely the largest financial value-add of working with an architect. On one of my most recent projects, my clients brought 2 builders to the table and they asked for $1,200,000 for the job whereas my introduced builders only asked for around $800,000 for the same project ! (For context on those 2020 numbers: this was for a 3,200 sf house house remodel and addition plus an attached granny unit (2 full kitchens, 1 walk-in pantry, 4 full bathrooms, 4 bedrooms).
  • How does Aardvark Architecture charge for its services?
    Aardvark Architecture charges a fixed fee for the project negotiated at the outset of the project. This fee is based on the complexity of the project and the jurisdictional approval process. ​ Aardvark only charges hourly for time spent out of the office because of the unpredictable nature of site visits or showroom visits.
  • Should I do a remodel and addition or build new?
    Let's explore this more after I know your desires and your current home a bit better. But without knowing you or your unique details I can at least offer these thoughts: If your home has a great layout and ceiling heights, then a remodel will be much faster, less expensive, and have a much smaller environmental impact. If you're drastically altering the layout of the home and make drastic increases to the heights of your home's interior spaces, then it may start to approach the cost of new construction save perhaps for some existing foundations. While you have to pay for more raw materials with new construction, the rate of construction is often much smoother and faster than when dealing with down-to-the-studs remodels. These time and labor savings can come close to offsetting the costs of the added new foundation and framing. Significant remodels and new construction both get reassessed by the County Property Tax Assessor.
  • Can I live in my home during our remodel?
    This depends on how much damage is being done to the house and your tolerance for messy loud living. ​ I would strongly advise against it though, as you'll just be underfoot and in the way. Let your builders build without having to worry working around you. It might be that the savings in labor can offset the added rent, but even if it doesn't completely pencil out, aren't you reaching out to Architects because you want a nice home to live in? Living in a construction site is not for the faint of heart and it really adds to the stress of the process. But ultimately this is for you and your builder to decide together.
  • Can I save on Property Taxes by keeping some walls in place?
    Short answer is... no, keeping a few walls does not mean savings. Even if you keep a wall in place, the County Assessor will determine the home is improved and "like new". The "like new" areas will be reassessed, but the untouched areas will retain their tax base. Per the Santa Clara County Assessor: ​ If I add square footage to my home, will it cause a reassessment of the entire property, including the land? Under Proposition 13, the entire property, land and improvements, will only be completely reassessed when the real estate transfers ownership. If new construction occurs on only a portion of a property (for example, the addition of a bedroom), the newly constructed portion is reassessed and assigned its own base year value. The remainder of the property which did not undergo new construction (including the land) retains its existing base year value. In some cases, the scope of work being done constitutes equivalent to new construction and the entire house will be reassessed but the land will retain its existing base year value. ​ What if I am remodeling? Remodeling is changing the plan, form, or style of a structure. Remodeling that does not involve adding to the size of the structure or to the amenities provided within the structure is generally not considered new construction and is not subject to reassessment. The exception is those situations where the remodeling is so extensive as to constitute the “substantial equivalent” of a new structure. If a remodeling project is extensive, the property owner is encouraged to contact the Assessor’s staff at (408) 299-5300, in advance, to obtain a better idea of how the project will be treated for assessment purposes. Check with your specific County's Assessor to properly understand changes to your property tax bill.
  • Can you recommend General Contractors to build our home?
    Yes absolutely! Aardvark Architecture works with several amazing builders that service the Bay Area. My recommendations will vary based on your project and location.
  • Do I need to know the exact layout or sizes of the rooms I want for my home?
    No! Focus your efforts on describing the problem, not on showing your hired design expert one potential solution. What is very helpful is sharing photos that are similar to the look and feel of what you hope to achieve with your project . Seeing images of the quality you'd like to emulate are the quickest way to design a project that you'll love from the outset.

If you can't find the answer to your question above...

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