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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"?
    For starters, I wanted a company name that would be fun and memorable, something that would stand out from all the initials and last names, plus I'm a sucker for alliteration. I also didn't mind that my business would appear first in nearly any Aalphabetical list. The thing that sealed the deal, however, was that the very first video I watched on YouTube while researching the huge mammals literally started off with: "The AARDVARK: ARCHITECT of the bush, builder of dens used by many other creatures." Seriously! Aardvarks are quite literally 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!? Personally, I 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 narrow down right now with so many variables still undecided. ​ Builders that I work with in the Bay Area are charging anywhere from $400-$800/sf for their new construction services (Jan 2024), and Owners usually still have to provide their own interior finishes and appliances as "allowance item" which can range from $75-$150/sf. So an example 3,000 square foot home might cost 3,000 sf X $475-$950/sf = $1.43M-$2.9M in "hard costs" for the building and finishes. ​ In addition to "hard costs" for your materials and your builder's services, there are "soft costs" which include Jurisdiction Permitting fees, architectural design fees, engineering consultant fees, power and water fees, etc and these added soft costs usually come in at about 10-20% of your project's "hard costs".
  • How long until we can start construction?
    This is largely dependent on 1) How quickly you approve the design(s) Aardvark Architecture develops based on your project's unique requirements, and 2) your Jurisdiction's Plan approval process. 1) Before Aardvark Architecture submits the Design Review package to the Jurisdiction for Permits, you will first need to approve the design of the home. Clients appreciate the pre-recorded video format of my design presentations that they can watch and rewatch at their leisure (or at 2x speed!). This makes our weekly meeting time far more productive as we focus on your prepared feedback, and I can usually sketch out proposed solutions to your design questions on the spot. The time you need to think it over is ultimately up to you, but this is your home and I can't think of anything more worthwhile to noodle on! 2) All cities and counties have unique hoops and separate approval processes for new homes or extensive remodels. If just a standard Building Permit is needed, figure about 3-4 months of Plan Review time after you approve the Design. If a prerequisite but separate Planning Entitlement Design Review Permit is required, then an additional 3-4 months must be added to the Jurisdiction's Plan Approval Process. Once the Plans are approved by your Jurisdiction's Building Department, your builder can "pull the permit" and start construction!
  • What is the process of working with an architect to design a custom home?
    Though each project and jurisdiction is unique, this is a 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 start to take shape. Floorplans quickly translate to 3D models as we explore the many looks and styles your home's layout can express. My YouTube channel focuses primarily on this aspect of my service to clients. Owners start shopping for their major "allowance items" such as cabinetry, windows, appliances, etc. based on preliminary schematic floor plans. Aardvark will introduce you to excellent builders that can provide informal cost estimates based on the major architectural decisions made to date and educated assumptions on engineering 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 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 by the Jurisdiction and Owners sign a contract with their chosen Builder. That Builder then submits their credentials and proper paperwork to the Jurisdiction to "pull the permit" and get construction 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 make sure to speak with your assigned designer 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. Also note that not all home designers are licensed Architects. ​ 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 multiple trusted Builders to bid on competitively, and then build from at full speed, since all critical decisions have been pre-made and thoroughly documented. This Construction Documents package is as comprehensive as practical about the design and scope of work 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 to clearly define the scope of work. On one of my recent projects, my clients brought 2 builders to the competitive bid pool and they asked for $1,200,000 for the job whereas my introduced builders only asked for around $800,000 for the same project.
  • 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 insights: If your home has a great layout and ceiling heights already, 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 your remodel project may start to approach the cost of new construction. While you have to pay for more raw materials with new construction, the rate of construction for the builders is often much faster compared to when dealing with down-to-the-studs remodels. These time and labor savings can often come close to offsetting the costs of the added new foundation and framing materials. Significant remodels and new construction both get reassessed by the County Property Tax Assessor.
  • 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.
  • 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 about working around you. It might be that the savings in labor time can offset the added rent, but even if it doesn't completely pencil out, aren't you reaching out to Architects for your new home because you appreciate staying in finer spaces? 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 major tax savings. Even if you keep some walls 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. But always keep in mind that the tax base will only increase on the "Improvements" portion of your tax bill, the "Land" value is not affected by any Improvements. 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 we need to hire surveyors, structural engineers, and other such consultants?
    Yes, every residential project will require involvement of consultants, depending on the scope of your project and your jurisdiction. This consultant list varies but can include surveyors, arborists, geotechnical engineers, civil engineers, & structural engineers to name a few. Aardvark Architecture works with several excellent engineering firms to handle residential projects from smaller remodels to larger new homes on virgin land. Whatever expertise your project and jurisdiction requires, Aardvark Architecture will manage the assembled consultant team including onboarding the needed consultants at the appropriate time and driving the team towards Plan Approval. You as the owner, need only pay their separate fees and allow for access to your property.

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

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