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Residential projects are an important part of our practice at Michael Gaertner Architects. Unlike a hotel or office building where the users and the client are usually different people, residential projects are usually inhabited by the clients.  We enjoy getting to know our clients and what they want from their houses. We recommend that clients review our web page Guide to Architectural Services

Michael Gaertner Architects designs houses of all kinds, very large and luxurious or small and rustic. Recently, projects range from a 1,000 s.f. cabin in the hill country and a 1,150 s.f. beach house, to a 5,000 s.f. luxury/executive home. Renovation and historic rehabilitation are important parts of our practice and we have completed many remodeling projects.

What we need from you

We meet for about half a day with our clients to understand what they want in the house. Clients sometimes bring clippings from magazines, sketches and snapshots of other houses to help communicate what they may want. A survey of the property and a copy of any deed restrictions, subdivision requirements or other protective covenants are also required. Our process includes an analysis of the site to determine views, access, drainage, and other existing conditions.

We design new houses from scratch, as well as remodeling and rehabilitation of existing or historic homes. If the project is a renovation, kitchen or bath remodel or other addition, an added step will be to measure and draw the existing structure "as-is". This gives us an understanding of what we are starting with. It usually takes two people a day to measure and a day to draw up an existing house plan.

Schematic Design

One we have the requirements for the house and we understand the existing conditions, we can begin drawing various schemes - the phase we call schematic design. Schematic design may involve drawing several different schemes until we get a design that meets the requirements. We have drawn as many as 15 different schemes to find the one that works, and we keep going until we do! In this part of the work we can quickly and inexpensively test concepts and alternatives. The schematic design phase defines the house and at the end of the phase, the clients know exactly what the house is going to be like.

Construction Documents: 

Schematic design is about communicating with the owner. The next phase, construction documents, is about communicating with the contractor who will build the house. Construction documents can take several forms, depending on the requirements of the owner. If the contractor is pre-selected, or if there will only be a small number of handpicked contractors bidding, then an abbreviated set of construction documents can be produced.  We call this a "builder's set" and it is sufficient for bidding and permitting, but depends on the general contractor to set the standards for quality.  It is best when used when the owner is very familiar with the contractor's standards of quality. When contractors hire us to produce a set of drawings, this is exactly the type of drawings we make. These documents would typically contain a site plan, floor plan(s) and interior and exterior elevations. There may a separate set of written specifications (2-4 pages) or we may call attention to special conditions directly on the drawings.

A more detailed set of documents can be produced. In addition to basic information needed to build the house, it defines or specifies the standards of quality in more detail. Documents such as this can be used for competitive bidding, when we want to be sure that all bidders are bidding "apples to apples" or when there are aspects of the project that are novel or unique. This type of documentation is considerably more time consuming to produce and more expensive, and is usually not required for residential projects. In addition to the basics, it would include additional details defining the construction of the house and its components. Additional drawings might include a framing plan, wall section, handrail or fence details, or unique treatments of millwork such as trim, windows, or doors.

Coastal Requirements

For houses built in the gulf coast area, there are special construction requirements for windstorms and flooding. The windstorm requirements are updated frequently and require specialized knowledge. A state inspector or structural engineer must be used in the construction phase of the project to certify that the structure meets the windstorm requirements. In addition, the windstorm requirements restrict many aspects of design, for example, windows can generally be placed no closer than 2'-8" from a corner of the house. Michael Gaertner Architects endeavors to keep abreast of all changes in these and other building code requirements, however, with residential projects, it is ultimately the responsibility of the contractor to ensure compliance, e.g. the framing clips and connections must be properly spaced and nailed.

In Hurricane Alicia (1983 - 140 mph winds) we observed that buildings built to comply with the building code generally survived with little or no damage. Since 1983 the local codes have raised the threshold of compliance from 90 mph wind to 140 mph wind, and the State Board of Insurance has written detailed requirements for building to this standard. Structures complying with these new  requirements (September, 1998) should survive hurricane force winds with little or no damage. This does not mean that the structures are safe to inhabit during a hurricane! Tornadoes, flooding and microbursts (sometimes called wind shear) can wreak total destruction and are known to accompany hurricanes. The age old wisdom about hurricanes remains true today, head for higher ground.

Other Conditions

Michael Gaertner Architects is experienced in design for lateral loads such as hurricanes and earthquakes, and special provisions for storm shelters (for tornadoes), either in-house or basement/underground shelters. Because we are experienced problem-solvers, whatever your unique problem, we can accommodate it in a design that will be pleasing and practical.

Interior Design

We offer interior design services for residential projects. There are two licensed interior designers in our office. Because we purchase more volume for our hospitality and hotel projects, we can often get deeper discounts than are readily available for residential projects.

Contact us for a free initial consultation.