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@VELD architect, southwestern Ontario

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A New Addition!

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photo credit: Lasting Impressions

For those who don’t know I now have a little baby girl to look after alongside my clients! She is a bundle of joy and cuteness! And she makes a pretty good helper!

We also finally got our new mailbox sign up. It’s been a year in the works since we moved to our new location outside Stratford. We had a mailbox up, but the snowplow took it off this winter, so it was good incentive to get the new one done properly. It has been a great little design process filled with experimentation!

VELDmailbox

under construction with our new little helper

No matter how big or small the project it starts with predesign. Setting up the goals, and defining success. You need an idea of what you want to convey and how you will make something that conveys your idea. I wanted the name of my firm to be clear to drivers as they drive past at paved country road speeds! I also wanted something modern, yet welcoming, and something a little different. I fully expect to be the talk of the neighbourhood many times over during my career!

I try not to destroy too many trees!

Then the fun part, schematic design which begins with a sketch! Or likely many sketches. Going through idea after idea until the right one shines through.

VELDmailbox sketch

the results are pretty close to the conceptual sketch

Then the details, (design development) usually what materials to use. We already had a shiny stainless steel mailbox, so I needed a contrasting material. I have been wanting to experiment with charred wood (Shou-sugi-ban) for a long time. So I took the opportunity to be a pyromaniac. Much to my husbands disapproval as I was 4 months pregnant when I felt this urge! With a bit of experimentation I finally mastered the skill and techniques of burning wood.

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Then it’s the construction stage. I recruited my sister to carve, my mother to baby sit, and my husband to assemble! I worked out the final assembly details and this is the end result.20140424-101222.jpg

"Do you do permit drawings?"

This is a question I get asked a lot, but sometimes permit drawings are not what a client really needs. Of course I do permit drawings; it’s a necessary part of the design/building process, but there is two things you should know.

1. there are thousands of decisions required to be made before a permit drawing can be made, and

2. permit drawings are different from construction drawings (and you probably need both to complete your project).
I  will elaborate.

It not as easy as just drawing up a set of plans. For every line that gets drawn a decision needs to be made; how big should this room be, what should the walls be made out of, what are the cost implications of this finish type, what does the building code require, how does this affect a users experience,what size of floor joist to use, post & beam or stud construction, how does this material connect to the next, where is the ductwork going to go, etc. Therefore When a client asks me “do you do permit drawings” there are many steps required to be made before getting to that stage. It like trying to plant a field before you’ve decided what seed, no-till or not, organic or conventional.  You need a plan to get there.

Everything is connected to each other, you want to put stone on the wall, we need to supply plywood backing and perhaps a bigger stud. A lot of decisions need to be made before arriving at a set of permit drawings, even if you come to me with a sketch. Many people can get overwhelmed by this as they just wanted permit drawings, but that’s why you hired the architect; to help inform you to make these decisions, that are the right solution for you.

After we have gathered enough knowledge and made enough decision to prepare some permits drawings it is important to understand the difference between a permit drawing and a construction drawing. A permit drawing contains information the building department is interested in like fire separations, exit distances, stair dimensions, sprinkler systems, etc. These items are very different from what your builder is interested in, how to construct a wall, how it connects to the foundation and the roof, is there a vapour barrier.  A set of permit drawings can be very simple, where a construction set can be very complex and detailed.

Permit drawings contain information that the building inspector at your municipality wants to see, to prove the building conforms to the Ontario Building Code.  Things the building department cares about are washroom sizes (ensuring they are barrier-free), fire separations if required, plumbing design, basic electrical design, and basic structural if required. The building department a basic permit set, with the minimum information.

 

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Example of a page typically found in a permit set. Ontario Building Code Matrix and Washroom details

Permit Drawings Typical Contents:

  • Building Code matrix
  • basic floor plan
  • stair drawing
  • basic site plan
  • basic elevation occasionally

 

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Example of a page found in a construction drawing set. Details of wall and bulkhead construction.

If your contractor uses a permit set for construction he would not be happy and would be calling me all day for dimensions and details. That’s because the building department doesn’t care about room sizes generally, doesn’t care about non-loadbearing wall construction, nor about finishes. So a construction set of drawings contains dimensions that help the trades layout stud walls, what colour to paint the walls, what the walls are made of. The other major difference between permit drawings and construction drawings are the details. A construction drawing set looks at some of the key intersections in the project and works through how they should be constructed.

Construction Drawings Typical Contents:

  • site plan and setout drawing
  • and sequencing, phasing, or construction related drawings
  • detailed floor plan layout
  • detailed elevations
  • detailed building sections
  • details of particular parts of the building (ie, window sills, door frames, beam connections, trim details, special features, details of wall assemblies)
  • structural drawings
  • mechanical drawings
  • electrical drawings
  • finish material selections and specifications
  • door and window sizes and specifications
  • millwork drawings (if requested)
  • interior elevations describing where to place lights, switches, outlets, trim, paint colours, etc.
  • warranty requirements

 

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Example of a typical sheet found in construction drawings. Door schedule and specifications describing the types of doors the Contractor is to price and install.

Another important distinction between permit and construction drawings is the ability to obtain pricing.  A permit drawing set will not have sufficient detail for a number of contractors to quote and you to compare apples to apples. With a construction set of drawings there is enough detail that a contractor does not need to guess or assume anything about the project and can provide very accurate quoting. This allows you the client to obtain competitive pricing you can compare and select the best price.

But in short, “yes, we do permit drawings!”

For more information on permit drawings and construction drawings and other phases of design, please feel free to download our free guide. “7 steps to Realizing your Project: The Design Process”

Happy Holidays from VELD architect

Rural Revitalisation Idea #2 : farmer retirement village

BEFORE

BEFORE

I’m sure you’ve heard it before from a farmer, If I retire I’ll die.  Those farmers just don’t know how to take a day off, let alone retire. Not to mention that most farmers don’t want to move to town. So what options are left? move in with you on the home farm?!? If you’re looking for an alternative, this might be it.  Prince Andrew public elementary school in Bryanston has been empty for many years. It is prime time for someone to adaptively reuse this building.  The school is home to the annual fireworks, soccer and basketball games, the annual bike rodeo, and many more events. Image retiring to a place that is still full of life, located in the county, and has community and assistance. The school is a typical 60’s school that taught junior kindergarteners to grade 8. That’s 10+ living units, plus a library or new community hall, and even a gym for those who like to dance!  The location is also ideal, on Highbury Avenue, it’s less than 15 minutes to London for groceries, doctor’s appointments, etc. and not too far away from the grand kids! In fact the property has baseball fields and soccer fields so there is room to kick them out of the house to run around when they stay the weekend, and entertainment during the dull summer weeknights! A little TLC, vision, and an operator could make this a great place for the farmers to retire to. And I’m sure this is not the only elementary school that no longer has a purpose in life.

AFTER

AFTER

Part of the Rural Revitalization Ideas Series, exploring rural revitalization projects.  Feel free to contact me, VELD architect if your interested in pursuing one of these ideas!

VELD architect supports the Region of Waterloo's OMB appeal

Sure "signs" of developers at work in Waterloo Region

Sure “signs” of developers at work in Waterloo Region

Being a farm girl and a city girl engaged in urban&rural design and sustainable design there is no way the VELD architect could not show their support for the Region of Waterloo’s decision to appeal the OMB ruling to increase the develop-able land in the Region.

Sustainable Waterloo has displayed the facts very well on their blog so I won’t go into them again. but here is a little summary. The Region of Waterloo has always been a strong advocate for a hard and fast countryside line that reduces urban sprawl and saves their prime farmland in the Region. In the most recent Official plan the Region is promoting deification on the existing urban structure, and downtown and limiting new development land.There are a multitude of benefits to this plan;

  • saving prime farmland
  • reducing infrastructure costs for roads, sewers, public transit, etc. (which also keeps taxes down)
  • more density to neighborhoods for better communities
  • more walkable cities
  • renews downtowns and every neighborhood in the city or town.
  • more sustainable growth and sustainable urban planning for generations to come.

The developers opposed this plan and took the Region to the Ontario Municipal Board, who overruled the Region and will force them to open significantly more land than they intended. The Region has recently decided to not be push-overs to developers and stand up to them and appeal the decision. This decision will affect not only this Region, but every other Municipality that chooses to hold a hard city limit in their planning policies. Waterloo Councillors are making a huge step to more sustainable growth.

I hope this issue can be a uniting factor for urban and rural dwellers and we can band together to support not only Waterloo Region (because this issue will emerge in your community eventually), but also every community in Southwestern Ontario.

To find out what you can do to help see Smart Growth Waterloo.

Regards and Good luck,

signature-KH

letterhead KH signature

Rural Revitalization Idea #1 -tobacco kiln B&B

 

BEFORE

BEFORE

As many of you probably don’t notice anymore, smoking in bars, entrances, and other places has mostly disappeared from Ontario. All you have to do is go to Europe and you will appreciate the smoke-free environments we enjoy in Canada. However, this industry shift took a very hard toll on Tobacco farmers in Ontario. In many places, these Tobacco farmers have gotten quite ingenious with the old kilns, good soils, etc. and have gone into niche markets. But many farms lay with abandoned tobacco kilns sitting empty waiting for a use! Well I have got one… Wouldn’t it be cool to renovate a farm with a few kilns and turn it into a B&B or hotel! Or even a campground! Image a landscape full of kilns all mini cottages with long-term cottagers and your weekenders! Each kiln could probably hold a small family, with a great loft bedroom! Each kiln could have a semi private porch, skylights, views of the rural landscape. Each kiln nestled between rows of vegetables and decorative plants. Each morning you could get up at the crack of dawn to help the farmer, relax in a hammock all day, or go on a day trip exploring the rural landscape.

AFTER

AFTER


I was told once that the more you share your ideas the more they come back to you. So this is part of a series called Rural Revitalization Ideas where I throw my ideas out to the universe and hope they come back to me! The series will focus on projects in rural Ontario(or anywhere) that I think (and hopefully others will too) would be cool places to add to Ontario’s rural tourism, culture, and atmosphere. Feel free to add and suggest your own or contact me if you want to pursue one of my out-of-the-box ideas!

Farmhouse Design Part III

So you’ve decided you want to build a new farmhouse on your property. First you need to decide if the “Builder’s special” is the type of home you want or do you want something truly special. Check out this blog to help you decide if a custom home is right for you.

Most of you probably want to know what building a new house costs. It depends on the area, but it can cost anywhere from $150-$500 per square foot depending on the quality of home you are building. You may also need a new septic system, if your house hasn’t been renovated in many years. This item is costly and requires specific engineering design and permits. They also take up a lot of space on your property.

Building a new farmhouse on your property gives you a great opportunity to make it perfect. It is easy to apply the principles of my earlier blogs about farmhouse design; views, sustainable principles, daylighting, authenticity, etc………

I will fully admit that this blog is going to focus on contemporary design. If you want the suburban home transplanted to your lot, it’s a matter of taste. But I believe that every home should be site specific and that the suburban home style is not suited to the farm. So what is the modern farmhouse look like? I believe that pictures are worth a thousand words in this case.

What not to do:

Don't be a copycat unless your going to do it perfectly. That means aying for the brick walls over the entire house, not just parts.

Don’t be a copycat unless your going to do it historically accurate. We live in the 21st century, why copy a design from the 19th century?

transplanted from suburbia, such that the lack of windows on the side wall (where the views are) are a leftover from building code requirements when your house is close to the property line. Not a site specific design.

transplanted from suburbia, such that the lack of windows on the side wall (where the views are) are a holdover from building code requirements when your house is close to the property line (like in urban situations) it limits your allowable openings. Not a site specific design.

Avoid the overly frontal nature of the house. A farmhouse sits in the middle of a field, it should address all sides of the landscape. Besides the road is not likely the best view, but this frontal design emphasizes it with the majority of windows.

Avoid the overly frontal nature of the house. A farmhouse sits in the middle of a field, it should address all sides of the landscape. The traditional farmhouse was square and windows placed equally on all side, with the exception of perhaps a front porch. Besides the road is not likely the best view, but this frontal design emphasizes it with the majority of windows.

A for heaven's sake, please don't do this. Plan ahead for the transitions between brick and siding if you can't afford a entire house out of brick.

And for heaven’s sake, please don’t do this. Plan ahead for the transitions between brick and siding if you can’t afford an entire house out of brick. Make the transitions make sense and be logical.

What TO do:
The 21st century farmhouse takes a lessons from traditional farmhouse architecture. Just like the barn, its functional, simple, yet elegant. The modern farmhouse is in harmony with nature, takes advantage of topography, and has modern details.

This house takes the simple form of the square farmhouse and integrates the material palette of a barn for a clean contemporary look.

This house takes the simple form of the square farmhouse and integrates the material palette of a barn for a clean contemporary look.

This house almost completely blends into the landscape and disappears. Green roofs blend it in and it compliments the existing bank barn, and doesn't try to steal the stage.

This house almost completely blends into the landscape and disappears. Green roofs blend it in and it compliments the existing bank barn, and doesn’t try to steal the stage. Farmhouse design should not steal the show from the beautiful landscape it lives in.

take advantage and love the topography of the and you own.  Don't fight it, the results will be far richer.

take advantage and love the topography of the and you own. Don’t fight it, the results will be far richer.

find the great view and emphasize it!

find the great view and exploit it!

Make sure you provide the necessary view, to the kids play area, the barn doors, the laneway, etc. so you can keep an eye on things when you are inside.

Make sure you provide the necessary view, to the kids play area, the barn doors, the laneway, etc. so you can keep an eye on things when you are inside.

embrace the outdoors when you can. except on the days when the wind blows in a certain direction from the barn!

embrace the outdoors when you can. except on the days when the wind blows in a certain direction from the barn!

That’s enough about the outside…a few tips on interiors

Do you really need that 3rd bathroom? Think about the space you really need. I know farm families are generally big, but do you really need that extra 500 square feet? Keeping it small can really keep costs under control. If you are efficient and careful with a design you can get away with more flexible space (not single use spaces like a dedicated dining room) and be more efficient with square footage. Architects and designers are great for being efficient when it come to space planning.

Think about your entry, make sure its generous enough to open the door, get boots off, open closet doors, etc. Most house designs leave too small a space at the front door. This is the first impression of your house make it count.

And the last important thing about designing your farmhouse is the barn clothes door and dirty people traffic. Certain farmers need to be very careful about designing this entry as the animals they grow have potent smells (pigs & chickens) which can permeate your house if you don’t carefully consider them. Carefully orchestrate a mud room entry, perhaps even a separate shower.