How do you charge?
Typically, we charge an hourly fee with an upset figure. We arrive at this upset number after examining the project and listening to the goals of our client. Then, we attempt to estimate the amount of time that the project will take and use that to arrive at our fee.
We generally include time to get a permit in the City of Chicago. Typically, suburban communities do not require this time commitment from us.
Will you inspect a house before we purchase it?
This is a frequent request. We are glad to see a house before you commit to purchase it. We are able to give advice on remodeling and additions because of our familiarity with the local Building Code, Zoning Ordinance, and construction costs.
How is your inspection different from a House Inspector?
A House Inspector looks at different issues; for example, they generally check all the electrical outlets and to see if the appliances are in working order. We are generally invited to discuss possible changes to the property.
Can you work with a limited budget?
We pride ourselves on our ability to get the maximum impact from dollars available.
Will you work on small projects?
We enjoy work on all sizes of projects!
Will we need to hire an Interior Designer and a Kitchen Designer?
We are glad to work with either if you would like, but that is a personal preference rather than a requirement.
We typically will include a furniture layout as part of the design process, largely to be certain that the rooms will comfortable and useable. We are not generally involved with fabric selections although we’re always glad to offer an opinion. We maintain a small library of tile and stone samples in the office and have often accompanied clients on visits to showrooms for further selections. Our drawings can include elevations of all principal rooms if that is appropriate.
Generally, we include kitchen elevations in our drawings. We have found that clients often do well by taking our elevations to various kitchen showrooms and “shopping”. This gives a basis for real cost comparisons between different cabinet lines. Often cabinet lines have different options, and once a cabinet line is selected, we will incorporate ideas from the showroom’s designer.
Do you recommend General Contractors?
We maintain a list of General Contractors and subcontractors who have performed well on previous projects. We select 3 or 4 from that list to bid on particular projects depending on the size and complexity of the projects, contractor schedules, etc.
We have a General Contractor that we would like to use; will you work a part of a Design/Build team?
We have often worked as the design part of a design/build team.
Will you help us get a Building Permit?
The current permit process in the City of Chicago requires the architect to upload electronic versions of all documents to the Building Department for review. We are very familiar with this process!
Are you familiar with the permit process in the City of Chicago? In other communities?
Yes! We have successfully obtained hundreds of permits in Chicago and in the neighboring communities.
Do you have experience working on Landmarked structures?
What about the Tax Freeze available to historic single family dwellings?
What about the Investment Tax Credits available for commercial projects?
Yes! We have successfully obtained both the Tax Freeze and the Investment Tax Credits on behalf of our clients. We have also worked with independent Historic Consultants on Landmarked buildings.
We are considering an addition to our house; can you advise us on cost and possible size before we commit to Architectural Services?
Yes! Generally, in the initial consultation we will examine the Plat of Survey to see what the Zoning Ordinance will permit. After listening to your goals for the project, we can give a gross estimate of probable cost. We would refine that estimate as the project progresses.
What are the issues we need to consider in thinking about an addition to our house?
First, we need to consider Zoning Restrictions. We can look up your zoning district and with a copy of your Plat of Survey; we can find the specific requirements for your lot.
In most communities, the number of square feet of Floor Area will be determined by the size of the lot and the zoning district. For example, in Chicago, a standard 25’x125’ lot in a RT4 district would be allowed 3,750 sq.ft. of floor area (which may or may not include the basement, depending on height).
In Chicago, the number of dwelling units per lot is determined by the MLA (Minimum Lot Area per Unit) in that RT4 lot above, the MLA would be 1000 sq.ft. per dwelling unit and 3 units would be allowed.
Varies by Zoning District and also by Construction type.
Generally each lot has a front yard, rear yard and side yards. There are zoning restrictions limiting the use of these yards. For example, in that RT4 lot, the rear yard will be 35’ (28% of 125); the front yard will be 15’ (or the average of adjacent lots) and the side yards need to total 5’ with no yard less than 2’.
Rear Yard Open Space:
In addition to the standard yard requirements, Chicago has an additional requirement of rear yard open space. For a single family house in this RT4 lot, that is 203 sq.ft.
Impermeable surfaces and Lot Coverage:
In the suburbs, there is a generally a maximum square footage for Impermeable Surfaces and another one for Lot Coverage.
After the Zoning Restrictions, there are additional Building Code restrictions. Wood frame construction needs to be 3’ from the property line and new windows must be 3’ from the property line to count for natural light and ventilation. Frame Construction has height limitations.
Often these various restrictions will tell you just how big an addition can be without Zoning Relief.
Can you help me with a Zoning Administrative Adjustment or a Zoning Variation?
Yes! We have prepared many of these.
Can I add an apartment in my basement?
Adding an apartment to an existing building is a frequent question in Chicago and the answer is, “maybe.” There are several major issues that typically cause problems:
In Chicago, the number of dwelling units per lot is determined by the MLA (Minimum Lot Area per Unit). In a RS3 zoning district, the MLA is 2500 sq.ft. In a RT4 zoning district, the MLA would be 1000 sq.ft. per dwelling unit, and so on.
2. Light and Ventilation:
A habitable room must have natural light and ventilation. Windows that are too close to the property line will not count towards filling that requirement, regardless of size, even if the neighboring building is some distance away. Often meeting the light and ventilation requirements means adding more windows.
3. Ceiling Height:
Habitable space must have a ceiling height of 7’-6”. However, if basement living space is part of a larger dwelling unit, then the ceiling height may be 7’-0”.
Typically a Chicago apartment must have a parking space. However, the parking requirement may be waived if you are adding only one dwelling unit to a building that is more than 50 years old or if the building is a City of Chicago Landmark.
Where do we start with a Basement Remodeling Project?
The major concerns in basement remodeling are light and ventilation issues and ceiling height.
A habitable room must have natural light and ventilation. Windows that are too close to the property line will not count towards filling that requirement, regardless of size, even if the neighboring building is some distance away. Often meeting the light and ventilation requirements means adding more windows. There is an exception to these rules for Multi-Purpose rooms that meet other requirements.
Ceiling Height: Often there is inadequate ceiling height in an existing basement and our clients want to dig it out to increase the height. We have been the architects for many of these projects.
Sometimes, it is relatively simple. The original concrete slab is a poor quality concrete, 2” thick and easy to remove. The underneath is sand and easy to remove, particularly if you don’t need a lot of extra height.
Sometimes the existing ceiling height is so low that the project requires underpinning or capping the existing foundation. One must be mindful of the depth of the foundations of close neighboring buildings, and mindful of the height of the water table.
Can I have a deck over my Chicago garage?
If you have a flat roof garage that was designed for a 100 lb. live load, then adding a roof deck is relatively simple. If your garage wasn’t designed for a future deck, then the chances of that are remote, and the structure will have to be reinforced. Further, you will need railings that are 42” above the finished deck. Any permanent structure on the roof deck, like a pergola or privacy railing, is limited a height of 15’ above grade. Anything taller than that requires zoning relief. The Building Department requires that any decking within 3’ of the property line be non-combustible. The Department of Zoning now generally requires that that you get a Zoning Variation to allow a stair up to the deck.