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WHAT YOU NEED TO START A NEW PROJECT

So you're ready to get started on your new project.  Here's a quick overview of what you'll need to get started.  Keep in mind, this list is geared towards residential design and construction projects primarily in California.  In other parts of the country where we work, like Vermont, the requirements are much less stringent.  In Vermont, they don't even have building code!  

If this seems overwhelming, don't worry.  We have a deep network of consultants that we work with and can help build your project team.  

A LIST OF  REPORT AND DRAWING REQUIREMENTS

As-Built Drawings

If you're working on an existing home and doing a remodel or an addition.  You'll need a set of "as-built" drawings for any designer to begin work on your project.  These "as-built" are created by a consultant coming to your home, taking measurements, then drawing you project in a computer software to provide, plans, sections, elevations, and other drawings that show the way your home looks today.  This set of drawings is used as a base for us to design over.  

Often times owners will have old plan sets lying around their homes from previous owners or projects.  These typically won't be accurate enough for a new project.  Most projects when complete vary from the set of drawings created for the permit, therefore almost 100% of the time, we will require these new as-built drawings to be created.

Who can create these drawings?  Sometimes the Architect will, other times companies that do only this type of work will be hired to do the work.  It all depends on your particular project.

Property Boundary and Topographic Survey

Most projects will require a licensed surveyor to do a property boundary and topographic survey.  Sometimes more simple projects can get away without one, but if you're adding to your footprint, building a new home, or if there are any new structures being created on your site that might come close to a property line or setback, you will need a survey.  

A survey creates a base map of your property showing the footprint of your home, the property lines, topographic contours (how you project slopes if there is a slope), site walls, trees, fences, utility locations and other significant features on your site.  Like the "as-built" plans, the survey shows your property as it exists today and it's used as a base to design over.  

The survey is a key component of the planning department's review.  To learn more about how permitting works, check out our article here.

Soils Report (Geotechnical Engineer)

The quality and type of soil on your property directly impacts the type of foundation system you will need to use under your home.  In some cases, counties and cities will require "Geotech Reports" or "Soils Reports", different names for the same report, to be done on your property prior to the design of the home.  

If you do need a Geotech Report, a geotechnical engineer will come to your property and either dig holes in the earth with a bucket loader, or they will use a drilling machine to drill cores at specified locations (set by the Architect and the Structural Engineer) to examine the type and quality of the soil on your property.  

The Geotechnical Engineer will then write a report that will be given to you; this report will be used by the Structural Engineer (another engineer with another company) to design your foundation.

If you ever hear the word "expansive soils"  or "clay" it likely means you'll need a "Geotech" on your project.

Note: This is a LONG list, but most projects only require a core group of the following consultants

A LIST OF POTENTIAL CONSULTANTS

Note: This is a LONG list, but most projects only require a core group of the following consultants

Architect

Since we're Architects and you're on this website, we'll assume that you know an Architect will likely be required for your project.  That said, if you want to get into the weeds and dig down on what's required for your specific project, it's true that some residential projects don't require licensed Architects to work on them.  For out of state projects, you should assume a licensed Architect isn't required for your residential project.

Structural Engineer

Please keep in mind, this is written primarily for a California based audience, and if you're in California, you'll likely need a structural engineer on your project.  Every project we work on has a structural engineer involved and it's likely yours will as well.

If you're in another state that doesn't have earthquakes, it may be less common to have a structural engineer and the Architect or designer, or contractor may actually design the structural system for your home.  

Civil Engineer

We use civil engineers on about 50% of our projects.  Civil engineers are needed on projects that include a lot of site work, site drainage, or potentially road or parking lot design related work.  Many people are less familiar with what civil engineers do.  You can think of a civil engineer as someone who is completely focused on the site work being completed on your site.  They design roadways into your site, they design the slope of your site so excavators can regrade your site so water is property managed on your site, they can design retaining walls.  If you hear the term "grading permit" it likely means you'll need a civil engineer.

MEP (Mechanical, Electrical, Pluming) Engineer

Most residential projects don't require MEP Engineers, these engineers typically work on commercial projects that have larger more complex systems.  Some highly energy efficient homes and more advanced homes with specialty mechanical systems do require the help of a specialized MEP consultant.  For us, this is almost never the case, but if you're thinking about building a Passive House or a super advanced energy efficient home, you may need to enlist an MEP Engineering firm.

Septic Engineer

The name says it all.  If you need a septic system at your home, either new or expanded, you'll need a septic engineer to design the system.

Energy Consultant

In most states, there are now stricter energy reports that are required to permit a new project.  These reports can either be done by the Architect or outside consulting firms will complete the reports independently, working with the Architect to ensure that the design meets the energy requirements.  In California we call these Title 24 consultants.  In other states, they have different names, but they do the same thing.  We require these consultants on every project as we don't do these reports in-house.

Architect

We like to think of our role as the conductor of an orchestra.  We develop the overall design scheme, we build and organize the team of required consultants.

Structural Engineer

Please keep in mind, this is written primarily for a California based audience, and if you're in California, you'll likely need a structural engineer on your project.  Every project we work on has a structural engineer involved and it's likely yours will as well.

If you're in another state that doesn't have earthquakes, it may be less common to have a structural engineer and the Architect or designer, or contractor may actually design the structural system for your home.  

Civil Engineer

We use civil engineers on about 50% of our projects.  Civil engineers are needed on projects that include a lot of site work, site drainage, or potentially road or parking lot design related work.  Many people are less familiar with what civil engineers do.  You can think of a civil engineer as someone who is completely focused on the site work being completed on your site.  They design roadways into your site, they design the slope of your site so excavators can regrade your site so water is property managed on your site, they can design retaining walls.  If you hear the term "grading permit" it likely means you'll need a civil engineer.

MEP (Mechanical, Electrical, Pluming) Engineer

Most residential projects don't require MEP Engineers, these engineers typically work on commercial projects that have larger more complex systems.  Some highly energy efficient homes and more advanced homes with specialty mechanical systems do require the help of a specialized MEP consultant.  For us, this is almost never the case, but if you're thinking about building a Passive House or a super advanced energy efficient home, you may need to enlist an MEP Engineering firm.

Septic Engineer

The name says it all.  If you need a septic system at your home, either new or expanded, you'll need a septic engineer to design the system.

Energy Consultant

In most states, there are now stricter energy reports that are required to permit a new project.  These reports can either be done by the Architect or outside consulting firms will complete the reports independently, working with the Architect to ensure that the design meets the energy requirements.  In California we call these Title 24 consultants.  In other states, they have different names, but they do the same thing.  We require these consultants on every project as we don't do these reports in-house.

MORE DESIGN RELATED CONSULTANTS

Landscape Architect

Since we're Architects and you're on this website, we'll assume that you know an Architect will likely be required for your project.  That said, if you want to get into the weeds and dig down on what's required for your specific project, it's true that some residential projects don't require licensed Architects to work on them.  For out of state projects, you should assume a licensed Architect isn't required for your residential project.

Interior Designer

Please keep in mind, this is written primarily for a California based audience, and if you're in California, you'll likely need a structural engineer on your project.  Every project we work on has a structural engineer involved and it's likely yours will as well.

If you're in another state that doesn't have earthquakes, it may be less common to have a structural engineer and the Architect or designer, or contractor may actually design the structural system for your home.  

Lighting Consultant

We use civil engineers on about 50% of our projects.  Civil engineers are needed on projects that include a lot of site work, site drainage, or potentially road or parking lot design related work.  Many people are less familiar with what civil engineers do.  You can think of a civil engineer as someone who is completely focused on the site work being completed on your site.  They design roadways into your site, they design the slope of your site so excavators can regrade your site so water is property managed on your site, they can design retaining walls.  If you hear the term "grading permit" it likely means you'll need a civil engineer.

Waterproofing Consultant

Most residential projects don't require MEP Engineers, these engineers typically work on commercial projects that have larger more complex systems.  Some highly energy efficient homes and more advanced homes with specialty mechanical systems do require the help of a specialized MEP consultant.  For us, this is almost never the case, but if you're thinking about building a Passive House or a super advanced energy efficient home, you may need to enlist an MEP Engineering firm.

Expediter

The name says it all.  If you need a septic system at your home, either new or expanded, you'll need a septic engineer to design the system.

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Mia, Home Owner

Working with Kirley+ was a complete pleasure. They were always available to talk and clearly communicated different stages of the project. Transparent, professional and a joy to work with. I would highly suggest them for your project!