OK, so you need plans for your house – but what plans? In reality, the process – from design to construction plans – involves several phases and in each phase a different skill set is required. Some are done by architects, others by engineers or draughtsmen… but what is what and who does what?
Phase 1: the design phase
The first phase, which we call “design“, is the “creative” one… Like in fashion, some designers just have that little extra touch of genius that makes their homes look and feel so much better than the rest. It takes both genius (inspiration) ànd hard work (transpiration), as hundreds and hundreds of iterations may be necessary until a design is really “perfect”.
Coco Chanel: “architecture is like fashion: it’s a matter of proportions”
Their end result… an architectural “design”, which traditionally is shown by architects with floor plans, elevations and sections… But these are often hard to understand; so at Modern Villas we use cutting edge technology that allows us to show the design – from the very first draft – with photo-realistic 3D images, video walk throughs and even VR.
Phase 2: the engineering phase
The second phase, which we like to call “engineering“, is a more technical one, where a whole team of specialists is needed to make sure that the house’s structure, its mechanical, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, lighting, automation systems etc. etc. are designed and built to high standards – and efficiently – i.e. offering good value for money.
This takes into account local, legal requirements as well as the availability and economics of different construction methods. Whether the house is built with a structure of load bearing bricks, steel frame, wood frame, reinforced concrete – or more performant technologies likes SIP panels or CLT – the choice will affect these more technical “construction” plans.
Their end result: the “construction plans”: dozens and dozens of detailed and specialized plans, nearly impossible to read for a layperson – together with a detailed “book” of specifications that may be a hundred pages long.
In a nutshell: the design phase determines what to build, the engineering phase determines how to build it.
Now let’s go into a little bit more detail, as we’d like you to understand how our approach differs from more “traditional” architects.
Phase 1: Design Plans: what to build
Design plans are the first, creative part of the process, where the architects design a house that looks good, feels good, and can be built efficiently.
“Looking good” means that all shapes and proportions, materials and colours are combined in a beautiful way. Some designers have that extra touch of genius and become highly acclaimed (and expensive) “starchitects”. Others may be less known but equally talented, or have just mastered a specific style through many years of experience.
Yet… a great many architects will struggle to get everything just right and may spend (and bill!) hundreds or thousands of hours. Or – more often: given time and budget restraints, they tend to stop lóng before perfection is achieved. That is a pity, ánd it often leads to the need of modifications later in the process – god forbid, even during construction – which are the most common source for budget overruns, delays and sleepless nights.
“Feeling good” means that all room sizes, proportions and sight lines are balanced so harmoniously that the spaces give you that special, zen – flow-happy – relaxing feeling that makes some houses “great” rather than “good”.
It also means that comfort is optimized: the layout “flows” well from room to room, windows are placed smartly to create natural cross ventilation – or just to prevent colder drafts in other climates – and to maximalize natural light without overheating or creating visual glare. Doors open the right way, corridors are inviting, noise or humidity from bathrooms or kitchens does not bother other areas, etc. etc. There are literally hundreds of “constraints” that must all be optimized to function well.
We won’t go into the debate here whether “form follows function” or not… suffice it to say, that both form ánd function must be perfect; and that’s not easy to pull off.
Every one of our designs benefits from hundreds or thousands of hours spent by very talented and specialised people to perfect our designs – and the learnings of having been built many, many similar villas before.
It’s almost impossible for a “traditional” architect, who does a house today, but a restaurant, office or hospital tomorrow, to start from scratch and achieve the same level of design quality as we do.
Often asked: can we buy plans of one of your designs?
We often get asked to just “sell” existing plans by people that love our designs and would like to build them without paying for an architect. We’re sympathetic to this, but believe that in 99% of the cases this is not a real solution. There are plenty of sites on the internet selling home “plans” this way – but most clients end up discovering they’ll need to pay for an architect anyway. For this reason, we do not routinely “sell” plans of our existing designs.
The limitations of buying a pre-designed plan :
- you get a beautifully designed and plan as inspiration for yourself or a local architect or builder
- while it may fit your land (slope, solar orientation, climate, view) and needs (size, layout), more often than not some modifications will be required – and if that’s not properly done, you may loose the qualities that attracted you to this design in the first place!
- local building code, construction methods, insulation requirements, seismic/climate conditions, budget etc. may all be different, requiring adaptation. The plans for a house that was designed/built for e.g. Spain are unlikely to work well in Sweden or New Zealand.
- in areas with limited official requirements (rural areas, Africa, Brazil) this may be enough to get your building licence approved; but in other cases, authorities will require a local architect or engineer to sign off.
Option 1: a custom design
Of course, this is our favourite as it allows us to express our creativity ánd it offers you a house that is completely fine-tuned to you. It is completely fine-tuned to match your land (orientation, size, shape, slope, views, solar and wind exposure)… and your personal preferences (size, budget, style, number and sizes of all rooms and spaces).
The pro’s of customized design plans:
- We believe the added value of having a totally personalized design adds much more value to the home ánd to your quality of life than it costs.
- Being much more specialized than most architects – designing modern villas is all we do – and using cutting edge technologies, we are faster and (hence) cheaper than most other architects
- Dare we say… after all practice creates mastery… that we are also better than most?
- We are organised to be very efficient, working cross-borders using a routine basis, and require much less of your time – online presentations, video walkthroughs just makes everything clearer and simpler – and so much faster
Option 2: adaptingdesign plans
If one of our existing designs suits you – and your land, so well that only limited modifications are required, we may be able to just offer you a simple adaptation of one of our existing plans.
In this case, we adapt one our existing designs to your needs (overall size, number of rooms etc.), preferences (materials, colours, façade styles), plot (size, proportions, orientation of sun and view) while maintaining the same overall impression and layout. You can compare this to having the tailor customise a dress or suit based on an existing pattern: you can change the size, the fabric and a detail or two – but the actual design and proportions remain the same. This works as long as the number and size of spaces is very similar to the original plans so we don’t need to adapt tóó much.
As we are extremely experienced and super-focused on modern villas – and often have already derived multiple versions based on the same design, this is a cost and time efficient way to get a design that is as beautiful as the original – plus one that is guarantueed to also work well on your plot.
On top of that, our cutting edge visualisation methods – you get fully immersive 3D videos and even VR visits right from the start – allow you to “see” and “feel” the house before it’s even built; a far cry from having to “imagine” the end result by looking at floor plans, elevations and cross sections.
Phase 2: from design to construction plans
While design plans define “what” has to be built, construction plans define “how” it has to be built. This depends on a lot of factors: goverment requirements and building codes; soil conditions and earthquake/hurricane risks; building methods (there are dozens of construction methods – classics like structural brickwork, reinforced concrete structures, wood framing, steel framing, but also newer technologies like SIP panels or CLT panels… and all come with different wall sizes, structural elements, and limitations. Electricity, airco, under floor heating, lighting, isolation… everything interacts differently based on the building method; so detailed construction plans should take into account all that.
Engineers vs designers
In contrast to the “design” plans (which require mostly talent for design and ergonomics) this is a true “engineering” job. Compare this to cars: talented car designers like Pininfarina or Giugaro can “design” gorgeous cars… but after they’re finished, it takes an army of engineers to make sure those designs can also perform in real life! It takes months if not years of efforts to make sure the car’s acceleration, braking, steering, safety, consumption etc. etc. are as perfect as the design.
In construction, having perfectly thought out, detailed construction plans goes way beyoond any legal requirements. If all details are planned and optimized in advance, construction will be fast, efficient, and end up on time and on budget. If not done properly, dozens of small surprises will show up during construction – causing delays and budget overruns, not to mention poor results and nightmares.
A job for specialists
Making quality construction plans requires a co-ordinated input of multiple specialised engineers (structural, electrical, mechanial, HVAC to name just a few). It’s important they are co-ordinated – if not, you’ll find out that the lighting engineer’s perfect lighting plans can not be executed because the airco channels run right above the ceiling spots; or that the plumbing will have to make a detour to avoid a structural element blocking its path.
The construction plans will also differ based on local conditions, like regulatory requirements, the availability and economics of different building methods, etc. And of course, soil conditions, climate, budget, energy requirements, earthquake or hurricane risk all impact the choice of building systems.
Depending on the situation, the same house may be built with load bearing brick walls, a reinforced concrete structure, steel framing, wood framing or even more performant systems like SIP panels or CLT achieving if need be, passive house standards.
Modern Villas, originally created to cater for demanding northern European clients, is at the forefront of building technology and will help you find the best local building partners.
What does it cost?
Fees – phase 1: design
Option 1: custom design: an architectural design created just for you: €15000.
Taking a cue from images and designs you like, and based on a detailed briefing, we will design a home whose layout will fully reflect your personal preferences and is totally optimized to make best use of the views, land, solar orientation, etc.
Option 2: adaptation of existing design: based on an existing Modern Villas design, but adapted to your plot and needs: €5000.
This only works if the terrain, the size and number of rooms/spaces are quite similar to the original and it’s only a matter of resizing or swapping a few spaces.
Fees – phase 2: construction plans
While and after making the design plans, we will research which is the most efficient building solution for you. Often, we can interface with the builder’s engineers; and together with you we will make a shortlist of builders that are the right “fit” for your needs.
In this case, these “turnkey” builders have their own engineers/architects and they do the construction designs for free or very economically.
Alternatively, we’ll find local quality architects or engineers and we will interface with them to get the best results possible. We know how to select the right partners and sort the chaff from the wheat – almost certainly, we’ll be able to deliver better results than if you go it alone.
This is a true engineering job, not a “creative” one – and you don’t need to pay for a starchitect here. Yet you need really good engineers (not some junior architects of draughtsmen) to make sure that your house will be built a) well and b) cost efficiently.
Good construction plans are essential to build economically, on time and on budget; yet there is no need to pay for famous architects here who will only delegate this to some junior trainees anyway!
We’ll help you find the best partners so you get both quality and value for money.