Monday, March 30, 2015

My process for designing a home

The home of one of my customers in nearing completion and I am anxiously awaiting the final pictures. The home is located near Carthage, MO.

We started with some drawings supplied by the customer and modified these into what became the final floorplan over a period of a few weeks. The basic layout changed fairly significantly and we added and subtracted to suit their needs. My design process usually proceeds in this manner; we start with a sketch and some ideas, discuss their "must haves" and other factors such as their building lot and orientation of the home.

Once I have this preliminary information, I then set about creating a first draft of the main floor which I send to the customer for review and feedback. They will send me back ideas on what they like or dislike. When a customer identifies a feature they don't like, I try to drill down on that issue and try to understand their desire better. I am practical about incorporating a client's desires. Some things can be added to the design, but then, some ideas are simply not practical. In the latter case, I have a discussion with the customer explaining the implications or cost of particular design element, what would have to be changed, etc.

Regardless, as the design progresses, I exchange several design drafts of the floor plan with the customer, each becoming more refined and closer to the final version.

At some point during this process of the main floor design, I will add additional floors as required. This may be a basement or second floor, or both. Again, I start with a rough draft and have my customer review it and let me know their thoughts. At the same time, I am again designing with the structure and mechanical requirements in mind. All the building loads have to be passed down from each floor to the foundation. Where will the HVAC system be located? How can we eliminate a post in an inconvenient location? How can we arrange the rooms for the best efficiency? There are lots of things to consider as the design progresses.

Once we have the various floorplans basically complete, I start sending elevation views to my customer. From these, we refine the type of siding, the sizes and configurations of windows and doors. Elevations are typically a two dimensional view, so I also generate various 3 dimensional renderings to help customers get a better feel for the design.

Once the customer is satisfied with the design of the home, I have to set about adding all the details that are required for their contractor to build their home. Again, I am incorporating or detailing the many items that create the structure into the plans. These can be foundation walls, beams, pier pads, grade beams, bearing points, bearing walls...... These details and many structural notes are included in the plans in order not only to guild the builder, but also to satisfy the requirements of the local building code officials.

Once I am finished with the plans and my customer has paid the remainder of the design fee, I email them PDF files of the plans from which they can print as many copies of the design as is required for the building code officials, contractors and sub contractors.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

3D printing and architectural design

I recently bought a 3D printer kit off the internet. Before doing so, I did some research and spoke with a co-worker who had recently purchase one also. My research gave me a good idea what type/style of printer I wanted. My co-worker actually pointed me to a supplier who I eventually purchased my printer from.

Before making my purchase, I did some research on the supplier to see what kind of reviews people had given them and their products. In this case, both of these turned out to be quite positive.

The printer I purchased ended up costing me just under $400 including shipping, pretty cheap by 3D printer standards. The kit arrived in a large box full of parts and individually labeled bags. Nice!With their instructions, I spent a few days assembling the printer. I then needed to download the software, install it and begin the process of getting the printer to communicate with my computer.

Things went pretty smoothly until I started trying to set the endstops for the print head. It just wasn't doing what it was supposed to, at least according to the documents I had. Luckily, I do have some experience with computers and electro-mechanical equipment. After some time, I discovered that I had 3 wire connections that were faulty from the factory. I fixed these problems fairly quickly and was ready to make my first print.

As you might expect, my first attempts at printing were only marginally successful. There are some settings that need to be modified in order for everything to work properly, but after a couple failed attempts, I was able to print a good piece. As I sit here typing this, my printer is connected to this computer and is working away on my third attempt at my second printed item. I did say there was a learning curve.

So how will I use my 3D printer in my architectural design business, I don't really know at this point. I envision being able to print 3 dimensional models for customers at some point. Or maybe I will just use it for helping to visualize design ideas. I am limited by the size of an object I can print, only about 7 inches cubed. I can possibly break a design into 2 or 3 sections, print them and then put them together.

Now that I have one, it turns out the operationally, they are pretty simple. Programmers have done all the hard work for us. Creating printable designs is also pretty easy as there are several free programs that you can download and create your own 3D objects. On top of that, there are literally thousands of 3D objects available for download on the Internet today!

I also wanted to get a 3D printer so that I could learn about and understand the technology. I also wanted my children to understand the technology and be able to use the printer for school and fun. 3D printing is going to change our world! People are already using them to print buildings! Google it and you will be amazed!

It is an amazing technology that is now available to pretty much anyone who has the desire. You will probably see some 3D models of my designs here in the near future.