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Architects as Contractors or Developers

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Had a look at the exemptions, sounds like it is doable. I don't usually do projects in Colorado but it is possible to be worked out and strategized. 

I'll have to do some background research on DORA's policies and interpretation to gauge how they look at things a little bit to be certain I'm not missing something. Besides that, it should be doable.

A collaboration could be helpful for you to get back in the game a bit. 

Aug 22, 14 7:39 pm  · 
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tintt

I'm looking at minimum lot size, water service, and sewer solutions. Zoning doesn't allow for it as is on the land they want. Can try for a variance, what they want resembles a trailer park almost for land use considerations. Any precedents would be great.

Aug 22, 14 7:52 pm  · 
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Carrera

Tint it is good to hear your voice. Richard, I thank you for participating, I think this subject/direction is perfect for you to explore. And thank you to donnieswan for revitalizing this thread and giving me a platform for the following:

The idea of architects as contractors (CM) or developers isn’t just about a way to make money it’s also about taking back control of what we do. 40% of all work is currently being done Design-Build and is growing and we need to fight back. Money is a big incentive, if I revealed how much money I made doing this you would all fall out of your chairs. But what I did was not initially about money it was about taking control of my work. I was extremely frustrated by contractors saying architects didn’t know anything about construction and also frustrated that no one would let me create architecture. I shifted gears early and created a firm that did architecture and construction as a package and was shocked at the result. Frankly I found that clients were at the time gravitating to architects as unbiased places to start and once trust was established they didn’t give-a-care who built it. Take advantage of that aspect by including construction/CM into you’re your practice.

The idea that you need equity or money to get started into development is a misnomer, look to the post herein. I ventured into construction and development through a rich contractor/developer but after his forced retirement I was on my own and though his teachings I found ways of developing properties without any equity and flourished.

Developing a small house subdivision was offered to me by a friend/land developer just before the crash. I interested him in the idea of building an entire subdivision (300+homes) as a sustainable community with sensible size homes that were Super-Insulated. We were going to be partners. I remain thinking that as architects we bring great value and ideas to projects that equate to real money and return for developments, don’t dismiss this opportunity to grow your life and practice.

Aug 22, 14 7:54 pm  · 
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Carrera

Late in my career when I was doing great architecture I was approached by a young kid developer who was developing a trailer-park if 300+ homes. I thought pee-yew but persisted in listening. He had hired a young imaginive couple (married) of landscape architects to do the entrance/feature and it was inspiring. He showed me their early sketches and I thought I could do something with it. I took on the commission and created some vignettes of how wood deck porches, trellises and features could be added to the trailers to create a form of architecture. It was a big success and sold out in less than 12 months.

I am soon to reveal a thread on why not turn away small things and projects. Tint, go for it, and show them how to convert nothing into something.

Aug 22, 14 8:41 pm  · 
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tintt

Thanks, Carrera. I like what you say about starting with a vision from a landscape architect, I was thinking the same thing. Do mobile homes have codes or do they follow IRC? I've never worked in residential. 

Aug 22, 14 9:09 pm  · 
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Carrera

Tint, in my experience I think mobile homes seem exempt from requirements but I think they do exists. Your function in this is to disregard this and work outside the manufactured context and add architectural elements that can add architectural elements that can enhance the limited environment in which they exist. I added carports, decks and trellises to them and it was a home-run.

The whole problem with manufacured homes is that they are largly rectangualr boxes. What you do/offer is creating vails that soften the boxs. Tomarrow I am going serching for examples and if I find some I will share.

Aug 22, 14 10:16 pm  · 
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Tiny Homes can also be other kinds of minimum dwellings not just manufactured homes, mobile homes, etc.

A google on "minimal dwellings" as well as "tiny houses" and some looking at images (and links) can provide some ideas.

It must be noted that construction cost per sq.ft. tends to be higher for sub-1000 sq.ft. houses because certain costs isn't really reduced proportional to sq.ft. like utility and plumbing.

The labor to install plumbing in a 250 sq.ft. structure is about the same as it is for a 500 sq.ft. structure or a 750 sq.ft. structure or a 1000 sq.ft. structure or even a 1500 sq.ft. structure. 

That is one of the biggest source of cost in minimum dwellings.

Aug 22, 14 10:49 pm  · 
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An inquiry to Michael Fifield in Eugene, Oregon might be helpful.

Aug 22, 14 10:50 pm  · 
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tintt

I found it, manufactured homes meet HUD requirements, not IRC. That is what these people want to do... tiny dwellings with wheels. I prefer pre-fab units, real foundations and passive solar designs. I don't know about zoning, there are minimum lot size requirements and maybe minimum dwelling sizes too, unless it is zoned for mobile homes (?), IDK. 

Aug 22, 14 11:29 pm  · 
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Offer them the concept because the government maybe more warmed up to pre-fab and other types of minimum dwellings with real foundatations then a trailer park.A pro forma would be good to develop and see if it would pencil out with good enough equity and design to maximize value.

Aug 23, 14 12:32 am  · 
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If there is a minimum area for buildable development then we can look at clustering of 4 units in an area that may consume a modest size single family dwelling.

They may consider a 4-plex if you keep the scale appropriate. Then add an accessory dwelling on the lot if it is possible if you have sufficient parking area planned.

I would naturally prefer real foundations, passive solar design and possible pre-fab component designs. If done right and fit into area, I think you can warm the idea with the AHJ in the area. After all, they don't seem to want what they might call "trailer trash" (basically trailer park and the association of low income druggies that can't get a job) coming to town. Remember, communities are that way quite often.

Aug 23, 14 12:41 am  · 
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tintt

This thread can be for open source development. Similar to open source software. If architects are good at front end development stuff they can provide seamless one stop shopping for development and design, very cool. Thanks for all the input. I'll keep you posted.

Aug 23, 14 10:14 am  · 
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Carrera

Tint, Open Source Development is a great idea. I counted, I made exactly 421,567,348 mistakes in my career but the one on top is that I didn’t do something like this for architects. With regard to Construction Management (CM) I thought about putting a work-book together as a how-to manual/tutorial, I even thought of offering to do a simple project in-their-house to get architects started, all without charge to proliferate and fight-back against Design-Build. Well I said it was a mistake and it was.

I remain a big advocate of this stuff and I am not shy about speaking my mind about it and I’m wide open to help architects find their way.

Aug 23, 14 12:37 pm  · 
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tintt

Just had my first meeting for what may be the most beautiful development project ever, the site is amazing. This is fun. 

Sep 5, 14 6:18 pm  · 
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Carrera

Tint, please tell us more if you can, are you planning on being the developer? What kind of building type is being proposed? If you need help just ask.

Sep 5, 14 6:50 pm  · 
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tintt

Carrera, I should know more next week but it is a 178 acre site, an old ranch. I am joining a group that has 50+ members already. They want to do a tiny house subdivision with some community functions added in like an agriculture innovation center, education center and possible campground too. The land is currently zoned agricultural, it is outside the city limits. Their idea reminds me a bit of Arcosanti, but we would do it differently of course.

Sep 5, 14 7:04 pm  · 
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Carrera

Is there a tie-dye shed involve? Oh no! Don’t tell me the hippies are coming back! (Laughing)….sounds exciting, keep us up to date.

Sep 5, 14 7:33 pm  · 
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tintt

Carrera, I already told them I was out if they are going to push too much hippy stuff. We'll see.

Sep 6, 14 8:27 am  · 
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tintt

Update: We are moving forward. No tie dye shed, but an amphitheater has been mentioned! It is a pretty cool project and they are determined. It is hard to know when to start charging and how... I'm not drawing anything yet, just advising and informing about due diligence, showing them other projects, visiting sites. Since I'm not a professional real estate developer and am likely to make mistakes, should I hire one as a consultant? 

Sep 28, 14 6:09 am  · 
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Carrera

Tint – Great news! Start charging - we’re not priests but if their cash flow is not off the ground yet you should just do delayed compensation – get a contract, send invoices every month but defer payment – or use this early stuff and trade for equity.

Hire a developer? Hell no! He’ll elbow you out. Build your own development company just for this project – bring in a Realtor, landscape architect, civil/site engineer, graphic designer, home builder – people you know and trust with a “nobody-screws-anybody” contract for the group. The client pays your new company and everybody gets paid an hourly rate from the company then at the end you split the profit in some reasonable manner….or some other arrangement that is fair.

Sep 28, 14 4:52 pm  · 
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tintt

Carrera, thanks, I feel good about this. I am playing adviser to a social entrepreneur who has several people invested in her, so I guess she is the developer and I'm either a consultant or could become a partner or board member, we'll keep you posted. There is a builder, a graphic designer and a realtor as well as another architect in the group already. But no finance people. We've talked about open source development, perhaps I will post our work... 

Sep 29, 14 9:31 am  · 
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tintt

Carrera, I wish I had your e-mail address. I have an idea for an "interpretation" of a zoning code that I'm looking for feedback on, but it is too sensitive to post online.

Oct 1, 14 10:29 am  · 
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Carrera

Tint, email was sent to you via Archinect email.

Oct 1, 14 8:14 pm  · 
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tintt

I wrote back. Did you see it?

Oct 1, 14 10:36 pm  · 
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What was your email, Carrera?

You can send it to my business email address which can be accessed at my contact page on my website (Website Under Development).

The Contact form does work.

http://www.rickbalkinsbuildingdesigner.com/contact

Oct 1, 14 11:00 pm  · 
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shellarchitect

This thread is gold - I remember reading this years ago, not really understanding 90% of it.  Since then I've been steadily learning as much as I can between other obligations.

Has anyone had some success with the above?  I'm finally looking to get serious about this, based on the sample pro formas I've done I'm having a hard time not getting a home run.  Rents in detroit are around $1,500 for anything not a shithole, construction/land just isn't that expensive.  

Mar 18, 16 12:50 pm  · 
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Carrera

Shu, did you read about WeWork in the news column here? Got my wheels turning…check out their WeLive concept….apply it to Downtown Detroit…get an idea together and pitch it to Dan Gilbert; he’s got tons of prime vacant space.

Mar 18, 16 1:50 pm  · 
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wurdan freo

That's a brilliant idea, even if done on a small scale. Very similar to a house hack... not to mention, who want's to work by themselves? ... ok... most introverted Archinerds...

Mar 18, 16 2:24 pm  · 
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Carrera

C’Mon…beer on tap? It’s a home run with architects! :)

Mar 18, 16 2:31 pm  · 
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wurdan freo

Maybe that's why Archie's can't pull in the fees they want... pick the beer over the work every time... lol :)

Mar 18, 16 9:26 pm  · 
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shellarchitect

Very interesting idea - and the money they've raised is astonding. I'm told that if you have a good idea money won't be a problem.... So we'll find out

Mar 18, 16 11:19 pm  · 
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Carrera

I think Gilbert would give you the space with the only obligation being  a share of your income, say 7% of gross... you would likely need to do the build out on your own and he gets to keep it intact if it fails... he digs ideas like this, don't sell yourself short.

Mar 18, 16 11:33 pm  · 
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arch76

Carrera- thanks for establishing this thread, and thanks to all of the informative comments from everyone. Learning and understanding the entirety of the design, develop and build industries is a life long endeavor, and its great to see these sorts of issues raised, and it is great to read of forum members dipping their toes into the mix. 

I leave you all with this quote I learned recently, by Pablo Picasso:

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

Mar 19, 16 2:16 am  · 
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tintt

I don't have much of an update on the project I was involved in. They are still looking for land and working on various aspects of their project (agriculture and education) on other sites. Land use policies are extra burdensome where they are (Boulder County, Colorado.) It's like having a big heavy kite and no one can quite fly it much less make it soar. 

Mar 19, 16 9:18 am  · 
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Carrera

arch76, learning how it all works makes life so much easier and profitable. During my career I’ve sat in a lot of meetings and it’s a hell of a thing to sit there looking at an architect with big question mark over his head.

tint, once told – “Projects are like girlfriends, it pays to have a lot of them or at least a spare one.” I don’t think the average person has any idea what’s involved in the evolution of projects….a lot of architects have a “call us when you’re ready” policy, but I always felt that by the time something was “ready” they would have found a different boyfriend. When you are small you have to hang in there and wait.

Mar 19, 16 9:55 am  · 
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Carrera

tint, hasten to add, when a lot of projects start out the dreamers have nothing more than an idea…they can’t afford a pedigree pet so any stray cat will do (advantage – small guy), but as things evolve and financing begins to reinforce the dream all of a sudden they feel empowered to trade the stray cat in for a pedigree cat…always lock-down dreamers at the start....

Mar 19, 16 10:06 am  · 
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tintt

Stray cats have to have lots of girlfriends underpaw. Got it. :)

Actually I'm not maintaining all that much interest in it. It is a large porous group where people come in and out... what I mean is they need to build the program and revenue, it might be awhile. I still serve occasionally as an adviser for the education and other aspects of the project.

Mar 19, 16 11:23 am  · 
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dsc_arch

Happy to see this thread active again. Over the past 18 years we have done a lot of all three: architecture, developer and CM (multiple prime is awesome). Our biggest problems stem from: comp appraisals, local politics, and just plain stupidity. I can not tell you how much time we need to spend talking in order to keep the project from folding. While solo development is great if you have the capital, partnering with a seasoned investor is also a good path. The equity split can be developed along the "slicing pie" methodolgy. (Google it).

Apr 3, 16 10:48 am  · 
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Carrera

^ A lot of blame is placed on “developers” when much of the “blame” lies within the codes that suck the life out of design…the first slap in the face are the senseless “comps” that homogenize design (“a 3 bedroom house is a 3 bedroom house”), and then the final insult are the codes that turn design into paint-by-number…by the time you get done check-marking the codes you hit the comp and you’re done.

More than ever we need to think small....an agrarian type of mentality of self-sufficiency to enable the middle class to survive (which includes architects)…this same need will also enable better and more creative design solutions..."small" enables architects to become developers who can rethink what a “3-bedroom” is and make codes more bottom up than top down….we need places for the middle class (including architects) to incubate & grow, places with pink tape not red tape.

http://leanurbanism.org/

Apr 3, 16 1:46 pm  · 
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dsc_arch

Broadacre city all over again....see the urbanism of FLW by n. levine...

Apr 3, 16 1:51 pm  · 
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Carrera

^ Wright’s Post Depression vision has actually become true except the part where he proposed that architects would be the "essential interpreters of America's humanity"…they forgot to make us “Kings”.

The word “agrarian” may have be a distraction (not everybody gets an acre with Lean Urbanism) from my point which is that the concept of Lean Urbanism is to create urban zones (“Pink Zones”) that enable low entry points for architect/developers to build well designed places for the middle class to incubate & grow their families and to start/grow businesses…because we’re going nowhere with the 2,400SF/35 foot setback/3car garage minimum routine.

Apr 3, 16 2:36 pm  · 
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tintt

Update: the group is closing on a piece of land. It is a subgroup really. Just part. Woot!

Apr 11, 16 5:42 am  · 
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Carrera

^ ++++

Apr 11, 16 10:42 am  · 
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midlander

good luck. look forward to hearing more as it moves along.

Apr 11, 16 10:50 am  · 
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shellarchitect

So.... I'm finally working to putting together an actual deal.  


Anyone know if Carrera is still around or have other bright ideas regarding who i can talk to regarding the nitty gritty details?

Jun 22, 20 9:49 pm  · 
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Non Sequitur

Ricky, that’s what caused Carrera to leave in the first place. (The neuve île arguments, not C19). Too bad, he had good stories but he also had one or two “rich cranky white man” type moments.

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Non Sequitur

*juvenile.

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shellarchitect

I think that I tracked him down on facebook, but don't want to bug him either.

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Non Sequitur

Ricky, poorly researched and defended opinions on "controversial topics" is why the dumpster in your front yard keeps burning. Brevity and thoughtful responses, even if "controversial" won't generate the same level of bullshit and staying within a subject matter you understand well won't hurt either. Cheers.

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Non Sequitur

Ricky, atheism is not a religion. Start with that, then maybe you can have an intelligent discussion on superstition.

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Non Sequitur

incorrect again. can't make progress when you're in denial of the terms.

1  · 
sp429

Hi all, this might be off topic but I wanted to know if there's anyone who made a career switch to work for a GC as a construction pm. I've started to do some thinking since this whole COVID crisis - especially as I also started my career at the tail end of the 08 crisis as well. I understand the construction side has been hit hard but wanted to ask around if anyone did make the switch... How has your experience been?

Jun 26, 20 10:04 am  · 
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archinine
Shell, I recall batman and greenlander both had some decent comments and threads. Not sure about the latter but Batman pops up now and again to answer questions. Maybe point his signal in the night sky, see if he shows.
Jun 26, 20 1:12 pm  · 
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shellarchitect

Thanks, I'll reach out to them as well. I did hear back from carerra, his comments were insightful. I also got my hands on james pettys book, jonathon segals book and some videos. I have a lot of reading planned in addition to a small residential addition job that just dropped in my lap yesterday!
It's going to be very busy here between so that and the day job!

1  · 

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