Building Renovation without Experience?

thompson's gazelle

Hello all, I'm a mid-late 20's male working in Korea.

Recently one of my friends from home randomly called me up, and told me that he owns a small building and is thinking about asking me to take on the design part of the renovation process. I've been asked to do a similar job about an year ago, but I rejected the job mainly because I was still a student and too far away from the project site back then, and was afraid to take on a "real" job without any experience that will surely go beyond my scope of capacity.

However, as much as I regretted that I had not taken the job in the past, I'm trying to take the offer this time and do whatever I can. I've been working in a corporate-ish architecture firm for a little more than a year, but what I know about actual drawings or construction has improved very little, due to the general work ethics of large architecture offices in Seoul (learning opportunities are very restrained for entry level positions.. they wouldn't properly train employees with less than 2 years of experience how to make proper drawings.. stupid, I know).

So aside from the fact that I'm going to take the job no matter what, I'm standing on shaking ground with no comprehensive working knowledge of a project. I could : draw rudimentary drawings (the ones that go up on presentation boards on semester finals--no finish or materials on walls but just thicknesses and hatches), do 3d modeling and put out some renderings--basically decide and present how the building would look. I could do some additional research on available materials in the market, but imagining that arranging meetings with sellers would be a better choice. 

So with my limited skill sets mentioned above, I'm only considering to take on the design phase of the project. My final question is that if it's possible for me to do the design work, and how much I should charge? (not in actual amounts but hourly in US or European standards). And do I just contact a local contractor to get the construction work done? Any kind of advice or comments (you can blame me for being so ignorant as well) will be greatly appreciated, thanks!

Aug 19, 14 1:54 am
I always visit the building. I can't get a grip on the project without seeing it, the surroundings and if course the actual sizes and locations of the existing conditions. Just sayin.
Aug 19, 14 8:48 am
x intern

If the job is changing the finishes and doesn't require wall removal ect you may be OK.  If you are adding significant weight, moving walls, plumbing or electrical you probably shouldn't do it alone.  And you definitely shouldn't do anything without visiting the site.  Building reno's on commercial property are more complicated than new buildings in my experience.   Someone needs to evaluate the existing conditions, structure, electrical and plumbing who knows what they are looking at and identify problems both before and during demo/construction.   

Aug 19, 14 10:06 am

thompson's gazelle, I would advise you to stick to what you know and do nothing more. Chomping at the bit in your mouth is one thing but chomping down on a walnut is another. There is tremendous liability involved and they might not find you in Korea but they will get your friend.

Doing stuff offshore is possible, but for a renovation, that would be impossible. You have to almost live in the project to make it successful.

Aug 19, 14 3:08 pm
thompson's gazelle

Thanks for the comments! Yes I will definitely visit the site multiple times, and luckily I have someone who's going to take care of the liability issue. The existing condition, I'll find out this weekend when I visit the site. But I guess I'm still worried about doing something only with what I've learned in school because I know that architecture is not a profession that works like that.

In other words, I'm only providing a very narrow scope of work (exclusively the design-lacking much of the details and complexities of putting together a building), and is it common and/or okay to to do that?

Aug 19, 14 9:03 pm
x intern

Just out of school you aren't prepared to do ANYTHING alone.  Unless schools are different in Korea.  I wouldn't trust a new grad with an RCP alone (I've actually made this mistake, you wouldn't think it could be screwed up, but it can and then I get to look like an idiot for not checking said guys work)  Find an more experienced guy to help you or at least look at what your doing so you don't do something blatantly stupid.  You call out the wrong wall to be moved or miss some code (I assume you have codes) and it could end up costing a lot of money.  There is a lot more to design than what you learned in school.  

Aug 20, 14 10:04 am
thompson's gazelle


I went to college and grad school in the New England area, so that pretty much means i'm not prepared to do anything alone i guess lol. Thanks for the advice, I might reach out to some of my friends who's been working for a while in the field.

Aug 21, 14 1:09 am
x intern

good call.  there's a reason we can't walk out of architecture school and start stamping drawings.  As you learn you will see arch school didn't teach you much in the way of actual building just how to think and the basic information so you have something to start from.

Aug 21, 14 9:56 am

Gotta love spam. Advertising plumbers in London to some guy in South Korea. LOL

Oct 15, 14 12:16 pm

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