Gaines Group Architects
chesapeake western depot harrisonburg

Planning for Performance and Aesthetics Will Save You Money

Aesthetics and Performance

Harrisonburg farmhouse

I work with a variety of builders here in the valley. One of the builders has built homes from plans in magazines, drafters, and renovations by home owner sketches. The other has built designs by multiple architects, drafters, and magazines. Each has told our clients that using designs and specifications developed by Gaines Group Architects saves the client money. The first builder told us that our designs on average cost $5-$10 less per square foot than other projects he has worked on. The second builder told our clients that he reduces his overhead percentage when we do their design and specifications because we answer the questions that cause added costs prior to the cost of the home construction being determined. Planning for performance and aesthetics benefits everyone financially, especially when you are building your home.

Performance and aesthetics

Soapstone kitchen

So if the average home being built in our area is 2,500 sf, the savings on the average cost home is equal to our average design fee. Let me say that again – our typical fee for a custom home is returned in savings during construction.

How do we provide these savings? Our typical design approach not only includes plans and elevations as with a typical generic design package. Our designs are custom for each client including a performance specification that sets the standards and documents selections for finishes in the home. We also work out the structural system in advance to pricing in an efficient manner. This limits unknown issues coming up during construction, which saves the builder time and money and reduces the builder’s risk. This is where the savings come in because on the typical build where there are only plans and specifications the builder has to “guess” at what the client wants during pricing. The builder then hopes during construction he “guessed” right. Creating a complete plan in advance that is thought out and detailed completely the builder knows what to deliver and the client knows what to expect. If you want help developing a great plan in advance, give us a call because planning for performance and aesthetics will save you money.

Performance and aesthetics

Chesapeake Western Depot, Harrisonburg


The most basic question for an Architect

How much?

Yet again, I am working a booth at the SVBA Home Show. The typical characters are at the event, kicking tires, shaking hands, picking up free pens that they will add to their drawer of other free pens. I am the only designer at the show this year, a welcome change from past years. I get the show to myself to talk about the power of design and how I save my clients money. I have had conversations about vapor barriers, HVAC Efficiency, roofing, windows, talked with several young aspiring architects about their homework assignment to design a house. It has been a great event.

I do wish more people would ask me questions about how to make their homes more energy efficient. The reality is I love talking about building science and it is why I do the home show. The first steps usually will save about 10% on your electric bills per month and will cost under $50. Those that are interested in design try to figure out if I would be the right architect for their project looking for questions that will give them some assurance that I am competent. We talk about wall systems, universal design, and number of bedrooms. However, it always seems to boil down to “so how much do you charge.” This is an impossible question to answer without more information and multiple conversations: how many changes will you make, how big do you want your house, how complicated will the structural design become because of added corners and angles? We talk through the process and the folks truly interested call me and we work through the establishment of scope of work so I can give them a budget. I keep wondering if there is a better way, but really my work comes down to multiple conversations and interpretations of others words, pictures, and dreams. It is a fun process, I love what I do, I love talking with people about their dreams and goals, but the how much cost question seems to always be the most basic question to answer. It is the first step that some stumble over in the process of building trust. I wonder though if we could start our conversation with a better question. How much can I save you through the process – because I know the answer to that and you will be surprised!