What If I Know My Apartment Is Not Up To.Code Building a New House – Initial Steps in Developing Plans in Florida and Other Areas

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Building a New House – Initial Steps in Developing Plans in Florida and Other Areas

Construction in Miami or any area of ​​South Florida is completely different than anywhere else in the country. While most of the East Coast of the United States and the rest of the country are built with wood frames and brick or wood siding, South Florida is built with cinder block and concrete.

Quality vs. price

Due to hurricane winds, structures in this area must be very strong. Where the rest of the country looks down on us for only using concrete block in their basements, for my money I really like concrete and block construction. Concrete blocks do not get termites and do not rot. Therefore, a concrete block structure can last for 100 years or more with almost no maintenance. Unfortunately, the vast majority of houses in Miami have wood latticework with plywood sheathing on the roof and then roofing paper and shingles or concrete tiles on top. This type of construction is not particularly good for hurricane wind conditions. Although the Florida Building Code has done its best to improve roofing installation and roofing requirements, it cannot compare to the strength a roof would have if a concrete slab were used for the roof structure.

So why don’t we build with a concrete slab roof if we know this? Cost – the only reason is cost. It is much more expensive to design and install a concrete slab roof, especially on a slope with concrete tiles.

So one of the first things a homeowner needs to determine early in the planning process for a new home is how much the owner wants to spend on construction. There is a cheap way to build a house and an expensive way. This is a problem that comes up many times during the design and construction process.

The program

But to determine the budget, the homeowner must first determine the square footage of the new house. To determine the total floor area, you need to generate a program for the house. The program is a list of rooms with their corresponding sizes.

See the sample list as below:


Living Room 240 square feet
Dining Room 120 square feet
Kitchen 170 square feet
Family Room 240 square feet
Master Bedroom 240 square feet
Master Bath 64 square feet
Bedroom No. 2 216 square feet
Bedroom No. 3 192 square feet
Bath No. 2 36 square feet
Laundry Room 100 square feet
Linen closet 9 square feet
A/C Closet 9 square feet

Total Square Feet = 1,636

Circulation and walls at 20% = 1634 square feet = 327 square feet

Total = 1634 + 327 = 1961 square feet

So now we have a basic idea of ​​the main spaces of the house and approximately how many square meters the home owner will need for the house.

This is also a good time to decide if there will be an outdoor space, such as a covered patio or pergola. In Florida, they are especially good additions to interiors. With the wonderful winter temperatures, there is no reason to spend all our time in air-conditioned interiors.

The budget

So what does a house cost just under 2,000 square feet in South Florida? There is no magic formula to determine this. The cost of a house depends on many things related to the design, such as: type of roof, height(s), complexity of the design, construction, whether a septic tank or sewer is installed, and the type of foundation. Then there are the costs that have nothing to do with the design, such as the location of the house, how busy the contractors are in the area, how well-known and reliable the contractor is, etc. Because of all the elements discussed above, they vary wildly, currently the $150 to $250 per square foot range can be used for a house that isn’t too complicated with standard construction. So if we go back to the example. A 2,000-square-foot house would cost between $300,000 and $500,000, not including the land.

The design team

The Miami-Dade County Building Department does not require a single-family home plan to be signed and sealed by an architect or engineer. This is not true for all settlements in the area. For example, Coral Gables requires all plans to be signed and stamped by an architect. However, for practical reasons, in any municipality in Miami-Dade County, due to the amount of information contained in the plan set, it is usually necessary to hire several professionals: an architect, an EP engineer, and a structural engineer. MEP stands for Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing. A mechanical engineer deals with air conditioning, an electrical engineer deals with electricity, including lighting, and a plumber deals with plumbing. The civil engineer designs the structure and performs the necessary structural calculations for the building cladding. The architect designs the entire house and coordinates everyone’s work. Probably the most important task of the architect is to coordinate the fields of expertise, since without coordination, real conflicts can arise during the construction phase. Although it is legal in some parts of the county to prepare individual plans, preparing construction drawings for permitting will be an insurmountable task (unless the homeowner has a construction background, actual experience, and familiarity with the Florida Building Code and local zoning codes).

How much do these design services cost the homeowner? These also vary greatly, but there is also a range of good, established professionals. This range would be 6-10% of the construction costs in the permit plan for all trades. During the construction phase, services are usually charged at a separate hourly rate or in a separate package.

The style of the house

Another important decision to make early on is the style of the house. In South Florida, there are basically three styles that are popular in home decor – modern, Mediterranean, and Key West.

Once the homeowner has decided what styles they want, it is important to communicate the style and details to the architect. The best way to explain to the architect what you want is through pictures from magazines or photos of other houses.

Choosing an architect

Now that the basic elements are together, the next step is to choose an architect. This is very important as this is the person you will be working very closely with over the next year.

Get your existing land surveyed from the time you closed on your mortgage. If it’s lost, or too old or inaccurate, the architect will update it or have a new one made.

Ask for photos of your work. Ask for references. To ask questions. Ask him how he would approach the project. Start to feel like this is someone you can work with. Do you like the dominant style of the architect’s work? Are you attracted to your work? Ask about the process. Ask what you can expect from their services. Ask him to show you plans for a similar project.

People are individual and everyone is unique. I remember how many people hired me because they liked my “Mediterranean” or “Spanish” style, or my modern or postmodern style. One person said he hired me because I returned his calls right away. The chemistry between people makes sense. Don’t ignore your first impressions.

The construction documents

Construction documents usually consist of several parts: drawings, specifications, instructions to bidders and attachments. Normally, when the architect conducts the owner’s construction bid phase, he selects the type of contract that the owner will enter into with the contractor. This document is also part of the construction documents.

The drawings provide the bulk of the work, which serve as a step-by-step guide for the contractor during construction along the specifications. Sometimes, for large jobs, the specifications are placed in a separate book called the Project Manual. For most residential projects, specifications are usually included as notes on the drawings. The architect prepares a separate package for elaborate interiors and charges a separate fee.

Construction documents are prepared in stages, from general to detailed. I like to divide my projects into 4 phases: Preliminary design, plan development, 50% construction documents and 100% construction documents. Each phase builds on the previous phase until the architect feels that the drawings are coordinated between the various disciplines and are ready for permitting.

With careful planning and communication with your architect, his good drawings and coordination, and the careful selection of a reputable contractor, your new house project can proceed without major problems. Although change orders often occur due to unforeseen circumstances or changes the owner wants to make, most issues must be resolved before construction begins.

For more information on the role of the architect during construction, see my other article published here on the role of the architect in the construction process.

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