Frequently Asked Questions

Residential & Commercial Projects

Questions about residential new homes, additions & renovations to commercial tenant improvements design services?

For potential clients, it’s not uncommon to have some specific questions regarding the design process you’re about to undertake. In an attempt to get you some quick answers, we’ve highlighted the most frequently asked home design questions below…

How do you structure your fees?

Our fees are structured based on historical data for each residential project type. Unlike many of our competitors, we don’t believe we can deliver a quality service “ball-parking” our fees as if we are working with a predictable type of work such as installing flooring.

You can expect a clear fee structure showing the breakdown of the services to be delivered and can trust that those fees are based on other real projects we’ve completed over the last fifteen years of practice.

How do your fees compare?

As we hear from Architects all the time, we’re alone in the type of services we provide on a contract and outsourced basis so we really have no where to compare. We can say that in exchange for the convenience of hiring staff where and when required, we are more expensive than having your own trained, in-house staff.

We’re not the cheapest and we’re by far not the most expensive. On a cost per square foot, we’re right in the middle. However, the quality of our work and the level of service we provide unlocks tremendous value.

What is BIM modeling all about?

BIM – Building Information Modelling is the practice of building an actual digital working model of a project, including real walls, floors & roof assemblies. Things like windows and doors, matching your desired style and function are imported or created in place to give you a working, digital model of the project.

Instead of drawings plans & elevations, we take horizontal sections through the building to show floor plan information and elevations are nothing more than horizontal sections looking to the building and represent an elevation drawing.

What's the advantage of BIM modeling?

The standout advantage of BIM Modelling is that we can spend more time designing and refining the details of your project and less time messing around making lines look walls. We have the time to get it right and go through a number of design iterations so you don’t have to be concerned about making revisions and adding additional costs.

On top of that, it’s all 3D so the ramifications of your decisions are visualized and clearly understood long before the hammer is taken out.

Do you guys also build or do project management?

No, we don’t build our work or do project management but we can help you by connecting you with with good reputable individuals and companies who make it their business to do this type of work everyday.

How Do You Charge?

Our fees are structured based on historical data for each residential project type. Unlike many of our competitors, we don’t believe we can deliver a quality service “ball-parking” our fees as if we are working with a predictable type of work such as installing a flooring. You can expect a clear fee structure showing the breakdown of the services to be delivered and can trust that those fees are based on other real projects we’ve completed over the last fourteen years of practice.

Do you do construction documents for tender packages?

We can and do for some of our professional clients. Talk to us about your specific needs and we’ll be better prepared to answer the question on a case by case basis.

I have a floor plan I love! Can you amend it?

We’d be happy to assist you in customizing your ideal plan to suite your site and needs. But as we say in the architecture world, a building must suit it’s site and program rather than making the site conform to the building.

Do I need to hire an Architect?

Unless you’re making a change of use (such as turning your home into a dedicated office space with no one living there), building more than four dwelling units or over 6000 finished square feet of space, no, you don’t need an Architect.

How long until I can apply for a permit?

That depends entirely on whether your looking to do a renovation, addition, basement suite, new home, laneway or outdoor structure. Some projects require extensive design development and entire development permit processes while other require simple drawings and a field review application type of permit.

The shortest timeline would be about 10 days to 2 weeks and the longest timeline would be in the range of 6 months to a year.

When is a Building Permit Required?

The straight answer is anytime your pulling down or mounting drywall, adding or moving plumbing connections or adding electrical fixtures. That said, there’s a big difference between trade permits and building permits in that a trade permit doesn’t necessarily need to have drawings submitted to have a trade permit issued.

A building permit on the other hand is really meant for reasonable scale work such as renovating your bathroom, adding a deck and of course for making an addition or building a new house. For example, you don’t need a building permit to renovate your kitchen if you’re just replacing fixtures, cabinets, counter tops and repainting. However, if you move the connection of the plumbing stack in the wall, you would need a trade permit. If you’re also taking down a wall as part of the same work, you will need a proper building permit.

What is a development application?

A development application is a specific set of drawings required when you’re requesting to make use of a conditional use under the zoning by-law or simply said, when you’re looking for permission for something that isn’t automatic. It always comes prior to a building permit application and handles more macro topics like like use, massing, spatial layout, exterior design and parking. Call us if you need clarification.

Do you have an Structural Engineer you work with?

We work very closely with a number of engineers and would be happy to solicited them on your behalf for your project or turn you directly onto their services. Beware though, not all engineers are equal! We try to work only with those professionals who we would use on our own homes but there are advantages at times and compromises have to be made.

Do I really need a Geotechical Engineer?

This depends on the municipality and the type or work. For example, in Vancouver a Geotechnical Engineer is required anytime you’re in a known zone for poor soil bearing capacity or when your excavation for the basement level goes deeper than 6 feet below grade. The District of North Vancouver on the other hand needs a geo anytime you build a new home or anytime you drop the basement slab on a renovation.

How much does a topographical survey cost?

For sake of clarity, we’re talking about topographical surveys, which means the type where we’re given elevation datums as well as property lines and the outline of the existing structures. This type can range heavily from area to area but generally falls between $750 to $2500 depending on the site topography, density of the neighborhood and level of data required.

Do I need to hire an Architect?

Unless you’re making a change of use (such as turning your home into a dedicated office space with no one living there), building more than four dwelling units or over 6000 finished square feet of space, no, you don’t need an Architect.

Do I need a building code consultant?

In rare circumstances such as when a change a use is required for a new business or a change in the way the space is being used by a current business. Another example would be when a washroom configuration for handicap accessibility needs an code equivalency in order to pass inspection.

What is a TIPS permit application?

TIPS or Tenant Improvement Permits are a specific type of building permit associated with a tenant making renovations or improvements to a property (generally commercial) that he or she does not own. If you own a business that occupies a rental commercial space and wish to make renovations, then you would be applying for a TIPS building permit.

If I change the use, what will happen?

It depends on how extreme the change is. If the space is currently a retail space with office secondary and you want to change it to a fireworks manufacturing facility, you will need to make significant upgrades to the rental space in order meet the fire separation requirements between you and any neighbouring units.

Do I need to hire an Architect?

Unless you’re making a change of use (such as turning your home into a dedicated office space with no one living there), building more than four dwelling units or over 6000 finished square feet of space, no, you don’t need an Architect.

Do I need a code consultant?

In rare circumstances such as when a change a use is required for a new business or a change in the way the space is being used by a current business. Another example would be when a washroom configuration for handicap accessibility needs an code equivalency in order to pass inspection.

How long until I can apply for a permit?

That depends entirely on whether your looking to do a renovation or looking to add a commercial patio. Commercial patios require a full development permit processes in order to be reviewed and provide permission to use the sidewalk or patio space. This means you have a development permit issued first and then enter into a building permit submission with the entire process taking about 3 to 4 months to start construction.

On the other hand, a renovation to an existing commercial space are largely completed as field review process (a type of building permit processing) and would take about 10 days to 2 weeks to have a building permit issued.

Adaptive Design Inc - Residential Design Experts

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