Not long ago I met with an older woman who had purchased a New Leaf consultation at an auction for a non-profit group. Unfortunately, she had already had the addition to her home built, and had multiple complaints. As a result, she wasn’t using the new spaces at all. At this point there wasn’t a lot that I could do to correct the situation without substantial construction expense. I’m confident she told the contractor what she wanted, but he apparently didn’t hear and the construction was done before she realized how things were being built. She had only the contract written by the contractor to describe what work they had agreed to.
If she had called me first, we could have come up with a written Program for the project, making sure we considered all of the issues that were important to her, such as being able to see her grandchildren playing in the back yard, and being able to turn on lights easily while using her cane. Then we would have designed the addition and she would have been able to see three dimensional views of the new spaces, as well as floor plans. She could have told me about anything she didn’t like long before construction started, and we could have changed the design accordingly. By investing a little bit in the planning phase of the project, she would have had drawings to use in talking with contractors about estimated costs, which could also have been used as a part of the construction contract, describing what she intended to have built. In the end she would have had a space that she was eager to move into, instead of a room she couldn’t use.
The first step to a successful project is to brainstorm with your architect about your project, whether you plan to start construction this year or three years from now. It is never too early to call an architect, but it can be too late.