Design and Consulting Services

Site Selection - Clients searching for parcels in the Four Corners area for the purpose of constructing a custom designed residence are encouraged to involve the architectural designer prior to purchase.

There are many factors involved in the purchase of property that greatly impact the design and construction results. A dialog with an architectural design professional prior to making a purchase commitment can greatly enhance the ability of clients to make an informed decision based on an analysis of pro and con factors affecting the potentiality of a given parcel for realizing the clients goals.

Site Planning - Beyond the initial preliminary planning that may ensue during site selection there is a great deal of information that must be gathered and organized during the initial design phases of a project. There are governmental and legal factors that must be determined, e.g. zoning (including setbacks, easements, etc.,) and C.C.& R.'s (Clauses, Covenants and Restrictions in the title deed).

A complete and accurate map of the parcel in electronic data form (provided by a surveyor) must be obtained. A soil analysis should be performed by a licensed Geotechnical Engineer to determine suitable foundation preparation and structure.

If the parcel has complex and significant grade changes creation of a contour map should be considered as an invaluable aid to the architectural design process.  Existing watercourses (if any) and drainage aspects of the parcel need to be determined and documented.

A plethora of other factors, e.g. sight lines to and views from the structure, preservation of existing trees and other vegetation where desired and etc., need to be determined and documented.

Project Definition - Before proceeding to the detail design of any architectural project it is vitally important to create a "user manual".  This is a document that gathers all of the information about the project, including a formal statement from the client stating in as much detail as possible the desired design goals, into an explicit framework of knowledge to guide the architectural design process.  It would include information gathered in the site selection and planning process and combine it with the specific physical design requirements as well as aesthetic and aspirational goals of the client that must be taken into account during the design process.

Achieving a satisfactory outcome can only be accomplished if the designer knows and understands as fully as possible the desires of the client.  A written document will be produced for approval by the client that fully describes the goals of the project prior to proceeding with the design.

Preliminary Design Studies - It would rarely be the case, taking into account all of the factors outlined in the project definition, that one and only one physical design exists which fulfills the requirements stated in the project definition.

Utilizing the virtual modeling capabilities of Synoptic Designs (see Design Tools page) it is possible to create a number of design ideas for presentation to the client.

These may be created initially with simplified details and then refined through a process of combining and paring away of concepts to arrive at a final design model.  Use of 3D modeling tools in the design process allows clients to see and understand the design concept with a level of understanding and confidence that could rarely be achieved through traditional architectural renderings and blueprints.  

It is also our recommendation that the general contractor for the project be selected and consulted during the preliminary design phase.  It is of little use to select materials without regard to availability and construction methods for which qualified tradesmen are unavailable.  In addition, a contractor will be able to provide estimated cost projections for various options under consideration to allow the client to to consider cost factors when making decisions.

It is also at the preliminary stage of the design that consideration should be given to utilizing modern energy saving techniques such as passive solar architecture, earth sheltered architecture, super-insulation and a host of other concepts which can result in both pleasing aesthetics and lowered utility and maintenance costs.  We are also happy to work with clients wishing to incorporate active natural energy technologies, e.g. solar hot water, solar radiant heat systems, solar electric, geothermal HVAC, cold storage A/C, solar-electric, wind power, hydroelectric, etc., into the design.

Synoptic Designs has a broad library of energy saving design techniques for consideration. We also have a body of knowledge relating to alternative building methods (e.g. insulating concrete forms, structural insulated panels, stabilized adobe, stabilized rammed earth, straw bale, pummace-crete, ferrocement) for clients wishing to consider these types of construction vs. wood or metal frame construction.

Architectural Design - Having arrived at a single viable design concept capable of meeting the project goals, as a result of the information developed during all of the preliminary tasks outlined above, it is now possible to proceed to a detailed architectural design.

Utilizing the latest computer aided 3D modeling design tools (see Design Tools page) a virtual model of the project will be created with any level of detail the client desires. (In theory I could model the dust bunnies under the beds, but you may not wish to incur the fee for doing so.)

Synoptic Designs is knowledgeable in the design of all elements of residential construction; common areas (entries, living and family areas, dining rooms, kitchens, guest-baths, computer based offices and studies, libraries, home theaters, studios, workshops and garages, etc) and private areas (bedrooms, master suites, sitting rooms, private studies, master baths, walk-in closets and the like).

As a practical matter, modeling both the structure and major fixtures, e.g. mechanical equipment, plumbing, cabinets, doors, windows and etc. allows a complete understand of both the visual appearance and space utilization of the design.  See the Design Tools and Visual Galleries > Synoptic Designs Galleries page for images of models created for these purposes.

Typically, fine details, e.g. interior trim, floor coverings, window coverings and etc. are not modeled to balance the cost of creating such super-detailing against the benefit.  For example: custom interior trim details may be fully detailed for a single room for the purpose of allowing the client to fully understand the concept while not detailing the trim (to be done in a like manner) in the rest of the structure model.

Interior design details are more typically represented by actual material samples, color swatches, etc. provided by a consultant or retailer.

Selection and specification of mechanical equipment, e.g. HVAC, appliances, plumbing fixtures, lighting fixtures, electrical and signal wiring and the like is an integral part of the detail design process.  Following approval by the client of the fully realized 3D design model, permittable construction drawings will be created as required.

Interior Design/Lighting Design - Synoptic Designs does not offer interior/lighting design as a standalone service.  Because interior and lighting design are both such an integral part of achieving an outstanding architectural result such services are included as part of an overall project design.

Synoptic Designs takes special interest in designing custom interior trim in the Arts and Craft tradition of architects such a Frank Lloyd Wright and Greene and Greene (with a southwestern twang).

We will consult and coordinate with the client, interior designers and retailers to determine the complete configuration of all interior and exterior elements of the project.

In addition to designing and/or modeling elements such as appliances, plumbing fixtures, lighting fixtures, built-in cabinet work, closet furniture, etc., we will create virtual models of furniture as a means of fully considering the layout and utilization of physical spaces, should it be requested. As an example, modeling of dining room tables and chairs may be very useful in visualizing how the furniture relates to the space and is also of assistance in determining that ergonomic considerations are satisfied (movement in the room around the furniture, easy access to storage of tableware, etc.).

Landscaping Design - For both practical and esthetic reasons the final appearance of the landscaping should be defined and designed as an integral part of the whole project. Synoptic Designs is available to provide such services as part of the design process for the entire project. See the Design Tools page for images and information about the landscaping design process for the Casa Vista project as an example of this design integration.

On a purely practical level it is necessary to determine the requirements for retaining walls, paving, irrigation, landscape lighting, drainage, etc., to ensure that the necessary mechanical and electrical services are provided in the required locations during construction in support of the desired design.

On an esthetic level it is necessary to consider the interactions between the interior and exterior designs to ensure a satisfactory overall result. An otherwise good architectural design may be severely compromised by an incompatible landscape design.

Synoptic Designs only creates contemporary southwestern architecture. Therefore, only landscaping which recognizes the natural minerals, vegetation and climate of the region would be compatible with such designs.

What We Do Not Do - Synoptic Designs only creates original contemporary southwestern architectural designs.  Clients wishing to build emulation's or copies of traditional architectural styles, e.g. Territorial Style, Santa Fe style (with real or fake vegas), Tuscan style, etc. should seek elsewhere for design services.

Please note, however, that many traditional architectural styles have elements that may well be practical and appropriate in a contemporary southwestern interpretation. The Casa Vista project, for example, incorporates elements from both Santa Fe style (flat roof with parapet) and Tuscan style (loggia or verandahs) while not being a slave to a literal interpretation of either style.

We do not design projects primarily driven by budgetary constraints. To justify the time and cost of a unique architectural design clients should have a construction budget of not less than $175 per square foot, exclusive of the cost of land.

Project size is not a determining factor in any decision to offer design services. In many instances a small residential structure is a greater challenge and may require additional design creativity to fully meet a client's needs.

Design Fees - All services are offered on an hourly fee-for-work basis. The customer my choose any standalone services offered on a boutique basis, picking and choosing as meets their needs.  A schedule of fees for services and deliverables for the current calendar year will be provided on request.

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