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Architect About Town

Remodeling makes more sense these days

Architect About Town - Special to the Fort Myers News-Press

I’ve been traveling again: three countries in three weeks, and wherever I went I raised the question, how do you feel about the economy? The answer was always the same: phew, the worst is over.

Combined with the national news that the rise in unemployment has slowed and people have savings for the first time in five decades, it makes me think - is it time for Southwest Florida to start building again?

With an overabundance of strip centers and foreclosures, I'm not advocating building more of the same. Whether it's your workplace or home, right now it's remodeling that makes sense when there is so much existing stock.

It's time to put that remodel project back on the front burner - before the builders get too busy again or inflation kicks in. If you have access to funds, and have considered making a change, invest. You'll use and enjoy your investment now, for less than you'll pay later. Make what you have work better for you.

But if you want a workable solution and keep costs in check, don't forget the architect, an upfront investment that will repay your efforts in money saved and the end result.

No matter the size or the scope, most building owners need help making decisions about the options available and understanding what's feasible and appropriate for their needs, budget and existing building. It is the experienced architect who understands the process from beginning to end and recognizes what can be accomplished to ensure it's good design that meets the objectives, complies with local building codes, and avoids costly mistakes.

As an architect experienced with old and new buildings, I appreciate the power and limitations of renovation. And some architects, like me, licensed to do interior design as well, are able to provide a holistic service from outside to inside, ensuring function and an attractive unified look.

In business, bad space planning, poor lighting and old furniture can be as cumbersome to production as that old computer in the back room. At home, the creative architect recognizes, for kitchens and bathrooms, it's more than new cabinets and tiles. Simply moving a wall or incorporating daylight can energize an ordinary space.

In few hours it is possible to study the existing situation and propose simple outline solutions. Will the increased floor area overwhelm the existing? Will the needs of the business or family be different in a few years and are the new plans flexible enough to accommodate change? Does the budget match your dreams?

Of course, drawing up plans for construction and permitting is a larger investment, but will be quickly recouped when the first mistake is avoided.

It's no surprise to anyone who has done a renovation project to watch costs and time get away. Keep the architect on board during the construction phase, to ensure the work is done in accordance with the drawings, answer questions, check material selections, maintain progress, and keep the budget in check.

Surprised to learn you'll actually save money? You can if you invest wisely from the start.

These days, it's all about minimizing your investment and maximizing your assets.

Joyce Owens AIA RIBA