vir·tu·al (vūr'choo-el)
  1. Existing in the mind, especially as a product of the imagination.
  2. Computer Science created, simulated, or carried on by means of a computer or computer network.
ren·o·va·tion (ren'e-va'shen)
  1. The result of restoring to an earlier condition, as by repairing or remodeling.
  2. The result of imparting new vigor to; reviving.

What Would It Look Like If...?

see how this is done!

You want a new (or renovated) home, but you're not sure where to start

Have you ever wanted to create something, and you've been so excited about the prospect of it becoming reality you just can't wait to get it done?

The thought of living in a new home that's been built just for you, and even the thought of 'renewing' your existing home is very exciting. Most people experience this only rarely in their lifetime. As soon as you get serious about moving forward with your idea, the following questions come to mind:

Sadly, there are many horror stories about home construction projects gone wrong. This is likely going to be the most expensive single thing you ever buy and you want it to turn out as you dreamed it would. The good news is that there is a right way to go about it.

Who Do I Talk to First, A Builder Or A Designer?

The best place to start making plans is on paper, changes are easier to make and much less expensive than if you wait until you start construction. In most cases, your building contractor is going to need a set of drawings in order to receive the necessary permits. Most building contractors are skilled in construction but not necessarily in understanding human design principles, and this aspect of design can have a dramatic impact on your lifestyle. A designer should be your first contact.

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What Are The Steps Involved?

There is a predictable series of procedures that are followed. Here is a list of the most common steps:

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How Much Is It Going To Cost?

Due to the uncertain nature of home design, expect some variance between the estimated cost and the actual cost to develop the design. A designer that has formal training and experience in home design may not be the least expensive way of having your plans prepared, however his/her insights into the layout and construction of your home will not only provide incalculable value in the end result, but may also result in a saving of many thousands of dollars in construction costs. A 1% additional expense for planning could save you 10% in costly construction alterations. Look for formal accreditation and testimonials from satisified clients.

There are various ways of arriving at a cost estimate:

Don't take an estimate at face value... ask whether it's a 'minimum', 'maximum', or 'expected' cost. You may choose a designer or contractor based on an estimate that seems low, just to find out later that you were given a low number for the purpose of securing the contract. Extra charges may appear later on that would have actually justified working with another designer or contractor. It's better to receive an estimate that seems high at the beginning of the project, and be able to budget for it, than it is to be surprised by a cost that you weren't prepared for when your project is well under way or completed.

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Am I Going To Be In Control Of What Happens?

As with most things in life, look for referrals from people you know and trust. Examine credentials and look for evidence of satisfied customers. If you find a designer or contractor with which you believe you have shared values, ask them for referrals for other trades that are compatible. Don't be in a hurry to begin with, your choice of who you will work with is the single most important decision you will make.

Remember, this is your home, your money, your life. You want to work with people that have your best interests as their highest priority, not their ego or their bottom-line. While a designer's or contractor's expertise will allow them to provide many insights and suggestions that will improve your end result, ultimately you have the final decision as to what happens with your home.

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Why Would I Work With CGSI?

Design & Communication Philosopy

Shawn is a 'practical' designer, beginning with getting to know you and your family's lifestyle and needs first: it's not possible to design for you without that understanding. He also understands that the process of having a home built or renovated can be perceived as very risky and therefore possibly frightening for some. During the entire design process, he is willing to answer any questions you may have (there are no silly questions), and make sure that you understand why certain design decisions are made, while still accepting and integrating your feedback into the design. The process can go as fast or as slow as you are comfortable with. Shawn also makes a practice of providing 'worst-case' estimates, meaning that he is attempting to provide you with a maximum budget amount for the design/drawing process that will not likely be exceeded. He enjoys justifying cost overruns as much as you enjoy paying for them.

Design with ecology in mind, or 'green design & building' has become a focus for Shawn. He is one of the founding members of the Green Building Mastermind group, consisting of several other designers and tradespeople. Click here if you're interested in learning more about Ecological Design.

Information technology is also highly leveraged in Shawn's workflow. Digital drawing output and email communication are a primary method of delivery, and this allows for high-level, ongoing and prompt communication, while also not inconveniencing you with having to schedule and travel to face-to-face meetings. 'Virtual' online design meetings are also available, for those situations when real-time design discussion is necessary and everyone can see the drawings changing during the discussion.

Your comfort level with the design process is of paramount importance.

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