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  • Writer's pictureBarry Shaw

Plans Approved By Building Department in One Day

Engineering Plans - BSA Inc. Design & Construction

Architecture and engineering plans were submitted recently to the Building Department for a 1,000 sq. ft. Second Story Addition in Northern Colorado.


Typically this processing takes about 2-4 weeks of scrutinizing by plan check engineers. They evaluate: completeness of plans, compliances conforming to about (10) different State and National codes, significant architectural detail data, extensive structural engineering plans (foundations, framing, connections, etc.) calculations, building material approvals, energy conservation specs and many other aspects that are also pertinent to the Cities own specific requirements.


We go to great lengths during the home design and engineering processes, to evaluate, analyze, coordinate and implement the multitude of data needed in a set of plans, to be quite ‘complete’. As a result of this efficiency, our plans were approved in a remarkable one day.  


So how valuable is a complete set of plans to the Client and how do they benefit:


Initially, this means that the overall project schedule is ensured, now with some valuable float time that will be quite advantageous to possible inclement weather issues during construction; there’s no extraneous Applicant time needed from the Owner, no plan updating/revisions required, no additional processing expenses; and the owner’s expectations from hiring BSA Inc. Design & Construction has been basically certified by an independent governing body of many different plan check examiners.


Even more pertinent, is that our complete set of plans, not a ‘skeleton set’ that only meets bare minimum standards, will provide the contractors and material suppliers with much needed answers ahead of time; meaning that material and labor can be procured, scheduled and supplied well before these tasks are actually needed on the job site. Additionally, a complete set of plans contains a significant amount of information so that the Owner’s can receive a complete contractors bid, without outstanding unknowns.


Noting that about 90% of project costs are associated with construction and the architecture is only about 10%, an incomplete/skeleton set of plans can contribute to a significant amount of cost-overruns to the Owner [easily $100,000 for a new ground up custom home project with about (36) line item Trades].


Some examples of exclusions in a skeleton set of plans could include the following:


A typical exterior finish wall material such as siding. There are a lot of different manufacturer’s, grades of quality, textures, fire ratings or not, etc. available. If value-engineering time from the Architect regarding specific products isn’t performed, matching the building design to the Owner’s criteria, the contractor will select their own choice. When the Owner is then presented with a few choices during construction, none of them may be the most cost-effective solution, as the contractor typically makes a mark-up on the materials installed in the building and a more expensive product will obviously result in a greater percentage of gross profit. Multiply this times the multitude of products in a new custom home and the result is likely as stated above.


Another example would be in various foundation designs by the engineer. Again, value-engineering time spent by the Architect is very important to the Owner’s budget. If the engineer’s plans come back to the Architect for review with caissons, which would typically equate to about thirty foot deep piles filled with concrete and steel, the cost, time and intrusiveness to their environment, is extensive. This procedure involves heavy equipment disrupting the land significantly, or grass and sprinklers in the backyard for an addition, loud daily machine noises and is an unnecessarily expensive method. Instead, we sent back the plans with red-line alternative designs that included a redesign of the foundations with helical piles. This resulted in five figure cost savings, half the time for foundation work and much less damage to the site/environment.


As well, the Owner, if it’s a spec/investment project or ‘Owner-Builder’ home project, assumes liability for the buildings integrity. The goal of all construction projects is to deliver a building in a cost-effective, timely and quality manner. BSA Inc. Design & Construction ensures this by producing a ‘complete’ set of architectural plans. Yes it’s possible to pay less money for plans that are only a ‘skeleton set’, barely meeting code for approval, but will likely incur significant six figure construction cost overruns for a new home and maybe post-construction defects as well. For example, our plans include details for water proofing around all windows and doors. A skeleton set would typically not include this, because the Architect is not getting paid for this extra valuable time and technically the building department wont require it. If this one aspect is left up to the contractor’s discretion, whom likely will choose the cheapest materials, the least amount of time to apply and then walk away with careless installation that is covered up with siding for instance, leaves the Owner in grave future circumstances.


Bottom Line: For a new custom home project for instance, even if the Architect’s fee for a complete set of plans is $35,000 more than the alternative skeleton set, the project savings to the Owner in above typical scenario starts at $30,000+ of benefit!


Below is an independent review of our performance producing a high level of top quality, detailed architectural plans, from an engineer that worked on one of our new two story custom home projects:


Dear Mr. Shaw:


The plans you developed are some of the most professional and legible plans we have received this year, which is over a thousand.


It is a pleasure to work with quality plans, since what we provide will be more accurate as a result.


Thank you.


Dennis A. McClain, CEA, CEPE, NR08-99-528, R08-89-303



Above services and other options are available on our website and can be provided in Louisville, Niwot, Broomfield, Westminster, Erie, Denver, Superior, Frederick and other towns throughout Colorado.


Barry R. Shaw AIA, GC

BSA Inc. Design & Construction


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