Whether you’re an architect designing a major addition or remodel, a facility manager optimizing usable space or a home owner wanting to turn your current house into your dream home, please know there is a method to insure you make the best decisions.

Just like going to a good doctor for a diagnosis, renovating a structure begins with taking vital signs and statistics. If you live in the LA area, begin by getting a copy of your property’s Tax Assessor information. You can access it here: MapSearch

Once you’ve found your lot or parcel, click on it and the click on Parcel Detail to get more information. Make sure to copy and paste all the information you find, or as a last resort, take screen captures. Some of the primary pieces of information you’ll be after are the building square footage and number of units, beds and baths, as well as the Tract Map and Lot Numbers.

In the same page you will want to click on the Parcel Map link to view a copy of the Tax Assessor map. It contains useful information about the size of the lots, and possibly, distances and bearings for your lot’s property lines. You will also be able to see the dimension for your adjacent streets rights of way. For more detailed information, you will also want to get a copy of the pertinent Tract Map. You can access the information here: LA County Tract Maps

Arguably, the most important step in handling a Renovation projects is to create an accurate measured As-Built 3D model of each structure, including the building site, exterior and interior information. Why 3D? Because we live in a 3D world where many features can’t really be appreciated and understood looking at traditional 2D architectural drawings. You will also be able to get a much better feel for view obstructions and roof slopes. This will help you eliminate guess work, and allow you to make changes and improvements to your design, while it is still relatively easy, quick and inexpensive to do so. You really want to minimize guesswork that might lead you to make changes when construction is already in progress.

Finally, you want to think holistically and make sure you consider all things. There are several approaches which you must always ponder, even if only for a few minutes. Some will be more important to you than others. Focus on the one(s) that matter to you must. After reflecting on these, make sure to sort them in their order of importance to you, as the hierarchy will help guide your decisions towards what matters to you most.

  1. An Investment. Try to think of your property in a detached and objective fashion, as an investment. Begin by determining the “Highest and Best Use” of your property, which usually yields the highest resale value and increases equity.
  2. A Machine. Think of your buildings as machines for living and working. Indeed, the right architecture can have a tremendous positive impact in health, efficiency, comfort and safety. Make this personal. Don’t be afraid to cater to your own ideosincracies or odd preferences or behaviors. The things that make you different are also often the things that make you special and powerful. Make sure your structures fit you like a glove.
  3. An Inspiration. Buildings, like all works of art, can carry a lot of hidden meaning. Use buildings as a reminder of what really matters to you.

The best building design will help increase the joy and peace in both your personal and professional life. Give design the effort it deserves by not taking unwise shortcuts. In the end, you will see that doing things right is quick and smooth when compared to other alternatives.