A soft story building is quite a common structure. Any building with more than one story, that has windows, wide doors, openings or large spaces where a shear wall might be needed for structural strength is a soft story building. A typical soft story building could be one of the following:
These buildings have one or more structurally critical spaces that do not have the same level of reinforcement as the other floors or sections within the building.
Earthquake retrofitting, or seismic retrofitting, involves reinforcing a house so that it is less likely to be damaged during an earthquake. After your retrofit, you’re less likely to face significant damage when a natural disaster occurs. A seismic retrofit is the addition of structural enhancements that will help keep a building and its occupants safe from the effects of earthquake activity that occurs suddenly or over time. The enhancements might be as simple as straps to secure equipment or as complex as structural anchors or roofing modifications.
A retrofit of a soft-story building, which is a structure that has a weaker first floor and is unable to carry the weight of the stories above during an earthquake. The first floor generally would have large openings in the perimeter walls such as garages, tuck under parking or even large windows. Some cities have mandatory requirements for soft-story retrofit programs to strengthen buildings that are highly susceptible to earthquake damage.
A mandatory seismic retrofit is done when the City requires it to make the building safer for earthquakes, this can be something like a soft-story program, a full upgrade due to other scopes being completed, or for buildings made of brick materials.
A voluntary seismic retrofit is done when the City does not require but someone wants to make the building safer for earthquakes.
Earthquake Brace and Bolt is a voluntary state-sponsored retrofit program, which provides grants for specific “building-code-compliant” seismic retrofit. This type of retrofit strengthens an older house to help prevent it from sliding off the foundation during an earthquake and is limited to only houses with crawl spaces.
The engineering plans tell your contractor how to construct your project. Once our plans are done, contractors will be able to estimate materials and labor to give you a bid for your construction.
While we do not undertake the actual construction related work, we may be able to provide you with referrals for contractors who do the construction part of the project. Please note that we do offer consultation during the construction process. For further details, please check the question below in relation to “Construction Administration”.
We will provide you with digital plans and accompanying documents as applicable, which can then be printed and brought to the city office. Every city or jurisdiction has its own requirements for plan submittal and approval, so we suggest looking on the city website for more information on how to submit, how many copies are needed, and if there are any additional requirements. We would also advise that you get a contractor on board to review the set of plans that we will provide to you before submittal. You should coordinate with the contractor and make sure it addresses everything that the contractor will need. In the event of any confusion in relation to the work that we did for you, please ask us and we will guide you.
Please note that once the stamped and signed plans have been provided by us, your contractor will often be the one to run and submit for the permit, or you may choose to do it yourself. Typically, the digitally stamped and signed plans are sufficient for submittal, but some jurisdictions (such as San Francisco and Mountain View) require documents to be wet signed. If this is the case, we can print, sign and ship all documents to you at an additional cost.
After the plans are done, they go to your city or county’s Building & Planning department for plan check. Depending on the city or county, smaller projects can sometimes be permitted over the counter. Most projects go through plan check and its duration will vary based on your local jurisdiction.
Submittal is typically not included in our services. As the owner you may submit the plans we provide yourself, or often the contractor can provide this service on your behalf. In some cases, we may do the submittal on your behalf at an additional cost, subject to the location and the timing of the submittal.
We will provide you with digital plans and accompanying documents as applicable, which can then be printed and brought to the city office. Every city or jurisdiction has its own requirements for plan submittal and approval, so we suggest looking on the city website for more information on how to submit, how many copies are needed, and if there are any additional requirements. We would also advise that you get a contractor on board to review the set of plans that we will provide to you before the submittal. You should coordinate with the contractor and make sure that it addresses everything that the contractor will need. In the event of any confusion in relation to the work that we did for you, please ask us and we will guide you.
Change orders are additional cost associated with work outside of the known scope of the original contract. These are not uncommon during the construction process, especially when remodelling or adding to an existing older structure. Any revisions in the plans that are necessitated due to changes in the scope of the work, code changes (changes to the California Building Code that are enacted during the course of the project), unforeseen conditions, unforeseen flood zone and fire department requirements, new information provided during or after design, etc. are considered to be requests for change orders.
Changes to the plans during plan check that are done on account of plan check comments on the architectural/building work (if any) that affect the structural design and on grading plans that result in major grading redesign would also be considered a change order. When this is applicable, your PM will advise you on the additional cost per the Additional Services section of our contract, and obtain your approval before starting or continuing the additional work. Please refer to the contract provided to you for signature for further details.
Vertical addition means that we are adding on top of existing (i.e. we are expanding above the existing outline of the building, the footprint) while horizontal addition addresses expansion outside of the footprint (even if that addition is multiple stories.)
A geotechnical engineer or a soils engineer prepares a soils report which is based on principles of soil mechanics and rock mechanics to investigate subsurface conditions and materials. This report is a determination of the relevant physical/mechanical and chemical properties of these materials. It is an evaluation of the stability of natural slopes and man-made soil deposits and an assessment of the risks posed by site conditions. The report further provides an assessment of design earthworks and structure foundations, and examines site conditions, earthwork and foundation construction.
Yes, you do need to provide a soils report to your CSM or the PM, as applicable to your project. This is often required for hillside lots. Soils report is necessary to prepare the structural engineering and civil engineering plans for your project.
A land surveying professional (licensed surveyor) prepares a topographical map/survey, which is a determination of the terrestrial or three-dimensional position of points and the distances and angles between them. This survey is required to undertake most types of civil engineering work, including work in relation to additions.
Accessory dwelling units or ADUs are secondary dwelling units with complete independent living facilities for one or more persons. They are an innovative, affordable, effective option to increase the value and space of your home. ADUs are known by different names: granny unit, granny flat, in-law unit, in-law cottage, mother-in-law apartment, sidekick home, laneway home, backyard guesthouse, backyard cottage or secondary dwelling unit.
There are various kinds of ADUs, including: Detached ADU: Detached ADU is a unit that is separated from the primary structure. Attached ADU: Attached ADU is a unit that is attached to the primary structure. Repurposed Existing Space: Space (e.g., garage) within the primary residence is converted into an independent living unit.
Structural engineering plans are a type of Engineering drawing for how a building will be built. Structural drawings are generally prepared by licensed professional engineers. They are primarily concerned with the load-carrying members of a structure. They outline the size and types of materials to be used, as well as the general demands for connections. The structural drawings communicate the design of the building’s structure to the building authority to review. These plans also become part of the contract documents which guide contractors in detailing, fabricating, and installing parts of the structure.
Title 24 energy calculations are required in California to show that a building meets energy efficiency standards for residential and non-residential buildings, in order to reduce California’s energy consumption. Before a city or county in California grants a building permit they will ask that you submit a Title 24 energy report (also called Title 24 energy calculations).
Yes, we do include addressing plan check comments provided by the City/County on the stamped/signed project documents as part of the fee for the basic services. However, there are some exceptions, such as when changes to the architectural drawings completed by another consultant result in a change of scope or revision to our plans. In this case, a change order may be applied. Other exceptions include the comments on the deliverables that are not part of the basic services of Design Everest. Please review your contract for further details.
We have many engineers who each have their own license number. If you would like to know more about our engineers, please reach out to us and one of our Customer Success Managers can elaborate.
Yes, we do have a number of contractors we have worked with. We can definitely recommend local contractors for you by identifying a good fit for your project.
It depends on each project and the scope of work. Design and engineering can take anywhere from a few days to several weeks depending on how involved your project is and how well you know what you want at the start of the project.
We have a process by way of which you can control the costs during the design phase. Please note that no general contractor or estimator can estimate construction costs without reviewing the architecture and engineering plans. Their estimates and bids can only be final once the plans are finalized. However, our process ensures that you are in control of the construction budget during the design phase before even the plans are finalized or submitted to the authorities for the building permit. We take the feedback from the general contractors during the design phase and revise the plans in the manner explained below.
We start with the concept design and schematic design phase, at the end of which you can provide your plans to general contractors and get bids. Although as architects and engineers, we may not be specialists in terms of construction costs, we can refer you to various general contractors in our network who are the specialists.
At the end of the schematic phase, once you get the bids, we can revise the plans keeping in mind your construction budget (one major revision included during this stage). Please note that as the plans are developed further, the general contractors will be able to give more firm bids and at the start, they could even give a range or ballpark. We then move to the design and development phase with your approval. You may again show it to multiple general contractors to get bids (please note that they will not charge you forbid). Based on the estimates, we can do another major revision during this phase of the architecture plans: the design and development phase where we add more details to the design. The revisions could be based on your preferences and construction budget.
We will then take your approval and proceed to finalize the architecture plans. Based on your approval, we will move to the engineering phase. Once the preliminary engineering plans are provided to you, you may again get bids from the general contractors (at this time, since the plans are close to being finalized, the bids will be more firm than previous phases).
In this manner, we collaborate with you directly to take care of construction costs throughout the design process. Please note that you do not have to pay to get construction estimates from general contractors. Once you show them the plans we provide, they will most likely give you the estimates for free.
By way of this process, when you reach the final stage of the plan submission, you will know the construction costs and what's feasible.
We do not provide free on-site evaluations. Our paid engagements may include on-site evaluations, and this fee will be part of the overall price quote we create for you. To stay competitive, we utilize our engineer's hours judiciously and only engage them for paid engagement field visits when necessary.
As-built drawings are an accurate representation for both commercial and residential structures of existing conditions and typically consist of floor plans, elevations, and roof plans. We can help create detailed structural, mechanical and electrical as-builts showing structural members, plumbing fixtures, HVAC registers, power, data lighting, and electrical outlets. As-builts serve to (1) assist a design professional in their preparation of contract documents for new construction, and (2) provide an accurate reference of existing building conditions for the Building and Planning authority when seeking approval for new construction.
The goal of a structural site survey is to document as much of the structural support system as possible by visual observation only (no destructive investigation). Our observations for this service are generally limited to the area of the existing structure that is being affected by the project scope, so the entire structure in typically not documented.
A structural site survey is typically required when you are having an addition or remodel done on your existing home and you do not have the original structural drawings for the house. There is important information needed prior to starting the project to aid in the construction process and ensure your home is structurally safe.
Architectural as-builts survey is typically required when you are in the initial planning stages of an addition or remodel on your existing home and you have neither the original architectural drawings nor have involved an architectural designer up to this point. The information gathered will be used to best determine how to layout your new/renovated space to provide you the best possible living experience.
You can typically expect a phone call to schedule the service within 2-3 days after signing the contract, which gives us the time needed to identify the best representative to assign to your project. The actual site visit can vary depending on your availability, but typically is scheduled for a day within 1-3 days of the scheduling phone call.
On the inside of the house, we typically need to see the areas being affected by the addition/remodel. We will also need access to wherever the attic access panel and crawl space panel (if applicable) are located. The most important aspects to this survey are verifying the roof/ceiling supports and the floor supports. Typically, photos will be taken of these spaces, along with photos of the exterior of the house.
We will typically need full access to the interior and exterior of the house. Most cities/counties require a full architectural floor plan and elevations, even if the new work being done only occurs in one area.
If the Design Everest representative is of the opinion that accessing the crawl space/entering any area/performing any procedure that may damage the property or present a danger to him or others, he may decide not to access such areas. Such decision will be at the sole discretion of the Design Everest representative. In such event, they will gather as much information as they can from the areas that are accessible, and we will use this for our design.
Our structural engineers will not open up the walls or perform invasive testing while doing any kind of testing during their visit. The survey is meant to evaluate the visually observable conditions only. If you have engaged a contractor prior to the visit, you may have them open up some exploratory holes beforehand or be present to help do so during the visit. Our engineer can also suggest locations where these types of openings may be helpful for confirming assumptions. However, Design Everest is not responsible for any damage as a result of this exploration and cannot guarantee that this will provide necessary additional information.
Alternatively, if you have already engaged a general contractor or can engage a general contractor, they can open up some holes in the walls to see the site conditions/framing underneath which we can factor into our drawings, to minimize the need for any changes due to unforeseen site conditions during construction.
The Design Everest representative will prepare as-builts, which are required to prepare the designs and plans by the architectural designer and/or the structural engineer. The architectural designer and/or the structural engineer (as applicable depending on the scope of the work) will draft such plans for submittal to the City or the county to secure the permit.
CAD stands for computer-assisted drafting, and often refers to the drawing files for a project completed in AutoCAD or a similar program. These files would have a .dwg or a .dxf extension in order to be viewed and edited by our design professionals. This allows our team to create a dynamic plan set, which can then be exported as a PDF for printing and then exported as the final PDF version. CAD files ensure consistency across disciplines and consultants, allow for easy and quick edits and adjustments, and speed up the document creation process. The designer or architect uses a CAD file of the existing plan to build the proposed plan, and the CAD file of that proposed plan is then provided to the engineer and other consultants.
Architectural as-builts are required in CAD format to create the plan set for submittal to the city or county (as applicable). If you have a designer already, they should be able to provide the architectural as-builts in CAD format. If you are working with one of our designers, or the designer you have does not have their plans in a CAD format, we will prepare them for you. Please let the Customer Success Manager or the Project Manager know and we will make sure that this is included in our scope of work.
Every city or county has its own set of guidelines in relation to the format of the plans required to be submitted to them for the building permit. Some cities require the first page of plans to be wet-signed and stamped by the design professional of record. The City and County of San Francisco and the City of Mountain view are examples of jurisdictions that require wet stamped documents for all permits.