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Existing Conditions, What are they Good For? Absolutely Everything.

Architectural plan sketch showing measurements.

As an architect, one of the most important tasks when embarking on a new project is to document the existing conditions of the site or building. This documentation serves as the foundation for the design process and helps ensure that the final product is safe, functional, and meets the needs of the client. Existing conditions, what are they good for? Absolutely everything!

The process of documenting existing conditions involves several steps, including research, site visits, measurements, and analysis. Here's a closer look at each step:

1. Research: The first step in documenting existing conditions is to gather as much information as possible about the site or building. This may include reviewing old drawings, permits, and other documentation. It also includes reviewing the current zoning regulations for the municipality and how they relate to the current house. This will have an impact on what you can build and whether you will require a variance from the local Zoning Board.

2. Site Visits: Once the research is complete, the architect will visit the site to gather additional information. This may involve taking photographs, sketching, and taking notes on the current condition of the site or building. It's important to document both the interior and exterior of the building, as well as any surrounding land or structures.

3. Measurements: In order to accurately document the existing conditions, the architect will need to take precise measurements of the site or building. This may involve using a combination of digital tools, such as laser scanners, as well as traditional tape measures and rulers.

4. Analysis: Once all the data has been collected, the architect will analyze the information to identify any potential challenges or opportunities. This may involve identifying structural issues, assessing the condition of the building's systems (such as HVAC, electrical, and plumbing), and determining how the existing space can be used to meet the client's needs. It should be noted that while they Architect might identify an potential issue, he/she should recommend that the appropriate professional make the final assessment.

5. Documentation: Finally, the architect will create detailed documentation of the existing conditions, which will serve as the basis for the design process. This documentation may include floor plans, elevations, sections, and 3D models, as well as detailed notes on the site or building's condition.

While everyone is eager to get into the fun work (e.g. designing), by taking the time to thoroughly document the site or building, architects can ensure that their designs are safe, functional, and meet the needs of the client. While the process may be time-consuming, it's an essential step that will put the project on the best "foundation" for success.

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