Process

How We Work


Asher Associates Architects has been providing clients with quality residential and light commercial architectural services since 1993. From our offices in Jenkintown, PA and Stone Harbor, NJ, the firm has designed award-winning homes, offices, restaurants and public buildings in suburban Philadelphia and in numerous New Jersey coastal towns.

The firm’s design ideology is rooted in “New Urbanist” philosophies which assert that buildings should be designed as good neighbors, deliberately intended to have a gentle impact on the streetscape and community. Asher-designed buildings, whether traditional or contemporary, are quietly beautiful and constructed with a craftsmanship and richness in detail that enables them to age gracefully, gaining character as the years pass. Asher Associates’ reputation for designing buildings of lasting quality is based on the view that each project should be designed with the community in mind. The firm makes a priority of fostering long-term relationships with clients, builders and the towns in which we work. The goal is to enhance and build a community, not just a building.

The firm’s approach to the design and construction process is as a close collaboration between client, architect and building team. Asher’s long-standing relationships with interiors, kitchen, lighting and other design professionals are integral to providing the best possible experience for clients.

FAQs


How do we get started?

The process begins with a conversation. At an initial consultation, the owner and architect will meet to discuss the project requirements; how many rooms, who will use the home and how? What are the owner’s goals, visions, and expectations? Do they have preferences, likes and dislikes? What are the budget and schedule considerations?

After the initial meeting, the architect will prepare a proposal outlining a general description of the project, the services to be provided, the project schedule and fees.

What information does the architect need from the owner?

In addition to site and property surveys, many clients find it helpful to provide magazine clippings, photographs or descriptions of projects they admire. A wish list provided by the owner is a great way to outline and communicate important items for the architect to consider during the design phase.

How are architect’s fees determined?

The architect will determine the fee based on the scope and complexity of the project. Fees are typically based on a range of cost-per-square-foot that is translated into a fixed fee.

How does the residential design process work?

The process has two main phases: Schematic Design and Construction Documents.

During Schematic Design the architect gathers more information about the site and the owner’s preferences in order to define a starting point for the design work. This includes obtaining a site survey from a land surveyor, or surveying an existing building in the case of renovation work, and researching local zoning regulations. The architect then develops initial plans showing the building on the site and the general arrangement of the rooms. These initial designs are refined during the course of several client and architect meetings.

Once the design is finalized the architect prepares final Construction Documents which the builder uses to determine construction pricing, to submit for a building permit and to build the project. All details and building specifications (roofing, siding, windows, etc.) are finalized in this phase, including the structural engineering.

What is meant by Zoning Compliance?

All townships have strictly enforced zoning ordinances or municipal codes to which every project must conform. A thorough review of all applicable ordinances is required before the design process can begin. Utilizing the land surveyor’s site survey of the property, calculations are made to determine the allowable ‘foot print’ and location of the building on the site.

What is a variance?

A variance is a requested, and at times required, deviation from the zoning ordinance. When a variance is required, the architect works with the owner and their legal council to prepare necessary plan documents. The architect appears on the Owner’s behalf at agency meetings. The architect can recommend legal counsel if required. Generally, a hearing is scheduled within 30 – 60 days of filing the completed application.

Are special permits needed for coastal projects?

The Coastal Area Facility Review Act (CAFRA) often applies to projects near coastal waters. The closer to the water, the more likely a development will be regulated. When a CAFRA permit is required, the architect prepares all applications and plans needed for CAFRA submission to the NJ Department of Environmental Protection. Depending on the complexity of the application, the architect may enlist the services of an environmental engineer. CAFRA permitting generally takes 90-120 days so the process should begin in a timely manner in order to avoid construction delays.

What do construction documents typically include?

  • Floor Plans
  • Exterior Elevations 
  • Structural Plans and Details
  • Interior Elevations of critical areas such as stairs, fireplaces, casework, etc. 
  • Interior Trim Details of baseboards, door & window casings, wainscot, ceiling design, etc. 
  • Kitchen and Bath Layouts (coordinated with kitchen designer) 
  • Electrical and Lighting Plans (coordinated with electrician and lighting designer) 
  • Site plan and zoning conformance schedule

How are construction costs estimated?

Asher Associates has years of experience in reviewing bids and construction contracts, giving us a wealth of data on which to base an estimated range of costs. When a more detailed estimate is required, Schematic Design drawings can be submitted to a contractor for initial costing. Based on the Contractor's preliminary estimate of construction cost, adjustments may be made to the design to bring the costs in line with the owner’s construction budget.

Does the architect assist in finding a builder?

If an owner does not have a specific builder in mind, the architect can provide a list of potential builders with whom Asher Associates has a solid working relationship. Our recommendations are based on years of experience in various towns, working with builders on projects of varying scope and construction complexity.

What is the process for contracting with a builder?

An owner can elect to request construction cost bids from several builders or to negotiate a contract with a single builder. There are benefits to both alternatives.

If the owner elects to bid the project, the architect submits sets of Bid Plans as well as a standardized Bid Form to each builder. Once the bids are completed, the Architect will review the bids for completeness and will prepare a comparative price analysis.

If the owner elects to negotiate a contract with one builder, the architect will review the builder’s pricing and consult with the client and builder to assist in formulating a mutually-agreeable contract.

Does the architect assist with product selections?

The architect will assist the owner by making product selections. In addition, an on-line guide to these selections is made available to clients of Asher Associates. The architect will make recommendations and coordinate selections with other design professionals such as interiors, kitchen, and lighting designers as well as subcontractors as needed. Product selection recommendations may include:

  • Roofing
  • Masonry
  • Siding
  • Windows/shutters
  • Hardware
  • Doors
  • Decking materials

What other design professionals may be involved in the project?

Asher Associates can recommend other experienced design professionals to assist owners with their project. These include interiors, kitchen, lighting designers, and landscape architects. The architectural work will be coordinated with these professionals to ensure a consistent design approach throughout the project.

Do the architectural plans include the kitchen design?

The kitchen is an integral part of the architectural design. Accordingly, the kitchen and appliance layout is included in the architectural plans. Typically after the general contractor is selected, a kitchen and cabinetry designer/installer is brought into the process. Here the specific product, door type, etc. is selected and the cabinetry layout is finalized.

What is the architect's role during construction?

Construction is a collaborative process between architect, builder and owner. The vital link is open communication between the architect and builder – working together to solve problems before they occur, and taking advantage of opportunities as they are presented in the field. The architect’s involvement in the project during construction can vary from complete project oversight, to occasional consulting and everything in between. On average, the architect visits the site weekly and also reviews the contractor's requests for payment.