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New Home Construction: Initial Steps to Developing Plans in Florida and Other Areas

Building in Miami or any area of ​​South Florida is completely different from building in any other area of ​​the country. While most of the east coast of the United States, and much of the rest of the country, builds homes with wood frames and a brick or paneling finish, South Florida does so with concrete and concrete blocks. .

Quality vs. price

Due to the hurricane force winds, the structures in this area must be very strong. Where the rest of the country looks down on us because they only use concrete blocks in their basements, for my money I really like concrete and block construction. Concrete blocks do not contract termites and do not rot. Therefore, a concrete block structure will last 100 years or more with little maintenance. Unfortunately, the vast majority of homes in Miami have wooden trusses with plywood cladding for the roof, then roofing paper, and shingles or concrete shingles on top. This type of construction is not particularly good at withstanding hurricane force conditions. Although the Florida Building Code has made every effort to improve the requirements for installing roof sheathing and roof finish, it cannot be compared to how strong the roof would be if a concrete slab were used for the structure of the roof. the ceiling.

So why, if we know this, don’t we build with concrete slab roofs? Cost: the only reason is cost. It is much more expensive to both design and install a concrete slab roof, especially on a slope to carry a concrete tile finish.

So one of the first things a homeowner should establish early in the new home design process is how much they want to spend on construction. There is the cheapest way to build a house and the most expensive way. This is a problem that will come up many times during the design and build process.

The program

But to determine a budget, the homeowner must first establish the square footage of the new home. To set the total square footage, you will need to generate a schedule for the house. The program is a list of rooms with their corresponding sizes.

Please refer to the sample list as follows:

Living Room 240 square feet
Dining Room 120 square feet
Kitchen 170 square feet
Family Room 240 square feet
Master Bedroom 240 square feet
Master Bath 64 square feet
Bedroom No. 2 216 square feet
Bedroom No. 3 192 square feet
Bath No. 2 36 square feet
Laundry Room 100 square feet
Linen closet 9 square feet
A/C Closet 9 square feet

Total square feet = 1,636

Circulation and walls at 20% = 1,634 square feet = 327 square feet

Total = 1,634 + 327 = 1,961 square feet

So now we have a basic idea of ​​the main spaces in the house and roughly how many total square feet the owner will need for the house.

Also, this is a good time to decide if there will be outdoor spaces, such as covered terraces or pergolas. In Florida, these are particularly good additions to interior spaces. With blissful temperatures in winter, there is no reason to spend all your time indoors with air conditioning.


So how much will a house under 2000 square feet cost in South Florida? There is no magic formula to determine this. The cost of the house depends on many things that have to do with the design, such as: the type of ceiling, the height (s) of the ceiling, the complexity of the design, the finishes, if it is going to be in a septic. tank or sewer, and the type of foundation. Then there are those costs that have nothing to do with the design, like the location of the house, how busy the contractors are in the area, how well known and trustworthy the contractor is, etc. Although the price of a home can vary greatly due to all of the items discussed above, at this time a range of $ 150 to $ 250 per square foot could be used for a home that is not overly elaborate with standard construction. So if we go back to the example. A 2,000-square-foot home would cost between $ 300,000 and $ 500,000 excluding the land.

The design team

The Miami-Dade County Building Department does not require plans for a single family residence to be signed and stamped by an architect or engineer. This is not true for all municipalities in the area. For example, Coral Gables requires that all plans be signed and sealed by an architect. But for all practical purposes, the volume of information that must be included in a set of plans in any municipality within Miami-Dade County, most of the time, it is necessary to hire several professionals: an architect, an engineer from the MEP and a structural engineer. MEP stands for Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing. The mechanical engineer designs the air conditioner, the electrical engineer designs the electricity, including lighting, and the plumbing engineer designs the pipes. The structural engineer designs the structure and provides the necessary structural calculations for the building envelope. The architect designs the whole house and coordinates everyone’s work. Coordination of all disciplines is probably the most important role of the architect, since without coordination there could be real conflicts in the construction phase. Although it is legal to produce plans on your own in some parts of the county, it will be an insurmountable task to produce construction plans for permitting (unless the owner has construction experience with actual experience and knowledge of the Florida Building Code and Florida Building codes local zoning).

How much do these design services cost the owner? They also vary greatly, but there is also a variety among good established professionals. This range would be 6% to 10% of the construction cost for permitting plans for all disciplines. Services during the construction phase are generally charged separately by the hour or in a separate package.

House style

Another important decision to make early on is the style of the home. There are basically three popular styles for home design in South Florida: Modern, Mediterranean, and Key West.

Once the owner decides which styles he wants, it is important to convey the style and details to the architect. The best way to explain to an architect what you want is through magazine pictures or real photos of other houses.

Choose an architect

Now that you have the basics together, the next step is to choose your architect. This is very important as this is the person with whom you will be working very closely for the next year.

Take the survey of the existing land from the moment you closed your mortgage. If you have lost it or it is too old or inaccurate, the architect will arrange for you to update it or make a new one.

Ask to see photos of their work. Ask for references. Ask questions. Ask him how he would approach the project. Begin to realize if it is someone you could work with. Do you like the predominant style in the architect’s work? Does your job appeal to you? Ask about the process. Ask what to expect from their services. Ask him to show you plans for a similar project.

People are individuals and everyone is unique. I remember how many people have hired me because they liked my “Mediterranean” or “Spanish” style or my modern or postmodern style. One person told me that he hired me because I returned his phone calls right away. The chemistry between people is significant. Don’t discount your initial impressions.

Construction documents

Typically, construction documents consist of several parts: plans, specifications, instructions for bidders, and appendices. Typically when the architect handles the construction bidding phase for the owner, he selects the type of contract the owner will have with the contractor. This document is also part of the construction documents.

Drawings are the bulk of the work, which together with the specifications act as a step-by-step guide for the contractor to use during construction. Sometimes for large jobs the specifications are placed in a separate book and are called a Project Manual. In most residential projects, the specifications are usually covered as notes on the drawings. For elaborate interiors, the architect makes a separate package and is charged separately.

Construction documents are generated in phases from general to detailed. I like to divide my projects into 4 phases: preliminary design, design development, 50% construction documents and 100% construction documents. Each phase builds on the previous phase until the architect feels that all the drawings are coordinated between the different disciplines and are ready to present for authorization.

With careful planning and communication with your architect, your good drawings and coordination, and the careful selection of a reputable contractor, your new home project should go smoothly. Although there are often change orders due to unforeseen conditions or changes that the owner wishes to implement, most issues need to be resolved prior to construction.

For more information on the role of the architect during construction, check out my other article on the role of the architect during the construction process posted here.

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