New House
Authored By: 
Ashley & Vance Engineering

Planning to Build a Home

The steps to building a house can be overwhelming and emotional.  Where do you start? Who do you speak to? Who do you hire? Because there are many people involved in building a house, we’ve documented a simple outline to get you started.

The Process of Building a House

  1. Acquire property

The first step in building a house is to look for suitable land, and/or an existing home that has potential to be reconstructed to meet your desires. There are many considerations that determine if the property is suitable. Some of these considerations include zoning, available utilities, topography restrictions, soil type, critical areas to avoid, the condition of existing structures, and local regulations. Typically, an architect, or civil engineer, can provide professional advice whether the land and/or structure is suitable for you.

find suitable land to build your home on

 The location and type of land are important to keep in mind when developing a concept and when determining whether the concept is structurally viable.

  1. Hire an architect

An architect will have knowledge of building code and design trends. Additionally, some states allow residential designers to practice residential design based on specific state law.

Architects will all have a different design aesthetic and preferences on construction types. Knowing your style preference should help you determine which architect fits your design criteria. It’s also recommended to look at the architect's portfolio and ask for references and project examples.

When debating on who to hire, consider your budget and how important trendy designs are to you. Be sure to ask other people involved in building a house (e.g. the builder) for their suggestions as well. But most importantly, look at the architect’s portfolio of single-family homes.

  1. Develop a concept.

Work with your architect or home designer to develop a building concept and how it relates to the property. This includes everything from the architectural styles, building materials, site grading, and approximate construction costs.

concept home to build

Don’t forget about the land, too. Think about why you chose it. Are there any aspects in particular that you like? Are neighborhood characteristics, school districts, or accessibility to the outdoors important to you? Consider these in your initial concept.

  1. Architect or home designer collaborates with the engineer.

Collaboration between the architect and engineer is essential to develop an efficient structural envelope that addresses the overall desires of the client. In engineering speak, we call this “design development.” Ideally, design development (DD) starts at early stages of project development such that structural construction types are considered early in the project.

Once the design development is vetted by the client, architect, and engineer the next push is for construction documents. These are your engineering plans for submittal to your local building department.  

Seasonality and market conditions have a big impact on the building department review time. In our Pacific Northwest offices, there is usually a seasonal construction slow down. This typically translates into more favorable permit review times. In this case, it's recommended to start the project planning early, produce engineering construction documents in the winter, go in for building permit early spring, and start construction in early summer.

Every geographic location has nuances for each building department that needs to be considered. Please check with your local Ashley & Vance Engineering office on a logical plan of attack for your project.

ashley and vance offices

  1. Construction - Build the house!

Finally, the part of the project everyone has been waiting for! Hopefully, you’ve ironed out all the financial hurdles with your lender and contractor and are now ready to break ground.

breaking ground on a new house

As engineers, we continue to engage the contractor, architect, and client as questions or new ideas come into play during construction. We always encourage the owners' selected contractor to reach out as much as possible for any additional help or clarification during construction. We put this type of work at a priority as it directly relates to cost savings and keeping the project on schedule.

Please feel free to reach out to any of our local office principals and we will gladly help you get your project off to the right start! Happy building!

Are you planning on building a house in the Washington, Oregon, California, or Nevada areas? Contact us for recommendations on builders, and architects.