Life’s a Beach, Designing Beach Homes in ARCHICAD
Todd Miller of QMA Architects & Planners – a long-time ARCHICAD user and architect based in New Jersey – is currently designing a Key West Style Beach house in Ventnor, NJ. Miller took some time out from his schedule of creating custom residential projects to explain how he uses ARCHICAD to create his designs and why he feels it is important to stay current with ARCHICAD.
“We went from hand drawing right into ARCHICAD, and dabbled with other programs while working in other offices. When I went to school, the CAD system was keypunch based. Taking advantage of all the new technology – the architect in me loves the new rendering engines, high quality renderings – without all the tweaking saves so much time.”
Miller, working side by side with his wife, licensed architect Jeannette Quon, adds that he enjoys the freedom ARCHICAD gives him to be able to add details to his design through his modeling software. During client meetings, he takes care to spend ample time with his clients to determine their wants, needs, goals, and aspirations for the home. Throughout the 35 years Miller has been practicing, including the last 25 as principal of QMA, he reports good success with that process. Since adopting ARCHICAD back at version 4.5 some twenty years ago, Miller has relied on the actual model and high quality renderings to demonstrate design intent and scope.
“We pride ourselves on communicating clearly and easing one of the biggest concerns our customers have when hiring an architect to do a custom project. We develop a truly exceptional concept in the beginning and 99% of the customers really love it. They know they’ll like what we are about to design for them because ARCHICAD lets us create detailed preliminary drawings. When we show a rendering, our clients are floored. The details are leaps and bounds beyond what 2D drawings can convey.” Miller says he finds added benefit to working this way because getting approval on the actual model means that the construction documents are well on the way, leaving details and engineering.
Many of the projects Miller designs start out as vacation homes located at the Jersey Shore or along Absecon Island and Cape May. Typically Miller does not create a trio of schematic design alternatives, rather, he presents one design fully fleshed out to his clients. “We do this because in many instances, the site constraints (postage stamp sized lots), zoning rules, and FEMA requirements only leave one good solution.” It creates a perfect opportunity for Miller to use ARCHICAD to its fullest.
While clients seek him out to create a vacation home that can serve as a family getaway, some of the homes end up as retirement homes, which presents another level of design consideration as the project begins. “Nearly half of our homes have an elevator or are set up so that a ‘future elevator’ can be added at a later date. Most of the properties at the shore are on small lots – so in many instances it would not be feasible to set up the home with a master bedroom on the first floor. While installing an elevator is relatively simple to do, if it isn’t planned for, it can completely disrupt the home.”
Location factors into the design of homes at the Jersey shore as well. Some are about a block from the beach, which can present its own challenges. One home Miller recently designed happens to sit on one of the highest properties in its beach community. Because of the way the zoning board is tied to flood elevation, the base flood elevation on this particular lot is below the first floor elevation.
“ARCHICAD enables us to show our clients just how each unique home will sit on their property. Traditional beach houses in our region are 5 or 6 feet from grade – but this one is close to the ground, providing a better flow from outdoors to indoors with big broad porches to connect in the backyard.”