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Garage Plan 07117G and 16391G.

Part of our work here at Allison Ramsey Architects is introducing our clients to builders and helping them get acquainted with the process of building. We will often do this after our schematic design has been fleshed out with the client and we’re ready to talk about building cost estimates. We need to create a design that works for its site, fits its context, looks great, and most importantly meets all the needs of our future homeowner and how they live. Once everyone is comfortable with the design, we will ask the builder or builders to meet the client and show them their work, their approach, and their process. This is an important pause in the design action. We don’t want to rush past this and finish our construction drawings only to find out we have blown the budget! An important goal is to get a “ballpark” price estimate. It is too early for a “nuts and bolts” price to build but we want to know if we are in the general vicinity of the owner’s budget. We are typically a bit frugal and always designing with budget in mind but a quick review in the process is critical.
Without any actual metrics or analysis, 70% of the time our clients are a bit surprised by the numbers they get back from builders. Some clients get right where they wanted to be. Other times clients find they need to adjust their house plans or their budget to move forward. If house plan reductions are necessary, the next step is to discuss how to proceed. As architects we are now invested in seeing the success of the design and the client. We want to find a way forward as much as the owner does. This is often where some gearing back, some compromise, and some value-engineering takes place.

Where does my car fit in?
Once we begin revisiting the design and looking for places to “cut the fat,” I am often surprised that the garage isn’t the first-place people think about. We have become attached to the idea that a garage is a must-have. I have reduced living rooms and kitchens and eliminated guest suites, but the garage is not often considered in the process of reducing square footage. Architectural details are often the first to be removed. Materials are switched out to be less expensive initially even though the original would be less maintenance in the long term.

Why is the garage so critical?
Our cars are a big investment; I get it, but they are built to be outside. The car was “brand new” when purchased but had spent its life, so far, mostly outside. Why sacrifice your car rather than your Master Bathroom or your children’s rooms? I raise the question here, but this is a discussion I don’t remember ever winning in 25 years of designing homes.
I know that our garages are more than just a place for cars. As architect/house nerds we discuss these ideas regularly. Most people with a two-car garage are lucky to get one car inside and the remaining space is often used for “other stuff”. Yard equipment, bikes, workshop, hobbies, jet skis, boats, project cars, and a hundred other things. We get it. Life, whether you are downsizing as a retiree or have a young family, needs more than just heated finished square footage.
This comes up a great deal when we are working with builders and developers too. Designing homes to be sold, builders will begin construction on the house while offering garage plans, hoping to find a buyer who can then decide to build the garage or not. Offering a house for a lower price with an option for a garage at a prepared additional price can grab potential buyers’ attention. Our site plan will often show a location for the structures intended with all utilities and outdoor spaces planned around the potential location. We have even designed site plans that include a parking slab with footings and structure to facilitate a future garage.

Garage Plan 19406C and 153161G

What options are there?
Your first option is to not build a garage. “Blasphemy” you say? You could have the design ready, ARB approved, priced out for construction and you’re waiting to build. Later you can use the house’s equity to fund. If that option doesn’t work, the next is to think about cutting back on the garage space. Perhaps a carport and a small secure shed enclosure will do what you need. There are many options for a combination of the two so you can have your cake and eat it too. A one-car garage with a carport beside it can offer the space you need for your cars without breaking the bank. If located effectively, these carport areas can serve a second function as a covered patio area, addressing backyard or a future summer kitchen. The option of building the apartment or bonus space above the garage but not finishing the interior right away is often proposed. All these options are why we currently offer approximately 800 garage plan options on our website, and we are designing and adding to our library all the time. Flexibility with your garage space can open budget-friendly options that you may fall in love with. As a side note, this is one of the advantages of the “detached” garage rather than a home built with a garage into it. The detached garage also allows for really maximizing the usable space on your lot.
As designers, we often want to drill down to what is necessary and find the best and most valuable answer for each individual client. This is what we do; we solve problems. This writing doesn’t offer any blanket solution or take a position for where you might prioritize if needed. Rather, I hope it opens the door to design and budget issues that you may encounter while designing your new home, and that garages can offer valuable cost cuts if you’re willing to think outside the status quo of garage design. You can always see our current car-parking and storage plan designs in the garage section of our website for inspiration on ways you might want to incorporate your car into your home design.
As always, your input, ideas and additional topics are always welcome, it does not hurt my feelings if you have feedback. I love to hear. It makes me a better designer and a better Architect. Maybe even a better person!
Thanks for reading.

Bill Harris
Architect – Principal, Allison Ramsey Architects, Inc.
[email protected]

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