Marin County Architect Richard Esteb
Environmentally Sensitive Architectural Design  



Marin Architect for Green Construction

Frequently Asked Questions about Architectural Design Services

What is the process of getting my project designed and a building permit?

As a Marin County Architect, my services are to design and obtain all the necessary personal and jurisdictional approvals to see your project from start to end.

This is generally a two part process.  The first is: Programming, the process of figuring out what you need/want in changing your house.  Measuring existing conditions to draw what you have. Schematic Design, the sketching or drawing of possible solutions, with variables.  And lastly Design Development, refining the choices into a single plan and then further study and clarification of that plan.

The second part takes place after approval of the design by the local jurisdiction. Construction Drawings and Specifications phase is taking the approved design into a working set of documents that can be submitted for a building permit and, after plan check review and approval, built by a contractor. Construction Administration, the process of timely site visits to review the progress on the project and problem solve as needed.

How long does that take?

The time is dependent upon the size and complexity of the project.  A small kitchen and bath remodel may take several months until submittal for a building permit, while a whole house using innovative architecture may take up to a year or more. Some minor residential renovations can qualify for an over-the-counter- permit.

How do you charge for your services?

I generally charge a time and materials rate for the design phase of your project.  Design is a variable – I have designed quick-to-the-point design solutions and I have had thorough every-last-detail-fully-analyzed projects.  The hourly rate works well for this phase of the project. 

The second part of construction drawings is generally a fixed price determined at the end of the design phase.  An overall fee for both phases typically would be in the range of 10-15% of the construction budget.

Will I have to go in front of the Planning Commission (or Design review Board)?

This varies from community to community and usually depends upon the size, location, possible neighborhood impacts, etc.  Once the scope of the work is determined, the local planning department is involved to determine the necessity for staff approval or commission level review.  In some communities, a second story addition is mandatory for Planning Commission, and in others, a simple skylight requires neighborhood notification and staff approval.  Each jurisdiction has its own set of rules which reflect the local community values.
If the project warrants design review, construction drawings are not started until this approval is granted. 

Can we design what we want and not what the neighbors want?

If you want a minimalist home design and your neighborhood is all craftsman style bungalows, it may be a long drawn out process to get approval.  Having your neighbors’ support your project is a big factor in approval from local planning boards and staff.  A ranch house renovation is much easier to find local acceptance if the basic style is left intact, with additions being kept similar.  I am a custom residential architect and will work with you in whatever direction you choose, helping to inform you in ramifications of design choices.

What about interior design?

Interior design is an area in which I prefer to not be involved.  Many interior designers spend a lot of time knowing what material choices are available.  This wealth of knowledge is valuable.  Interior designers are trained to look at the colors, textures and feel of an interior.  I can work with your interior designer or recommend one to you.  That being said, I have a preference for simple, artful, and eclectic interiors as well as ultra modern home design and am happy to work with you if you enjoy that style.

Will you help find a contractor?

I have worked with many contractors and can help you selection one.  There are many issues which you have to consider in the selection process.  Of course price is important.  Beyond that, we look at the contractor’s track record and referrals from other projects.  Besides quality of workmanship, you need to consider punctuality, cleaning up, follow-through, pleasantness and compatibility

Once construction begins, are we on our own or do you help make decisions?

I have many years of experience on the construction job site.  One of my skills is the ability to problem solve and come up with solutions.  During construction, however minor, unforeseen issues come up.  Having a solutions-oriented third person to see a fix, keep in mind the design intent and troubleshoot is money well spent.

What if something comes up that is different in real life than what is drawn?

On every remodel, something is different than on the drawings.  These variables are the nature of any remodeling work.  In new construction, this is lessened, as there is no old work to contend with.  However, in new construction, there will always be some unforeseen conflict with a pipe, duct or placement of an important feature.  Having foresight to imagine potential issues is part of the role of an architect.  Solving an on-site issue with the least possible impact (time, cost and quality) is part of the construction administration.  I can provide creative architectural solutions.

What if we want to make a change once we see how the new walls are up?

This is a change order.  There are costs involved with a change order, notably, the price and the schedule.  A thorough design is the best remedy to change orders.  The more involvement you have with decision making in the design phase, the fewer changes that will occur in the building phase.  The more information we include in the drawings and specifications, the fewer questions and re-adjustments arise in the field.

We like our new house so well we want to use your drawings for a second home.  Is that OK?

The drawings produced by me are copyrighted and only for use in this project.  If you want to build a second home, even an off the grid house or cabin, let’s work on plans for that specific site and make use of the best natural amenities of that location.  We have far too many identical houses going up.

We want to build green.  Can you help?

The definition of green residential architecture is not clearly defined.  However, I am an advocate of building an energy efficient home.  I think of the green concept as building small energy efficient cottages or houses, using local products, recycled materials and minimizing waste in the building process.  I am not an LEED accredited green building architect, but have plenty of the skills and knowledge to design an energy efficient residential renovation or new house. I keep educating myself through reading about sustainability.

We want an accessory building.  Can you design that?

As a residential architect in Corte Madera and San Francisco, I enjoy designing secondary structures.  I have designed back yard workshops, home studio/offices and pool house design.  I have an interest in meditation and spiritual spaces as well.  Most accessory buildings are subject to planning and zoning issues, but a preliminary consult with the local jurisdiction will determine the feasibility of such.


If you would like to discuss the options
for your remodeling, new construction or other architectural design project,
please contact me.



Kitchen and Bath Remodel in Marin County

Residential renovations and innovative architecture

Innovative architecture and green design.

Kitchen and bath remodel

Innovative architecture and green design



San Francisco Residential Remodel Architect
Easthope Design  |  Richard Esteb, Architect 
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