practical architecture
Call Joel at 425-422-4276


Just what does an architect do?

Well, of course, an Architect designs. 


The truth of the matter is that, for most projects, the light bulb of design flashes on for a very short time.  Maybe 10% of the time. 

Figuring out what to design (“programming”), which supporting engineering services (“consultants”) will be needed, which codes and regulations may apply, how to fit the as-designed parts together, how much the work (both the design effort and the physical construction) will cost, answering questions from the constructors, dealing with changes, making sure that what is built is done properly – takes the other 100% of the architect’s time.

Turn to Joel Niemi Architect for:           

  • Predesign – what is the purpose of your project, its features and its size?  Let’s get these characteristics recorded.   Some will be cast-in-stone “must have” items, others “would be nice”, and there will be some “don’t ever want that” things to stay away from.
  • Feasibility Studies – can what you want to do, be done on the site you have? Can it be done by internal remodeling/alterations to an existing building?  Will an addition be needed?  Is the location a good one for your business?  What’s a general budget?
  • Design and Construction Documents – what could/should it look like?  Where will the front door be?  How big will the beams be, and how will columns connect to them?  Which products will be specified?  Joel Niemi’s decades of experience bring tried-and-true experience with what works, and judgement for evaluating new products and ideas.
  • Universal Design should play a part of every design effort.  By now everyone has heard of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.  “Handicapped” parking spaces and ramps are found at new buildings.  Toilet rooms have grab bars (usually stainless steel) at water closets.  Universal Design takes these barrier-free features and expands the concept of “usability”.   Why shouldn’t everything around us 1) look good and 2) be usable by everyone, regardless of their age or ability?  Beyond the space requirements for access, why not include visual contrast in colors to aid those with poor sight?  Even if accessible-design fittings “aren’t needed” now, planning for their addition in the future makes sense.  One’s home needn’t be a throw-away, to be moved out of, just because of aging.  Joel Niemi Architect can help with your options.
  • Peer Review of other architects’ and engineers’ documents – many Owners include “outside” review of design and construction documents during the process.  Along with their internal agency review, they ask for “a second set of eyes” to look for omissions and conflicting information in drawings and specifications on larger projects.  Disclosure:  no set of drawings is perfect.  Identifying what the design team has missed, or what they yet need to design, before the Construction Contract is signed, can save much frustration and wasted effort for the contractors, Owner, and design team – if changes are made in time.  [ Be wary if the design team’s response is “we’ll take care of that with directions to the contractor during construction”.  As Owner, you’ll likely be involved in taking care of the contractor’s claims for increased cost and time. ]
  • Design-Build – commonly a process where an Owner hires a Contractor to be the sole point of contact for the details of design as well as the construction of the design.  A general program may be prepared, or a more developed design (still lacking specifics) may be agreed upon.  Part, or all of a project, may be included in the Design-Build responsibility.  Joel Niemi Architect enjoys working with contractors to design with construction processes in mind, preparing drawings which show information useful in the field to speed completion of the project.  Discussing possible problems ahead of time makes it possible to cover them in the drawings, when it is easier to put parts where they don’t conflict.
  • Organizing Bidding Documents — Joel Niemi Architect has taken a strong interest in the written portion of Contract Documents.  Bidding Documents, Contract Requirements, and Specifications set forth how prices will be determined and the materials to be used.  These are the documents first consulted if disagreements arise, so having a clear statement of how to deal with unforeseen events is important.  Some Owners would like to deal with uncertainty by “nailing the contractor’s feet to the floor” – and then wonder why the bids they receive are high.  Fairness goes a long way.
  • Construction Contract Administration – Joel Niemi Architect has the “mud boots” for visits to your construction site when footings are being dug.  He has the experience to know where to find answers in the Construction Documents, what to expect of other design professionals and the Contractor, how to report on the Contractor’s progress, and how to review, organize, and summarize claims for extra payment for added work. 
  • Project Closeout  — when construction activities are nearing the end, the Contractor will request a “substantial completion” inspection.  The design team and Owner examine the project, looking for items to be completed or corrected.  This time, before the Owner moves in, is often rushed, and requirements important to the long-term use of the project can be forgotten.  Along with inspecting the physical work (dents in walls, or missing sealant around windows), ensuring that warranties match specified language, that the occupancy permit is in order, and that lighting and HVAC controls work as intended, are all important steps to take.


If you’re thinking about a project, are ready to move ahead, or need some extra help with a project that is already underway, we’d like to talk with you.  First meetings are free!

Records - truss shadows

CRC - 1st floor panorama

CRC - 2nd floor panorama

CRC - Demarc Layout

Jackson High School Addition - Entry

portion of the south wall of the VOA Food Warehouse and Food Bank building, Everett, Washington