Design Review: Not in Compliance with the Rules

SSA Architecture has worked as an architectural firms Las Vegas for over 20 years and in that time SSA has done a multitude of projects including built from the ground up and building remodeling design projects. It is common place for us to take an as built site plan and draw a sketch of the proposed new building as a starting point. It is also commonplace for SSA Architecture to use public information on a vacant site to design an entirely new building and site plan.

From there we can begin to analyze if the property owner’s desired concept ‘plans’ will be in compliance with current rules. For example it is pertinent to determine whether or not the building will be too tall, if the lot size will be able to provide an adequate amount of parking spaces, and if the parcel is zoned for the correct use. These rules vary by project location and form of the building work depending on the final use of the building and the jurisdiction the land is in. The various government rules can be further specified by exceptions found in certain areas within the designated jurisdictions. For example, downtown may have parking requirement exceptions that the suburban areas may not have. The plans will have a better chance of being approved right away if the original drawings comply with the rules while still covering all of the client’s needs. And approvals can be possible for projects that are not in compliance with the rules. Regardless of what architect or lawyer processes your entitlements requests, there is never a guarantee that the reviewers will not object to the building concept or design of the “Plans”.

Sometimes it’s not possible for the project to comply with the rules. A common example of this would be when an old rule gets changed that makes a previously existing built item no longer compliant with the current rules. This can result in clients deciding to submit construction projects that are not 100% code compliant or 100% in compliance with current planning and zoning requirements. This can be approved but there is a need for additional steps to be taken. In some cases an attorney specializing in use approvals may be able to help with negotiations for approvals. In any event approval of land use, zoning and design reviews out of compliance are political.

The steps in the process of approvals are typically:
1. Create a drawing that shows what the client wants.
2. Visit the governing authority(s) staff to discuss the proposal.
3. Draw formal drawings for submission.
4. Meet with planning and zoning staff to discuss the formal submission.
5. A formal submission drawing set for (either) design review, planning, zoning or use approval submission.
6. Once submitted the plan set will likely be initially rejected or returned with (staff objections) comments.
7. At this point the client can decide to stay with the original submission over staff objections, adjust the design, cancel the project or attempt to make a compromise with the government staff.
8. A final submittal can be re-drafted according to the client’s decisions.
9. There will then typically be public hearings, discussions and more reviews by staff before the entitlement is established.
10. Many planning and zoning cases result in a (NFA) Notice of final action. The NFA provides a notice of what was agreed in a written form.

Out of compliance projects always take longer in the review system often times taking an additional month minimum.
So how much will this cost? With SSA Architecture it always starts with a free consultation followed with a fee quotation for the original drawing submission for the due diligence process. After the pre-submission meeting the list of items that your applicable agency requires for your project will become known.

For design review processes, fixed fee quotations are available.

For zoning cases, fixed fees for drawings are available.

For meetings related to use approvals and zoning cases we are unaware of any provider that does this work for other than hourly rates. Our hourly rates are competitive.
When a client’s vision for a property is not in compliance with rules, it can and will result in a huge time and money expenditure. That does not mean that the project is not worth it. It simply means that more time and materials will have to go into bringing it to fruition.

The explanation above does not include building permit approvals, which are a separate process.

If you have any more questions or have a project fitting this criteria feel free to call and schedule a free consultation at 702-873-1718. If you were looking for more information on this topic, you can check out a FAQ YouTube video on this topic here.

Creating a Healthy Indoor Environment

Recently health has become a major concern in the world of architecture and more specifically medical oriented architecture as it has rapidly become more important to prevent the spread of virus, germs, and diseases. There are many things that can be done to your residential or commercial building design that can improve the overall health of the people using the spaces. This blog by SSA – Las Vegas Architects will cover information pertaining to lighting, indoor air quality, air conditioning, and other general building conditions.

Lighting-Sunlight is good for people, UVC light kills germs and viruses. Modern buildings have been using windows and skylights that block UV light because it can bleach textiles found within the building. It may be beneficial to remove the UV filter on a skylight or the windows that shine on a majority of a room as it would help to sterilize the room’s air. Alternatively UVC light bulbs can be purchased to help clean the air without the need for direct sunlight. UVC light is not the only countermeasure to preventing the spread of germs, though it is useful for killing germs.

Air Conditioning-A common air conditioning system found in Las Vegas commercial buildings is a mixed air system. Generally air is blown from the ceiling then allowed to swirl around the room it is then returned back to the AC unit through a return on the ceiling (as shown below). The advantages of this system are that it is cheap and every HVAC tech knows how to install and repair it. However since the air is swirling throughout the room, it is very easy for pollutants and microorganisms to travel from person to person in the room. One solution for this issue is to use a different air conditioning system like displacement air conditioning. This system pumps air into the room from the bottom but still returns the air through the ceiling (as shown below). Meaning that any particles in the air are taken up to the return sooner rather than being allowed to swirl around the room first. Germs and other particles are removed from the vicinity of people much quicker, significantly decreasing the likelihood of inhaling harmful pollutants. The displacement ventilation system is statistically better than the mixed air system. It can also be beneficial to combine with the practice of utilizing UV lighting to clean air. Installing a UVC light on the return duct of your AC unit will help to kill germs, viruses, and pollen so that they do not get recirculated to harm people.

Mixed Air - SSA ArchitectureDisplacement air conditioning - Las Vegas Architects

General Environmental Conditions-It has become widely known that mold is bad and it is definitely in your best interest to remove any and all mold within your building. Fresh air is also important, as architects in Las Vegas we have found that building owners will commonly close their fresh air vent on their building during the summer months. They do this to assist their AC units in cooling during the heat wave days. That may be satisfactory during that period of the year, except it is common that the owners do not reopen the fresh air vent when the moderate heat months arrive. A proper fix for this problem would be to install an air to air heat exchanger that does the work of blocking heat from fresh air. Fresh air design best practices would include intake of only the air appropriate for the people and activities in the building. Automated air sensors and controls are available. Where construction costs or other factors prohibit using automated systems or opening and closing of ventilation, building occupants can set up procedures to improve indoor air quality without construction costs. If the air to air heat exchanger or open fresh air vent aren’t enough for your building, it could be helpful to open a window or door to let extra fresh air in to the building.

These are only a few tips to help create a healthy environment. Before constructing anything we recommend hiring a licensed architect or engineer to design your system properly. SSA architecture is always happy to provide you with more information, you can reach us at 702-873-1718. Here at SSA Architecture your first commercial project consultation at our Las Vegas Office is always free. More information on this topic is provided in the corresponding video found on our YouTube channel here. A healthy environment is important in any building, particularly those in the healthcare field. You can find information on our other work as medical architects in Las Vegas here.