Contemporary renovations and beautiful, modern residential architecture

Contemporary renovations and beautiful, modern residential architecture

A little advice on turning a 2 Flat into a Single Family Residence

Our good friend and esteemed colleague Jerry, aka the Man of Steel, poses with the 1000 pound steel beam we specified for this 2 Flat to Single Family conversion. Here, we cut a cavity between the floor joists, and Jerry is about to lift the beam into place. This detail creates a flush ceiling and, thus, a single space where they were four small rooms. Real sized furniture, anyone? We get a big thrill when we see our computer model and hand-written calculations come to life.

Our good friend and esteemed colleague Jerry, aka the Man of Steel, poses with the 1000 pound steel beam we specified for this 2 Flat to Single Family conversion. Here, we cut a cavity between the floor joists, and Jerry is about to lift the beam into place. This detail creates a flush ceiling and, thus, a single space where they were four small rooms. Real sized furniture, anyone? We get a big thrill when we see our computer model and hand-written calculations come to life.

We are in our 11th year of making Architecture with our own license in the City of Chicago. As you can imagine, the rules and regulations can be hard-to-find, confusing and daunting, especially to the uninitiated. While we won't give away any classified information like the the secret handshake or the best place to have a cold beer after a long meeting in Zoning, we can answer a few questions that we encounter regularly:

1) If I am just doing interior renovations to turn a 2 Flat into a Single Family home, do I really need a building permit?

Yes, there are two parts to a building permit: Zoning and Buildings. If you change the occupancy, the City requires a set of stamped Architectural drawings from a licensed Architect or Engineer for Zoning approval. Of course, since you have removed a wall or two and the two front hallway doors to accomplish that, the City requires you to submit a set of drawings to Buildings as well. 

2) My designer says that the contractor will get the permits. Is that correct?

Does your designer understand the building code? The City's energy code has some fantastic requirements that will save you money and help the environment. (Imagine summer nights in the City of Chicago without the heat island effect!) The City's prerequisites need to be considered from the start. Also, most 2 flats are what Zoning calls non-conforming. The City requires an administrative adjustment to get Zoning Approval. This is at least a 4 or 5 week process at the start of the Building Permit process. There are many things that need to worked out by a licensed professional from a design's inception and then included in the drawings. The law requires that a licensed Architect (or Engineer) to make these judgments.

3) I would like to open up the space but my designer isn't familiar with structural engineering and says the contractor will make the decisions. Is that plausible?

Customarily, the contractor's role is to execute the approved plans made by an Architect or Engineer.

Of course we think that an experienced Architect can add a lot of value to your project. We are one after all! This example shows how can help you successfully navigate the City's requirements for this 2 flat to single-family conversion. It's a lot! And we can do far more than keep you from getting one of those giant orange stickers that scream "STOP WORK!". (Orange is never a good color on a building!) We can help save you energy,  money and create a beautiful home to live in.

Our designs are integrated. Color, material, enclosure and structural engineering work together functionally and aesthetically. (Our position on the color orange remains constant.) A licensed professional who does Integrated Design can get it right in the first place saving time and money. (Active House, an Integrated way of designing, is a perfect fit for us. Please see our upcoming lecture at the Chicago Green Technology Center.) 

We love answering questions. Please send us an email or call us!

We think that focusing on today's lifestyles should drive design. Our spaces should make our lives richer, more mindful and fulfilling. This design is one way to approach the matter. A single great room with a connection to a garden has replaced the small bedrooms and living spaces that no longer function today. It's best of both worlds–you can enjoy a flexible space and display your midcentury furniture while retaining the charm of a traditional Chicago two flat.

We think that focusing on today's lifestyles should drive design. Our spaces should make our lives richer, more mindful and fulfilling. This design is one way to approach the matter. A single great room with a connection to a garden has replaced the small bedrooms and living spaces that no longer function today. It's best of both worlds–you can enjoy a flexible space and display your midcentury furniture while retaining the charm of a traditional Chicago two flat.

Here's an exterior shot of the garden and the transformation.

Here's an exterior shot of the garden and the transformation.

The wide flange sections enables a transparent ceiling. The living space is filled with light.

The wide flange sections enables a transparent ceiling. The living space is filled with light.

Here's a great link to the City of Chicago.