Do we really need a Building Permit?

As an Interior Designer, I hear it time and time again…

“What? A building permit! Do we really need one? But it costs so much money!”

The simple answer is yes, you really do need one, but not for the reasons you may think.

The main reason for a building permit is not a money grab or a way to keep people employed. The real reason is to protect the public. To protect us in the event of a terrible catastrophe where there might be a fire or disaster. This is such an important issue that seems to be frequently overlooked

On average each month I typically hear one or two stories about those who do not want to start the process of obtaining a building permit. As a Registered Interior Designer of ARIDO, a Building Qualified Interior Designer and Project Management Professional (PMP), I must uphold the integrity of the regulations created to ensure the safety of the public.

And I we do this by ensuring my clients and the public is aware that there is a process in place established by the provincial government which I must follow. As to the cost, there is a small fee, consultant costs, and some guidelines regarding a Permit Submission that your local Registered Interior Designer can help you follow.

Here is an easy Three-Step Guide to get you started in obtaining your building permit for your corporate premise, a back to base building landlord project, or when renovating your home:

1. Hire an Expert

A Registered Interior Designer can make this frustrating experience a breeze for you. They can provide you with information on upfront costs for the creation of the drawings required, confirm if engineering drawings are needed, advise on consulting fees, when an architect may need to be engaged, will follow up with the City to ensure the timelines are staying on track and advise on the permit costs. The money and time spend doing this early will save on potential insurance claims and will protect you or your employees later.

2. Apply & Wait

The Registered Interior Designer will apply for permit on your behalf ensuring all the proper paperwork is completed, will answer the city’s questions and after four (4) weeks for a typical Corporate Interior Retrofit project. Et Voila! You have the City’s approval to start construction! (Occasionally, we may experience longer wait times than normal but a Registered Interior Designer can advise you of potential delays in the process, especially if they have experienced them recently.)

3. Permit Received & Safety Established

Once the city provides the Building Permit, a Contractor with a WSIB & Insurance in place can begin construction, in collaboration with your prime consultant, your Interior Designer.

I look forward to continuing to see that safety is top of mind for everyday corporate, landlords, and homeowner decisions.

You Want an Interior Designer Who Tells You “No”

Hello! This is a “choose your own adventure” of an article. You can watch the video below, or if you prefer reading it you can also scroll below that to read the article. Enjoy!


…And why the best designers know that your happiness is more important than our portfolio.
Opinion alert! That last part of the statement is purely my opinion (and the opinion of interior designers, decorators and stylists I know and admire), but it’s an important distinction.

Let’s start with that title up there. What do you mean I want my interior designer to tell me, “No”? I thought I wanted a designer I get along with?

Yes, but that’s a subject for a future blog post! This is right along those lines though. Isn’t your real best friend the one that tells you that you have something in your teeth, or your shirt has ridden up on the back, or quietly tucks your tag into your shirt? A really great relationship with your designer also means they care enough to tell you when your choices are the best for your design or your home.

Why? Here at Sanura Design, our reason stems from a deep reason- I want you to love your space so much it makes you happy every time you see it. I’m not doing my job if you just get the picture you pointed out in the magazine.

A prime example can be seen above in our material palettes. These are all for our beloved Project Christiani in South Mississauga. Our client had visions of neutrals throughout, and immediately said she didn’t like wallpaper (and had visions of that awful 70s wallpaper that made us all hate wallpaper). We pushed her boundaries and put unexpected things in front of her- she ended up falling in love with two wallpapers, one for the powder room, and another a blue textured beauty that was installed in her office. We also found out a deep regret (after getting to know her), was a simple orange leather chair she passed up at a store years ago. She STILL thought about it.

You guessed it, we paired that orange leather chair with that blue wallpaper (well the image above is spoilers!), and she loves that space (paired with great wood textures). We never would have gotten to that design had I just taken her word for it and not pushed her a bit to show her a few things.

Here’s a little peek at the office:

So, we care about our clients, but what does that have to do with saying no? Well, this subject came up unexpectedly after we made a visit to our favourite showroom to choose cushions for our client’s sofa.

We had gone through the cushions to see what the client liked, and when she paired a few together that really didn’t go with the design vision, I told her so. I didn’t just say “no”, I told her why it didn’t go and suggested something that would go better. We ended up with a couple of great cushions for the sofa.

Our next visit, we discussed that exchange and my response was- isn’t that what she’s paying me for? It’s my job to tell her if what she’s picking out doesn’t go with the overall design. We’re never rude, but wouldn’t you rather I tell you the cushions don’t look that great, then me be too shy to say anything and your friends and family tell you they don’t look that great?

All that said, here’s where this article’s title comes in. In the end, if we explain why it’s not right for the space (providing there isn’t any safety concerns- those are different!), and you still just love it. Ok, let’s use it. Even if this makes for “bad portfolio photos”, your happiness as my client is much more important than my photos. We’ll then look at integrating that into the design, and as long as you love the space- it doesn’t matter what I think.

What is a qualified Interior Designer?

You wouldn’t get dental work from someone on the street, nor would you get just anyone to help you in a divorce. So why would you hire an unqualified person to complete your interior design project?

The Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario (ARIDO) is the professional association representing Interior Designers in Ontario. Only Registered members of ARIDO are authorized to use the designation ARIDO and the title Interior Designer in Ontario. ARIDO ensures that Interior Designers are highly trained through a rigorous process of education, experience and examination.

All Registered Members are required to:

Complete Education and Experience Requirements
To become an Interior Designer, students must follow a rigorous path of education in a four year Bachelor of Interior Design degree.

Supervised Work Experience
Graduates then must complete a minimum of 3,520 hours of supervised work experience under a qualified practitioner.

Examination
To complete their qualifications, Interior Design students must pass the NCIDQ examination, the National Council of Interior Design Qualification, which is the industry’s recognized indicator of proficiency in interior design principles.

Maintain professional liability insurance
Because of the responsibility of their profession, Interior Designers must maintain professional liability insurance, just like doctors, engineers and other titled professions.

Participate in ongoing regular professional development
As a practising Interior Designer, Registered and Intern members must regularly complete professional development with specific requirements on learning about Health and Safety, the Building Code, Accessibility, Occupational Safety, and Health administration.

Comply with a professional code of ethics and standards of practice
ARIDO’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice outline how Registered Interior Designers must comport themselves in their work, on issues like contracts, maintaining confidentiality, and other matters that protect the public.

Comply with the Ontario government’s qualification and registration requirements under the Ontario Building Code
In addition to the above requirements mandated by ARIDO, qualified Interior Designers are trained in and have extensive knowledge of the Ontario Building Code. The Ontario Building Code is the legal framework that governs all building in Ontario. From renovation of existing buildings to new builds, every building in the province must comply with the laws that are set out in the OBC. Because of their work to build and renovate interior spaces in Ontario, Interior Designers must have a strong and current knowledge of the Code.

Hiring a qualified Interior Designer

Getting started with a renovation, whether it’s for a home or a commercial project, can be daunting. It can feel like there’s too much advice out there, and not enough information. To minimize risk and save money in the long run, get started with a Registered Interior Designer from the start.

Take your time

To ensure your project is a success, take time to carefully review and explore your options. Think about what your priorities are for the project, your needs, budget, timeline, and style. When you have a list of what you need, you can reach out to qualified Interior Designers for your project.

A Registered Interior Designer will assist in managing your project right from the start and will explain the design process, their work schedule, and ask you in-depth questions about your needs. Before hiring and working with an Interior Designer, you should feel comfortable with the individual and their approach to the project.

An important piece of a successful project is a focus on quality in the selection process. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about their past projects, technical competence, methodology etc. Often, an interior designer will bring their portfolio, or send you links to some of their previous projects and will always be pleased to share about their experience and past work.

Consider your needs

As a client, you can be open with an interior designer about what your needs are. It’s okay to have a finished project in mind, the interior designer is there to bring your vision to life in a way that considers your needs and budget. You have a list of features you want or don’t want in a finished project.

Quality-based selection involves comparing candidates based on such criteria as:

  • Have you worked on similar projects in the past? Tell me about one or two.
  • Tell me about some of your recent projects.
  • Do you work with a team? Will you be my main contact for the entirety of the project?
  • Do you know contractors or construction teams? Do you have preferred contractors?
  • How do you plan out a project? What do you think is a reasonable timeline for this project?
  • Other factors like an interior designer’s creativity, vision or innovation can be important factors for a client.

All Registered Interior Designers must know the Ontario Building Code (OBC), an interior designer’s understanding of the Code can come in handy when your project has very clear needs and hazards.

Check References

Asking for references of past clients is also a great way to gain a better understanding of a qualified Interior Designer’s work. Questions like, Were you happy with the final project? Was a timeline given to you accurate? Would you work with the Interior Designer again?

Taking some time to do this groundwork before signing a contract and spending money on a project can prevent headaches and added costs down the line.

Get it in writing

A Registered Interior Designer will always set out the work to be completed in a written contract and make sure you understand the details before signing and starting work. Take the time to review the contract and language before signing anything, and you can even have a lawyer review it as well. Avoid individuals who insist on working with cash or a handshake agreement, as you have no method of recourse if the project hits a snag.

You can always find a list of qualified Interior Designers across Ontario with the BLOG//ARIDO Directory.

What are Registered Interior Designers qualified to do?

The work a Registered Interior Designer completes will differ from project to project. Remember that an Interior Designer is different from an Interior Decorator.

An Interior Decorator may style a space to make it look fashionable and beautiful, a Registered Interior Designer will address form and function in a project and consider your vision, your lifestyle, and your budget.

A Registered Interior Designer is qualified to create designs for an interior space, apply for a building permit, create plans for plumbing, electrical, space planning and more. Anyone can call themselves an Interior Decorator, which does not require the same level of technical training.

In Ontario, the title ‘Interior Designer’ represents an educated professional who has met the high standards for education, work experience and examination to gain Registered Membership, as defined by ARIDO.

Some examples of the work an Interior Designer can complete for you:

  • Apply their knowledge of interior design, sector and economic trends, legal and regulatory requirements to the design of your interior space
  • Prepare preliminary design concepts that are functional, meet your budget, and are aesthetically pleasing
  • Develop and present final design recommendations
  • Prepare working drawings and specifications for interior construction, space planning, materials, finishes, furnishings, fixtures, and equipment
  • Prepare contract documents and administer bids on behalf of the client
  • Collaborate with other practitioners who offer professional services in the technical areas of mechanical, electrical, and structural design as needed
  • Manage the interior design process, including strategic planning, project planning, budgeting, and schedules
  • Understand, document and analyze your needs and goals as their client
  • Review and evaluate construction during implementation and coordinate completion of project with consultant team
  • Complete a final walk-through with the client to ensure the project is completed properly

The Project Team

Interior Designers may also work as the Lead Consultant or Project Manager for the project on your behalf. They are trained and experienced at retaining and working with other consultants or suppliers who may be required to complete the project:

  • Act as Project Manager on your behalf to manage the project teams through all phases of the project
  • Advise on the branding and communications of the features of a space
  • Undertake feasibility studies on potential facilities and coordinate with real estate professionals where needed

The list of specialists an Interior Designer may retain, or assist you in retaining, includes:

  • Accessibility consultants
  • Acoustical consultants
  • Architects
  • Art consultants
  • Audio visual/technology solutions consultants
  • Building code consultants
  • Communications, branding, and graphics consultants
  • Contractors and/or construction managers
  • Cost consultants
  • Filing and record systems suppliers; storage and display systems suppliers
  • Furniture and fixtures suppliers
  • Lighting consultants
  • Market analysts
  • Mechanical, Electrical, communications, and/or Structural Engineers
  • Merchandising and visual display consultants
  • Real estate consultants
  • Relocation consultants and moving companies
  • Security consultants
  • Signage and/or wayfinding consultants

How much does it cost to work with an Interior Designer?

How much does an interior designer cost to hire? Is there an industry guideline of interior design service fees/rates?

Interior designers’ rates vary based on a number of factors. Estimating costs for projects is a challenge because it depends on the project being undertaken, as well as the qualifications and experience of the professional. In addition, your project may require other consultants at various levels, in which case you could be paying different rates for different components of the project.

At the beginning of a project, it can seem like an Interior Designer is an unnecessary expense that doesn’t add any value. However, a Registered Interior Designer can actually save you money, due to their experience and expertise.
A Registered Interior Designer can manage your entire project, saving the headaches that often accompany renovations and construction. They can apply for Building Permits, ensuring your permits are approved quickly, and construction can begin promptly. If a project hits a snag (as they often do) a Registered Interior Designer can work with trades and other consultants to address the issue and ensure it doesn’t delay the project more than necessary.

There are various ways interior designers bill a project. It is important to ask if your project will be billed hourly, based on a total project cost, based on a price per-square-foot, or if costs will be determined by some other method. A Registered Interior Designer will provide a quote and a clear explanation of costs as part of a contract with a client.

ARIDO Members are held to high Standards of Practice which detail how Members must comport themselves with regard to their business. Standard A.6 under Business and Professional Ethics indicates: “A Member shall make full disclosure of the Member’s fees, the services to be performed and the method of determining compensation for those services, and shall maintain appropriate documentation in the form of a written contract or other form to constitute evidence of such disclosure.”

Get comfortable with the information that has been provided to you prior to signing the contract, and don’t hesitate to have a lawyer review the contract, or request additional information on the project from your Interior Designer.

Why should I hire a Registered Interior Designer?

Hiring a qualified Interior Designer for a project is an important step, no matter the size or budget, whether you are renovating an existing space or building a new one.

ARIDO Registered Interior Designers in Ontario have extensive training in designing interior spaces. They are skilled and experienced through a rigorous path that includes a four-year degree in Interior Design, supervised work experience under a qualified Interior Designer, and the successful completion of the North American Interior Design exam, NCIDQ. This is similar to other professions like Architects, Lawyers, and Engineers.

Interior Design is about much more than just the way a space looks. Through the interior design process, a qualified Interior Designer can help you realize your goals and make the interior environment functional, accessible, and attractive. They also ensure that the design of your space complies with all regulatory and legal requirements such as Ontario Building Code (OBC) and accessibility standards.

A qualified Interior Designer ensure building permits are submitted correctly, and the design is implemented properly by a contractor or construction team.

Interior Designers specialize in one or more sectors, from residential to corporate/commercial interiors, stores and restaurants, schools, public spaces and more. If you’re in an interior space in the province, especially a public one, you can bet an Interior Designer was involved.

What is a Registered Interior Designer?

The Association of Registered Interior Designers of Ontario (ARIDO) is the professional association representing Interior Designers in Ontario. Only registered members of ARIDO are authorized to use the designation ARIDO and the title Interior Designer in the province. All Registered Members are required to:

  • Comply with the Ontario government’s qualification and registration requirements under the Ontario Building Code
  • Maintain professional liability insurance
  • Participate in ongoing regular professional development
  • Comply with a professional Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice

If your project with another individual takes a turn for the worse, you may not have much recourse. However if your project with a Registered Interior Designer runs into issues, you can rely on their expertise to address them, or alter the design so contractors and construction teams can build it properly.

The Association also has a Complaints & Discipline process for members which addresses these issues. It is rare for these processes to be called upon, in 2019, there were no active Complaints or Discipline cases open.

Find a Registered Interior Designer in your neighbourhood on the ARIDO Directory.


What your designer is dying to know before your renovation . . .

We use the word ‘intuitive’ in our firm description very deliberately.  I believe there is an instinct in what we do as designers; in knowing exactly what a space, a client, a custom piece needs.  That said, we aren’t mind-readers.  Here are a few things you should definitely share with your designer to ensure a successful renovation.

Full Scope

A bright living room designed by Maia Roffey.

photo credit: Scott Norsworthy

If you are planning to renovate in phases, it is very important to share that information.  Your designer can help you establish a master plan and recommend the order to undertake the changes.  Once, after gut renovating three floors of a house in Playter Estates, my clients told me they would also like to do their 2nd floor guest bathroom.  It had a unique layout with a sink in an anteroom that led to a full bathroom beyond.  Because we had just finished renovating the room below, we were stuck with the existing drain locations.  While I am very happy with how the space turned out, if I had known about this room ahead of time, we would have relocated the toilet stack while we were working on the floor below.

Long-Term Plans

MaiaRoffeyStephanieBuchman

photo credit: Stephani Buchman

Your plans for the future are also important to discuss.  If you only intend to be in the house for a few years, resale value will play a vital role in decision-making.  For this home in the Beaches, we knew from the outset that our clients intended to move on within five years.  With that in mind, we stuck to a clean and minimal design, avoiding anything too personalized or trendy, and kept a careful eye on the budget.  Our changes were so effective that the clients were able to move up the real estate ladder more quickly than expected and sold within the year – for $335,000 more than they had paid.

Lifestyle

ScottNorsworthy-2

photo credit: Scott Norsworthy

At our initial consults, potential clients are always apologising for the state of their homes, “Don’t mind the toys.”  “Sorry, we can’t fit anymore in that closet.  I’ll just hang your coat here.”  But we really don’t mind.  A clear idea of how you are living informs the design process.  Don’t try to gloss over the issues you need resolved in your home.  For this family of four in Summerhill, the parents wanted an elevated space, but they were also very realistic about their desperate need for more toy storage.  Because we knew this, we incorporated an upholstered bench and wall-to-wall custom bookshelves to provide ample hiding spaces to keep things tidy.

Budget

StephaniBuchman

photo credit: Stephani Buchman

I will never understand when a potential client will not disclose their budget. I think there is a fear that we will set out to spend all of it – and then some!  (I always picture this nefarious designer twirling the ends of her mustache and laughing “mwahahahaha.”)  Budgets are a reality and we are here to help.  This project in Lawrence Park hit snag after snag as we uncovered the inherited issues of a previous renovation.  Our budget was stretched thin, so rather than use a pricy wallcovering in the powder room, we swapped it out for a chic metallic paint.  Nobody would know that wasn’t the original design.

The ‘Future of Work’ according to SDI’s Joanne Chan

This pandemic will be considered a defining moment in our history and will forever change our view of “work”. Designers and manufacturers are responding with new ideas and products for how each of us is “going back to work”. But when the dust finally settles, and we emerge from this experience, what can we learn from this experience? And how is this going to change the “future of work”?

IDS or the Interior Design Show spoke to SDI’s Owner and Principal Joanne Chan, ARIDO about her thoughts on the “future of work” and how “human connection” will forever change in the workplace.

IDS: How are you doing? And how are you adapted to working from home?

SDI: I absolutely hate it! When preparing design and discussing ideas I work best in person. I like to sketch things over drawings and pull people together to chat etc. I really miss the studio and working with my team.

IDS: What do you think has been the biggest impact from everyone working at home?

SDI: Our biggest lesson learned from this that we are very resilient as a society. What we found was most companies were pleasantly surprised of how adaptive their teams are and realizing this is an opportunity to refine the meaning of work. It is still a huge learning curve for them with adapting to new technology and a new way to work and communicate. But with all the bells and whistle of Zoom video chats and Slack messengers in the world, we still crave and missed the basics of human connection.


IDS: But even without the end in sight, we all know one day all of us will have to go back to work. There is load of webinars and publications providing recommendations of how we will go back to work. Do you mind sharing your perspective?

In the short term, companies are focused on safety of their team. In conjunction with government guidelines, they are putting policies, procedures, and solutions in place to make the workplace safe. Many of our clients have engaged us in doing so. But inside the studio, we are more interested in the long-term impact of work.

Project: Beazley Insurance. Design team: Joanne Chan, ARIDO; Bruce Freedman, ARIDO; Glenn Cheng, ARIDO.

IDS: So Joanne, what are some of the short term actions employers are taking?

SDI: I would categorize them into a few categories:

Social Distancing and Remote work. The benchmark of work space per person has decreased gradually in recent years with the open workplace and need of collaboration space. To maintain the 2m social distancing radius, many of our clients have placed their workforce in various shifts for the short term. This temporary measure can solve the immediate social distancing requirements, but it does not address why we must work in the office in the first place.

Integrated Technology Platforms. Work from home can be challenging if the company does not have a proper technology solution. It is as simple as connecting with your teammates, access internal files to collaboration with others. A key element is to have a strong integrated technology environment to support mobile, collaborative, and remote work. This may require companies to revisit their VPN access, teleconferencing technologies, and Cloud storage abilities.

Monitoring & Limiting External Access. Although some reports stated that the coronavirus can be non-symptomatic, the best way to determine an employee may be sick is still through temperature monitoring. Like airports, companies can place reasonable sized temperature scanners at entry points, in conjunction with their access control systems. Many existing security control systems already can track “entry access”. With an integrated system, the two devices can now act as a “scan & trace” system as well. Limiting external access will also be key in creating a “trusted” workplace. Couriers, unwanted visitors, and even clients and guests will need to be addressed. Like delivery at your home, “curb-side” delivery may be the future of courier. Allowing packages to be dropped off at a secured area, limiting person-to-person signatures.

Project: Beazley Insurance, Design team: Joanne Chan, ARIDO; Bruce Freeman, ARIDO; Glenn Cheng, ARIDO

Sanitation, touchless & anti bacterial environments. Making sure your building’s cleaning staff understands the importance of thorough sanitation. Companies may have to engage additional resources to address concerns of daily cleaning and wipe downs. To combat climate change, many buildings already have installed sophisticated base building systems (BAS) to allow motion sensor lighting controls and fixtures in their space. But beyond basic control systems, we should now consider touchless garbage disposal units, anti-porous surfaces, mold resistance drywall, copper hardware and eliminating material that may retain bacteria. Designers and specifiers will need to select material that are both resistant and beautiful.

Mechanical upgrades. Most users of commercial building may not have influence over the specifications of the base building mechanical system. This will be a conversation between client and landlord on how to work together to allow more fresh air into the space, allowing more humidity in the air so air particles (and germs) will fall onto horizontal surfaces for cleaning and ensuring existing filters are replaced more frequently.

Project: Hillman Group. Design team: Bruce Freeman, ARIDO.

IDS: You say this can only be short term solutions, what do think should be the longer-term approach?

SDI: As designers and architects I think we are blessed to have the ability to look at the world with empathy. Not coming from the position of fear but rather the position of hope. My initial thought is that we should have a holistic approach in solving the future of work

In the past we have asked, “how do we work” numerous times, but this will be first time we are all asking, and rephrasing the questions to “what is the purpose of the office?” Studies have shown how an intelligently crafted workplace can not only increase productivity but [employee] happiness. Designers were asked to make “workplace as a destination”, the place to be. We now need to re-examine the roles, relationship, and responsibility of the workplace. If we can shift our thinking and re-imagine the future workplace to be purpose focused, it can still be dynamic, creative and energy-charged.

Project: Hillman Group. Design team: Bruce Freeman, ARIDO.

IDS: Can you elaborate on that?

SDI: Hm, I guess the question is to define what purpose focus means to all of us and what matters to us most. Given the choice, some people may say they would love to work from home for the near future. But for many of us, including me, we see the workplace as a place to create and foster new ideas, learn and celebrate. Our task is to distill those definitions from our clients, layering flexibility and technology integration into their workplace. With social distancing in mind, designers can now have the freedom to equip spaces with the exact tools for the specific function to get the job done. These work areas can now vary in size, height, and aesthetics to suit. This does not change the core of creating an engaging workplace, but ensures we are at work with a purpose.

IDS: What is the most important thing you have learn from this experience?

SDI: The one most important thing I have learned from this is that we should focus on what matters most, the people around us. We should be grateful and celebrate what we can create and achieve if we do it together.

This post originally appeared on IDS Toronto’s blog, it has been re-posted with permission.