Kitchen & Bath Residential Construction and Systems
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Kitchen & Bath Residential Construction and Systems

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eBook - ePub

Kitchen & Bath Residential Construction and Systems

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About This Book

This revised edition of Residential Construction and Kitchen & Bath Systems combines the thorough guides to typical North American building systems for homes for the kitchen and bath industry into one comprehensive, expanded volume, completely updated and revised throughout. Learning to "read a house" is an essential skill for anyone in the kitchen and bath field. This book provides clear, concise explanations of the home's structural systems and components, including the inner workings of the mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems.

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The Building Team

As a kitchen and bath designer, you won’t be working alone. To begin with, you’ll obviously need clients. Beyond that you’ll depend on a number of other professionals and installers to realize your design concepts. You should know your own strengths and weaknesses and what specialists to call on for project tasks outside your own expertise. Working smoothly with this team of building specialists will require courtesy, respect, and patience. This chapter gives you an overview of some of the major players on the building team and where they fit in the game.
The teams that design and build commercial or industrial projects have narrower, more clearly defined roles than those involved with residences. Architects and engineers basically design and look in, from time to time, to ensure that the work is being constructed as specified. A general contractor manages the construction, with subcontractors installing various parts.
With residences, many variations are possible. The overall design may not come from an architect or building designer at all but from a magazine or other source, sometimes adapted by a designer for the specific project. The heating system might be designed by the same firm who installs it. The same holds for electrical work. A general contractor, or homebuilder, may coordinate the various subparts, or it may be left to the owner. And the owner often installs some of the work.
How do you fit in? There’s no general answer. As a kitchen and bath designer, you play an important part in realizing a residential project. To do this effectively, you need first to know your craft, understand the project, and be able to work smoothly with the other players on the team.
Before you do anything else with a project, you should pin down the organizational model, who does what, and who answers to whom.
Learning Objective 1: Describe the areas of expertise of those who may interact in the design of a residence.
Learning Objective 2: Describe the areas of expertise of those who may install or construct all or portions of a residence.
Learning Objective 3: Differentiate the roles of each member of a building team.


The design process starts with a program statement that lists the client’s needs and goals. Your task is to translate the program into a concept that ultimately can be built. Building design is a huge field that contains both generalists and specialists. The overall design may be entrusted to an architect or building designer who coordinates the work of the other specialized design professionals. The list of specialists required to fill out the team varies according to the size and type of project and may include engineers, landscape architects, interior designers, and—here’s where you fit in—kitchen and bath designers.


The role of architects has changed dramatically from the days when they were “master builders” who orchestrated the entire production of a building, from design through the driving of the last nail. Today architects mostly design, with limited oversight responsibilities during the construction phase. To be called an architect, one must be licensed by the state, which requires a professional degree, a supervised internship, and successfully passing a professional examination. Even though trained as generalists, architects today are increasingly specializing in a niche, such as hospitals, prisons, schools, or residences. Architects who do residential design may include the detailed design of kitchens and baths in the scope of their services or leave it to specialist designers, once the general concept has been established. In this case, the specialist designer may work through the architect or, more likely, answer directly to the client.

Building Designers

Unlike architects, building designers do not need professional licenses to practice, but they are limited to buildings of a certain type and/or size. Most specialize in residential design. This doesn’t mean building designers are untrained, though. Some may have little training in their craft, but others may have substantial formal education and/or practical experience. To qualify as a certified professional building designer by the American Institute of Building Designers (AIBD), one must meet specific educational and professional design experience requirements; submit work samples for extensive peer review; and pass an examination covering such topics as architecture, engineering, building systems and materials, project administration, problem solving, and professional ethics. AIBD also encourages its members to seek qualification from the National Council of Building Designer Certification (NCBDC) and its certification program for professional building. If you are called in to consult on a project for which a building designer has prepared the plans, you may work for either the designer or the client.


Like architects, engineers are licensed by the state and obtain their qualifications via a professional degree and professional exam. Most engineers specialize in a particular area, such as mechanical, electrical, structural, and civil engineering. Multistory housing may require the services of any or all of these specialties. The majority of single-family housing gets built without the services of any engineer, except perhaps for a civil engineer to survey the site. In high-end housing, mechanical engineers may be entrusted with the design of the heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems. An electrical engineer might design the power and lighting, communications, and other electrical systems. To work effectively with an engineer, you will need a final layout of your portions of the house in hand, along with the particular equipment that will be installed. If a mechanical engineer is charged with designing the HVAC or plumbing system, be prepared to provide the engineer with any plumbing, ducting, and power requirements for the fixtures and equipment you specify. Get these requirements from catalogs and pass them along as soon as possible in the design process. If an architect is in charge of the overall design, you probably will communicate this information through him or her.

Interior Designers

The design team of high-end residential projects may include an interior designer, who specializes in organizing the interior and specifying furnishings and color schemes. If an interior designer is involved with the project, you will need to clarify the various design responsibilities early on. Confusion and bruised egos will surely result if all the players don’t know how they fit into the team and how project communication will work.

Other Designers

Various other designers may design particular systems in a residence, including the heating, cooling, lighting, security, automation, solar systems, fire suppression, landscaping, water purification, flooring, and other systems. The professionals who design these systems gain their expertise in various ways, which may include a college major or experience in their field. They may or may not hold professional licenses or certification by a professional association. For example, a lighting designer may be a licensed electrical engineer, an electrician, or a person who has developed skills in that area from working for a company that manufactures or sells lighting.


Once the planning work is complete, another team enters the project: builders and installers. A residential project may require the services of a very few or several specialists, according to the complexity of the project.

General Contractors

All building projects need someone to coordinate the various actors involved in the construction. Whoever takes on this important charge must schedule the construction, recruit the subcontractors (subs), usually pay them, and oversee the construction. The task is daunting, rather like herding cats. Owners who act as their own general contractors often encounter rough wa...

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