Selecting a Site and Getting to Know an Architect

Selecting a Site and Getting to Know an Architect

Eagle Rock Reserve, Bozeman, Montana

SELECTING A SITE AND GETTING TO KNOW AN ARCHITECT:  You have just purchased the place of your dreams, the views are spectacular and the possibilities seem endless. You want to protect your investment and to fully realize your hopes and aspirations. Perhaps you are ready to hire an architect….but which one, why and what kind of service should you expect? While I could write an entire book on this topic alone, I’ll begin by hitting upon just a few key points; helping you along in a process that may otherwise seem intimidating.

Asking that an architect walk a parcel or two before your final purchase is perhaps one of the most overlooked opportunities that I know of. A casual stroll over a plot of land allows you to measure a number of variables: the architect’s temperament, personality, competency, communication skills, artistic vision, passion, respect for place and a holistic, educated, informed opinion about location; helping you to arrive at that next level of decision.

For larger tracts of land (multiple acres), the best opinions will generally come a few days later; after the many possibilities have had a chance to cook….or reduce to the essence of place. If available, be prepared to offer a topographic plot of the parcel or an aerial illustrating property boundaries, adjacent improvements, etc. before walking the land.


Architecture is technical competency expressed as art. Competency alone will not guarantee you of a successful solution; however an artistic professional may very well achieve something remarkable. Look for passion, sensitivity, reservation, a quiet soul that will allow themselves to be absorbed by the intangibles. When expressing your project to an architect….think about how a radio works. In other words when discussing a vernacular or architectural vocabulary, dial in on the channel you would like to hear…say Modern Mountain, Western Rustic, Post & Beam, Craftsman, perhaps a mix of two or more and so on. Then think about volume, how loud would you like to hear the music? Just like the volume knob on a radio, you can turn up or down the variables of design and character to suit personal taste and budget.


Once you have decided on which architect to hire, execute your understanding of fees and services with a Standard AIA Owner-Architect Agreement. AIA Agreements have withstood the test of time, are impartial and have proven to be the best document available for defining the obligations of both parties. Have your attorney review the agreement before endorsing the final contract.

Before beginning the first phase of activities with your architect, have a topographic survey for your parcel prepared at 1’-0” increments and anything else your architect may request. Such surveys should include easements, setbacks, utilities, building envelopes, compass bearings of near and distant views, improvements and alike noted and illustrated plainly on the document. You’ll want a “boots on the ground” survey, commonly referred to as a field survey. Do not trust aerials as a sufficient tool for understanding much of anything; other then a rough idea of the property lines. Now is not the time to save a few bucks and an inaccurate survey can cost you big time later on. Do not expect your architect to provide survey services, the liability associated with this practical need cannot be justified.

If you haven’t already ordered a geological survey of the bearing capacity and underlying geology of the site before purchasing the parcel, then you will need to under take this task next. Your architect will want to understand the particulars of the proposed building envelopes and the required built solution response to each unique location. The idea is to avoid differential settlement and perhaps if located in mountainous terrain, the avoidance of below grade obstructions, etc. Again, do not expect your architect to provide this need to service. However in each case (surveys and geotechnical reports), your architect can be helpful by providing you with reputable companies, approximated costs and contact information.


Early on you will want to consider how to manage the built response. Because the many advantages…Design-Build has exponentially become one of the most desired methods for project delivery. Design-Build is by where the architect will contractually provide all services; from concept to completion. Often times the architect will engage a pre-qualified general contractor and provide as “Single Source” accountable, professional services, construction management, project budgets, allowances, progress review and delivery of the final product. As always exercise good judgment; not all architects will be qualified as capable in delivering this level of service. Discuss your architects experience, capacity and understanding of the process. (please see Design-Build link below)

The alternative to Design-Build will be to engage for the built response directly with a reputable general contractor; the architect in return would be designated as the projects construction administrator. Under this type arrangement each entity will report to you directly for the services provided. Again AIA Standard Agreements are available for your use. Either way, insist that budgets be respected and quantified for each level of the evolving design.


Each architect will possess their own way of tasking through schematic design and design development; however each will need to gather the stats: budget, site improvements, square-footage, programming, captured views, building vocabulary, etc. Sketch renderings of elevations and floor plans will assist you with understanding that the tones of the architect’s intention, are demonstrating a working comprehension of your preferences.

Design Development is generally your last chance to direct changes before entering into the preparation of the Construction Documents. Construction Documents are the blueprints of your final built solution. It is the responsibility of the architect to provide all consulting services (structural engineering, civil engineering, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, geothermal, specialty and alike), necessary in the preparation of the construction document. I prefer that consulting fees be separate from the architects, so that when comparing services of another, it is plainly evident what the costs are. Afterwards, a competitive solicitation of supporting services can be shared with you and a simple overhead and profit margin applied upon the final selection. Final selection of consulting service can be made under a joint review performed by owner and architect alike, with preference given to the best qualified respondent. The owner should yield to the architect’s qualified and professional judgment; however the architect must be prepared to make the case as to why or why not a particular consultant is to be considered. An owner should never engage consulting service directly and will be discussed further under “Chain of Accountability”.


The architects Construction Documents (Con Doc) must be sufficiently detailed as to help avoid Change Order extras that may arise in the absence of ones ability to quantify all work entailed. Missing detail is often the reason for escalating project costs and with some effort during the architect’s Con Doc phase of service, building costs can be held in check. Elaborating, while there is no one formula on how much architectural detailing will be enough….too little often means more profit for the architect and a built solution that will be delivered at a premium cost to you.


Now let’s talk ‘Chain of Accountability”…far too often over zealous owners and builders alike are quick to allow changes with substitutions of materials, inferior standards, means, methods or in other words to compromise performance and safety criteria of an approved and specified requirement, for a perceived savings. The very moment of this occurrence, a snowball effect of liability is placed upon the shoulders of the party breaching the architects approved standard. Some changes may result in nothing more then a cosmetic difference, while others could result in catastrophic failure, exponential cost in remedy, or in a worse case scenario…loss of life. Maintain a Chain of Accountability for which the architect is insured. If a change is desired, discuss it with your architect and have a Change Order (add or deduct) issued for the want. This process will keep everyone accountable, informed and most of all protected.

As always Dan Joseph Architects is ready to serve your needs; give me a call….I would enjoy meeting you, walking the site and discussing my process of bringing you the best in Professional Services.


1. Asking an Architect to walk your parcel(s) will help with understanding the potential of multiple locations, while also providing some feed-back regarding the Architect themselves.

2. Architecture is technical competency expressed as art. Competency alone will not guarantee you of a successful solution; however an artistic professional may very well achieve something remarkable. Look for passion, sensitivity, reservation, a quite soul that will allow themselves to be absorbed by the intangibles.


4. Early on you will want to consider how to manage the built response. Because of the many advantages…Design-Build has exponentially become one of the most desired methods for project delivery. Design-Build is by where the architect will contractually provide all services; from concept to completion. (see link below)

5. Request that consulting fees be separate from the architects, so that when comparing services of another, it is plainly evident what the costs are.

6. The Construction Documents must be sufficiently detailed as to help avoid Change Order extras, that may arise in the absence of ones ability to quantify all work entailed.

7. Maintain a “Chain of Accountability”; require that all changes…on any level, be managed by Change Orders (adds, deducts and even if there is no difference). #djawest

Click on the link below to view Design Build attachment:


AEC Professional Services

AEC Professional Services

Distinctive Stone Archway

AEC PROFESSIONAL SERVICES #djawest Ordinarily upon completing the Construction Document, an Architect’s continued participation during the Construction Phase is very limited or often times non-existent; leaving the Owner with interviewing and managing the built-response.

At Dan Joseph Architects, we understand that consistent communication, detail interpretation and onsite accountability is vital to every project’s success; therefore we offer a broad range of services, assuring the Owner along every step of the way.

Professional Services are available across North America as a very personal, private and cost effective level of combined tasking; often for less cost than Architecture and Construction Management engaged as separate entities.

Service may include:

  • Architecture & Engineering only
  • Architecture, Engineering and Construction Administration
  • Architecture, Engineering and Onsite Construction Management.

Upon an Owner’s choosing, we are your sole Designer, Administrator and Onsite Management of the built response; from concept to completion, one point of contact!

For absentee Owner’s and World Travelers alike, we are available to your call 24/7, day or night; sharing project updates and discussing other matters of importance. Upon request, we also offer continuous onsite surveillance and remote viewing of all construction related activities; a continuous feed of real time images of the built response. Privately accessible bios and online pictures of all personnel and tradesman, including background checks and verification is provided as an extended service.

Overview:  Architectural Fees are based as a percentage of anticipated construction cost and project budget; upon finalizing a negotiated agreement the fee remains fixed. Doing so is in the assurance to you that all decisions related to design and construction are in the project’s best interest; and not upon the motivation of escalating project costs and profit margins.  Construction Services are available as a Guaranteed Maximum Price or for a Lump Sum Fixed fee; once again assuring you of a transparent, personal and private comprehensive understanding of all tasks involved.

At Dan Joseph Architects, we design and deliver every level of Professional Service and possess a unique understanding of the built response. Give us a call or find us at …and allow us to go to work for you today!

Ramen Girl and the Architect



Ramen Girl and the Architect #djawest

Recently,  I was interviewed by two women who had traveled far; while also daring a long, unfamiliar, narrow and winding canyon road and arriving under cover of darkness on a Montana mid-winters eve. Our nearly 2-1/2 hour conversation was unique; unique because 99% of the topic was about me rather than about project programming, budgeting, architectural styling and alike. What a rare opportunity in my profession…to be given the ears of others who wanted to learn something more about an architects mind, inspiration, the art of architecture and the importance of integrity, devotion and yes…even passion.

Our discussion was effortless as the pair presented many well thought out questions on a variety of topics; and I found myself eager to discuss every aspect of the inquiry. Towards the end of this exchange came the one query that totally caught me off guard; not that the question was complicated, nor even challenged my well informed understanding of a highly regulated profession…rather it was perhaps the most personal question I have ever been presented with.

The question was this….What is the one thing that an Architect must posses to be successful? I fell silent for a moment and carefully considered my reply; and within the first breath of my response, I felt as though my heart and soul was about to be revealed and exposed to the world. Immediately there was a rush of vulnerability and likely my final word on that which resides in the deepest part of who I am…perhaps my most profound truth. It would have been easy to deflect and talk about education, licensure or even my connection to art and love of place…but my new found friendship was pure and deserving of an honest and sincere response.

“Passion” was my reply…and to really understand the significance of this response, you need to understand what the word ‘passion’ means to me. I’ll explain….

In our culture and likely around the world, we sometimes wander without true purpose…expecting that things will just happen; even perhaps that our employer or a big company will take care of us for life. We go to school, receive our diplomas, put in our 10 to 12 hour a day…all in the absence of any true, unadulterated passion.

For example the movie Ramen Girl is a simple metaphor about the deeper passion I speak of; emphasizing that even when all the right ingredients are plainly there and the steps have been followed precisely, the end result is still just bland soup. In a sentence, it’s about finding your passion and to pour all of it into your daily endeavor; imparting a soul the Japanese refer to as Tamashii.

In conclusion, if all else is equal…find an architect that demonstrates the ability to solve complex goals with passion; passion for you, passion for the land, passion for the profession…and in this journey or pursuit to perfection, you may, like me…discover something about your profession that is informed by the most intimate of places…your very own soul!

Cowboys and Aliens a New Project Concept

Cowboys and Aliens a New Project Concept

Graphic Art courtesy Dennis Calero

COWBOYS AND ALIENS a New Project Concept #djawestThe works of Dan Turvey of Dan Joseph Architects stands as a responsible approach to historic interpretation of western dwellings.  His energy conscious designs combine a love of form, local materials, structural expressiveness and nature, defining a style that becomes as much of the surrounding landscape as does the dramatic views surrounding his practical solutions.

At a very basic level the Art of Architecture is often about stirring imagination, interest and excitement; to incorporate a twist of curiosity while seeking a new plane of creativity, says Turvey. “My method has been to consider the arts, literature, music, science and history…inspiring a unique architectural response to a perceived or shared need.”

Recently, a book later turned movie titled “Cowboys & Aliens” featuring Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford has generated inspiration and an exciting new approach for a modern western vernacular.  However the movie or story line isn’t so much a source of motivation, says Turvey…but rather the title.  For Dan the title “Cowboys & Alien” suggests organic, with site specific queues which are firmly rooted in a western past; while also embracing cutting edge, modern materials and expressions…perhaps best termed as a “Modern Western”.

Dan suggests that it may be helpful to alternatively think about the blending of other extremes like music i.e.: Rock-n-Roll and Country or for instance Mannheim Steamroller’s best selling Christmas melodies; a body of work we all recognize as traditional, holiday standards, which utilize a modern vibe and distinct instrumentation.  “Likewise and in the visual world, a Modern Western is about creating a new appearance informed by nature, our past, expressed, mixed and supplemented with a futuristic vision” says Turvey.

To infuse this original concept with momentum and notable, significant credibility, Dan has obtained commitments from Cowboys & Aliens co-author Andrew Foley and famed graphic artist Dennis Calero (see pic above) to join Dan Joseph Architects in a collaborative exploration of what it means to be both Cowboy & Alien; or moreover a Modern Western.  There is no doubt, says Turvey “that the work product generated by this outstanding team will be worthy of much attention.”

Certainly, this one-of-a-kind collaborative must be informed by site specific solutions and buyer directives; therefore Dan Joseph Architects has publicly announced and welcomes a progressive owner, directing personal preferences of final character, project budgeting and schedule.

Cowboys and Aliens Project Concept inquires are encouraged to contact Dan Joseph Architects with any questions or to just simply talk more in depth on the themed project shared.

In closing…Cowboys and Aliens is perhaps the best contemporary Western Movie ever made; the actors are credible, authentic and unforgettable.  The various scenes demonstrate the importance of perception, perspective, time and place woven within the fabric of a modern story line captured at its very best moments; the music is appropriate and moving…supporting a theme that gently nudges the viewer backwards in time, when life was simple and valor most admired.

Interview: Pure West – Christie’s Great Estates

Interview: Pure West - Christie's Great Estates

INTERVIEW: Pure West – Christie’s Great Estates #djawest

Q. What brought you to the Bozeman area?

A. Montana State University, love of the outdoors and related recreational opportunities. I had created and operated a large competitive Bid-Build Commercial Construction practice in Ann Arbor, Michigan (200 plus employees at a high point), and after fine tuning the organization, the lack of an ongoing challenge gave me pause and time to reconsider my career path.

After a few family vacations to Montana, we decided to move to Whitefish in 1991. It was there when serving as an Owners Representative to a large school remodel/expansion project that I became eager to formally blend my construction experience and creative interest as an Architect. Not wanting to leave Montana, I became aware of Montana States well respected Architecture program and we quickly relocated to Bozeman in 1992.

We remained in Bozeman for approximately 10 years; life’s circumstance brought us back to Michigan for a period of time. Our love of all things Montanan has now brought us back full circle to our adopted home state.

Q. What is the approach to your craft?

A. My approach is to carefully balance the needs of budget, programming and the sensitivities of place or location. I like to share with my clients that Architecture is similar to music; in other words what would you like to hear or see? Let’s pick the vernacular and then talk about volume. For instance we may talk about “Mountain Rustic”, but as such there is not a one size fits all approach to this vocabulary. One client may be visualizing something that is close to say turn-of-the century (loud) and another may be thinking accents of rustic with perhaps more modern finishes (soft). It’s all in the range of how one prefers to feel or hear his or hers particular preference, vocabulary or song.

Continuing, in my opinion there are three things that define great design…they are: Site Specificity, a Sense of Transparency and Expression of Structure; like a three legged stool the absence of any one leg and the project won’t stand up to curb-side scrutiny.

Lastly, it is important to remember that Architecture is an expression of art rooted in technical competency. It is important for me to feel a sense of place, to be inspired by the context of location; often times it can be the subtle little things of place that speak the loudest. Think of it this way…a lot of people can play a piano, but how many can move you to tears. Technical competency alone will not add value or interest in a built solution.

Q. Can you discuss past projects and designs?

A. Michigan seems to support a straight line approach to need; in other words most design commissions available are about adaptive reuse, commercial, institutional and like work opportunities. This is not to say that a higher level of design is not valued, high design is appreciated in all walks of life. It’s just that the opportunity to focus on the Art of Architecture is rare in certain areas of our country. My love for the west actually resulted in our “Faithful” brand series or concepts.

It was kind of like this; I am a fly fisherman and like any good fly fishermen, we often times enjoy our sport more so for the process and place that we experience. Faithful began that way; as wanting to be faithful to a place and a remembrance, I began to doodle in my spare time. Those doodle’s or in the passion of place and art eventually found its way to some very capable people. I suspect they sensed something in me that that was sincere and genuine. Combined with a love of place, competency and the ability to administer their better interest, I have been extended some unique opportunities.

Most notably Headwaters Camp; which included Master Planning, Aquatic Development, infrastructure, Geothermal Pond Looping, Solar Arrays, Cabin(s), Horse Barn and a significant Primary Residence. The first of three Guest Cabins proposed has been honored at the highest level by the US Green Building Council; and a significant National Award utilizing a different set of criteria that will be announced publicly for this same project in March. As an obscure and fairly unknown, these recent recognitions are pretty exciting stuff. Incidentally we were measured and contrasted to a number of well known Architects for this special and unique project assignment; I am very humbled and appreciative to have been extended the opportunity we were given.

Headwaters Camp - Cabin 1

Yellowstone Club’s – Headwaters Camp by Dan Joseph Architects

Q. Tell us about Beaver Creek, Faithful and the Grizzly Ridge Lodge?

A. Beaver Creek Cabin started as a sketch rendering of a high end, High Mountain Cabin requested by Rustic Book author Ralph Kylloe. Since our publication in the Big Sky Journal, we have received inquires of interest for this Cabin from Southern California, Jackson Hole and Texas. It will be interesting to work on the Owner’s requested programming, remaining elevations and see where it ultimately ends up actually being constructed.

Schematic Design

Beaver Creek Ranch ~ Schematic Design by Dan Joseph Architects

The Faithful – Home came very close to being constructed in the Yellowstone Club; however instead we delivered a different look and much larger program, on a very unique ski-in, ski-out parcel. Our Faithful – Home continues to inspire others and has led to other project opportunities reflecting individual owner wants and desires.

Faithful - Home

Faithful ~ Private Residence by Dan Joseph Architects

The Faithful – Lodge is a franchise opportunity for a Rustic Structure of accommodating proportions and western character. There is a huge demand for destination places of substance and experience and our Faithful Lodge Franchise has the potential to become a Coast-to-Coast phenomena. To drive home this point, when you see people flocking to Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s to eat, meet and marry the demand is very transparent. Michigan with all of its shore lines, Great Lakes and Mackinaw Bridge takes a back seat to the number of visitors ascending in record numbers on a retail center that has now become the number one tourist attraction in the State. This retail outlet allows but a glimpse of a real Rustic–Western experience. Not everyone can travel to the Rocky Mountain West and our urban centers are begging for this built acknowledgement. Our Faithful Lodge is a reflection of interest and desire to position ourselves as a provider to a National demand for a quality destination facility. Presently we are organizing concepts for equity investment partnering.

Faithful Inns

Faithful Lodge by Dan Joseph Architects

Grizzly Ridge is a high-end custom home that was originally designed for a client that has since evolved into a second iteration of development and appearance. This particular client has made this first design response available to the public through our services. A one time purchase of completed plans is available and can be modified to suit ones particular taste and want. “Jason, thank you so much for including us in your Pure West website.”  Check out Dan Joseph Architects at

Grizzly Ridge

Grizzly Ridge ~ Private Residence by Dan Joseph Architects