how i work


After initial contact, I refer potential clients to my website, Then, if the potential client likes what they see, typically, we will have a phone conversation to discuss the possibilities. Then, if there’s mutual desire, a meeting is arranged with the potential client to discuss their project, visit the site (or existing house if an addition/renovation project) and briefly explain how I work.  This initial consultation is provided at not cost.

If a potential client decides to hire me, I will send two copies of a Limited Services Agreement for their signature. The client signs both and returns one along with a retainer check to get their work scheduled.


Sometimes, a project starts with a preliminary project assessment and design. This can be a good way for the client and architect to assess their potential for success in working together, doing so with minimal risk (vs. discovering incompatibility deep into the full design process). I charge a flat fee of $1,000 (paid in advance) for this service. Of course, upon completion of this assessment, the hope is that the project will proceed and I will be your architect! However, there is no obligation to do so.

The scope of this service can vary (pending specific project and client needs) but, typically, consists of the following:

  • One on-site meeting to review the site and existing building (if the project is an addition and/or renovation).
  • Discuss design needs and desires with client.
  • Preliminary review of land use regulations and permitting requirements.
  • Preparation of one concept design plan sketch to demonstrate initial feasibility.
  • Preparation of a preliminary budget guesstimate utilizing a modified cost per square foot method. 


I offer two levels of service.


This level of service provides that I will serve as a consultant, rather than a full service architect.  The scope of my work will be set to a minimum professional standard to provide maximum savings for my client and provide for a buildable project.

  • The scope of my work will allow for a reasonably accurate bid and a viable building permit application.  
  • You provide explicit direction and design information.
  • You oversee all aspects of your project. You coordinate all aspects of the work (design and construction). This means you spend more time on the project than in Option 2 Full Service.
  • During construction, I am available to answer questions (from you and your builder). I am on the job site only when asked by you.


This level of service provides that I will serve as “architect of record” and provide a full scope of architectural services including site observation during construction.

  • Basically, I propose, you dispose. I explore any and all viable options for your review, consideration and approval. 
  • I provide a complete set of construction drawings and specifications and review all drawings provided by others (such as engineers, landscape architects, cabinetmakers, plumbers, electricians, etc.). 
  • You are consulted in all relevant aspects of the project.
  • I visit the job site during construction when I deem necessary.


Pre-Design and Programming (mostly the same for both service option 1 and option 2)

The initial phase in which the architect and client discuss the goals, needs, and function of the project; design expectations and available budget; and pertinent building code and land use requirements.  I will work with you to gather the following information:

  • Site Information: Boundary and topographic survey; existing utilities; septic, if needed; shore/stream setbacks, if applicable; wetlands, if present.
  • Existing Conditions: For an addition or renovation project, I go to your house to measure the “existing conditions”, take photographs and prepare drawings.
  • Design Program: Basically, the goal is to generate a list of desired/needed spaces including their sizes, proximities, qualities (lighting, colors, etc.).  
  • Land Use Requirements:  I conduct a zoning code analysis to determine the limitations on the project setbacks, coverage, height, etc.
  • Project Budget:  I will help you arrive at a realistic budget estimate for design and building by leading you through a discussion about the ramifications of several design approaches in light of local costs for materials and construction. 
  • Client Homework:  You, the client, compile and submit information about your existing house (addition/renovation); make a prioritized list of all items needed/wanted; collect a folio of images; locate a survey of the property, or have one made; and, assemble a list of builders you are interested in working with (I can help with this, if needed).

Schematic Design  (mostly the same for both service option 1 and option 2)

I will prepare concept sketches of design options and explain how they meet the requirements discussed in the programming stage. Once a final schematic design has been agreed to, I proceed to the next design phase.

Final Design 

OPTION 1 Final Design is limited in nature. The scope of my work will allow for a reasonably accurate bid and preparation of a building permit application.  This provides maximum savings for my clients while providing enough design time and drawings to create a buildable project. I typically prepare these drawings - floor plans; typical building sections (1-2); primary exterior elevations; door and window schedule; and, electrical plans (lighting and power). Sometimes, when requested by the client, I provide additional drawings for kitchen and bathrooms.

OPTION 2 Final Design consists of two distinct tasks.

  • Design Development: I prepare detailed drawings and finalize the design plans, showing actual sizes and shapes for rooms. Depending upon the desired builder selection (see more below), these drawings may be issued for budget pricing by one or more potential builders.
  • Construction Documents: One of the most important and valuable elements of my service is construction documents. During this phase, I prepare detailed drawings and material specifications. The builder will use both to estimate construction costs and build your house.

Builder Selection

OPTION 1 - I have very little involvement in your selection of a builder.  I can provide names of potential builders, if needed.  I am happy to answer any questions the builder might have during pricing/bidding.

OPTION 2 - You have several options when it comes to hiring a builder.  These options include a pre-qualified bid process (sometimes appropriate for a new house) and selection based upon qualification/experience wherein I negotiate the final terms of the contract (sometimes appropriate for addition/renovation projects).  Maybe you already have a builder you want to work with. You will be paying the builder a lot of money and you will be relying on this same builder to provide quality construction that you hope to enjoy for many years to come.  You want this to be a good relationship.

Construction Phase

OPTION 1 - I visit the construction site only at your request (or the builder’s with your prior approval).

OPTION 2 - I observe the pace and quality of construction. As your agent, I look out for your interests, keeping you informed of the project’s progress and overseeing any changes or problems that may arise. When your house is near completion, I often do a walk-through with the client and builder to put together a final “Punch List” of items yet to be finished.

Construction phase services are essential in keeping your project on track and within budget.


I commence my work upon receipt of a signed agreement (see sample agreement) and retainer.  The retainer is applied to the final invoice.

For both Option 1 and 2, I provide Pre-Design/Programming and Schematic Design Phase (see “What I Do”) services on an hourly basis.  Once I have arrived at a schematic design and you have approved it, I proceed to the Final Design Phase. Typically, I provide Final Design phase services for a fixed fee agreed to before I start the work.  Builder Selection, Bidding/Negotiations and Construction Phase services are provided on an hourly basis.

Reimbursable expenses are limited to the cost of reproduction (outside my office), expedited shipping (i.e.: FedEx), consultants (retained only with your authorization) and airfare. I will mark-up reimbursable expenses 10%. I do not bill you for mileage.

I invoice monthly, typically at the beginning of the month. Payment is due upon receipt. I really appreciate being paid in a timely manner!  Provisions for late payments, etc. are included in the attached sample agreement.

FYI - During Pre-Design/Programming, Schematic Design, Builder Selection, Bidding/Negotiations and Construction Phase I work on an hourly basis because the time to provide these services is mostly beyond my control. The client and builder dictate the amount of time required for my work during these phases. During Final Design, because I know the scope of the building and I control my time, I am better able to provide a fixed fee.  Clients typically prefer this method as it represents the bulk of my fee and the fixed amount affords some degree of predictability.  However, I can (and have) provided Final Design services on an hourly basis at the client’s request.


I can assist you to obtain these services, but I must charge you for my time or serve as a clearing house for subcontractors, charging you a 10% surcharge on their billings that I pass on to you.

  1. Surveying.  I need accurate topographic (ground contours) before I commence design.  This survey will also include location of existing buildings/features, existing utilities, significant trees and shore setback, if appropriate.  I can recommend a qualified surveyor and assist you in obtaining their services.  
  2. Subsoil analysis or engineering. Most sites are benign, but some need more investigation and analysis.  
  3. Mechanical Engineering. Most projects involve the general contractor’s suppliers in the final engineering of the plumbing/heating/electrical systems. Occasionally, the nature of the design requires a higher level of specificity than is offered by off-site manufacturers’ services, (for example, an integrated heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system for a large house may require the services of mechanical engineer to be included under my services).
  4. Cost Estimating. I will provide budget-guesstimates only based upon cost-per-square-foot.
  5. Garden or Landscape Design. I will consult and assist you in retaining a qualified landscape architect or garden designer.
  6. Obtaining a Building Permit. I will provide all necessary materials, and I will assist you or the builder with form work, but I do not walk the projects through town hall unless you are willing to cover my costs of doing so.
  7. Construction Supervision/Controlled Inspections. I do not manage the construction of the your project. I verify that the construction follows the design and specifications as prepared and provided to the builder. The builder is responsible for costs, scheduling, sequencing, etc. I am an objective voice and will direct the builder to remedy errors that are contradictory to my plans and specifications.


John Gordon | Architect carries Professional Liability Insurance (also known as Errors & Omissions) with a coverage limit of $1,000,000 (certificate available upon request). I've never had a claim, but it provides a certain peace of mind for the client and architect. FYI, this insurance is not required to practice in Maine. As such, not every architect/designer carries this protection. 


“Ah, to build, to build!  That is the noblest of all the arts.”

                                          Henry Wadsworth Longfellow