Mike Simmonds, AIA, is a principal at ZGA Architects and Planners, as well as a member of the Boise City Design Review Committee. BW spoke with him about how the design review process works.
BW: What is the easiest part of the design review process in Boise?
Simmonds: I think most firms move easily through the design review process. However, the appropriate Planning and Zoning approvals must be in place for any project to be heard by design review. Obtaining certain entitlements can sometimes take time, depending upon the nature of the site and legalities of the project development. These issues are outside the purview of the design review committee.
What part of the process tends to cause the most headaches for architectural firms in Boise?
The design review process is fairly simple, other than the project design must be established in order to request approval. Approval by the city of projects or aspects of projects that may be in conflict with portions of the building codes or ordinances can sometimes take additional time to sort out, given that there may be alternative methods of complying with the code that have not been identified to date.
Oftentimes, applicants who are involved in the approval process can become frustrated with what they perceive the city is requiring. However, the city requires what is prescribed in the building codes and adopted city ordinances. Most lay people are unaware of the lengthy number of code requirements and provisions that the city staff is required to uphold and enforce.
What part of the process tends to most hamper an architect's creativity or vision?
Public agencies can certainly create a burden for the owner with regard to restrictions and fees. Although these issues may add complications to the project, it is really the architect's job to find a creative way to deal with these requirements in a positive fashion. Sometimes, the most satisfying projects are those that have been the most difficult to create.
How does the DRC resolve differences of opinion among its members?
Each application is voted on at the public hearings. The majority decides; the chair does not typically vote unless there is a tie vote. There does not often seem to be a great deal of dissent among the current members. There are, sometimes, differences of opinion, of course.