Interview with Mike Bucchin of F&M architects, Colorado
How does designing in the Aspen/Snowmass area differ from other places you have worked?
The work that we get to do here is exceptional. We get great clients from all over the world, who want exceptional properties where they can enjoy the incredible beauty and culture available here. Both Aspen and Snowmass offer great opportunities for architects to design one of kind properties for our clients.
We often have the opportunity to work with design team members around the world. So, while it can be complex to coordinate with an Interior Designer from a different time zone, it really pushes us to keep a broad perspective and opens us up to what is going on all around the planet.
One of our more challenging tasks can be educating the client about the local planning and building departments. Since each jurisdiction in the upper valley is unique and has its own personality, local architects know how to plan and execute our work to meet their expectations. In Snowmass, you often need to work through more than one layer of Design Review Board approvals before being able to submit to the building department, so you need to plan more time in the schedule. In Aspen, the zoning and engineering requirements are always being improved and can be quite extensive, so you need to plan for a larger drawing package and you need to plan for even more time as the building permit review can reach into months instead of weeks. In the County, you need to have the project fully budgeted by a contractor prior to going to the building department, as it is now a pre-requisite to have a certified budget prior to starting. These are just some of the many complexities that we deal with in the upper Roaring Fork Valley on a daily basis.
What makes designing and building in Aspen so expensive, as compared to other resorts?
Aspen is a mature market, so there is very little room to build, remodel or expand. Aspen has made a remarkable effort to preserve its history, so often you are remodeling properties that might otherwise be torn down. In the same way, Aspen has regularly down zoned its properties, so again, Clients often find that they cannot rebuild a house of the same size, if they tear down the one that exists currently. Aspen also has a high expectation of its home builders to pay for their fair share of impacts to the streets, schools, fire department, parks, renewable energy, etc. All of these things together, coupled with the need to build expensive homes (to make sense of the expensive home or land purchases), make building in Aspen a price-point all its own.
What would you say is the biggest oversight for a client who is building a new home in the area?
One of our hardest challenges when we meet new clients who are not familiar with the Aspen market is to explain to them how long a project can take and how many other team members are necessary to meet all the local requirements.
This often leads to the other challenging question, which is “why is it so expensive to build here?” When you couple the length of time question with the client’s overwhelming desire to use their property as quickly as possible, it can create tension if these things are not properly explained early on in the process.