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Interior design: Tell your story through your home

Are you an entrepreneur looking to buy or lease a space for your growing business?

In an eff ort to get up and running, many business owners do not consider that they may need an architect to help with their project.

Often, an owner will approach a township or municipality to start his business and is notified that he will need plans for the space in order to get construction permits for renovations and to obtain a certificate of occupancy.

It’s sometimes not even part of a business plan. However, an architect is an important team member in getting this accomplished.

What do architects do? Why does a business owner need one?

Architects are licensed professionals whose responsibilities include protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public with relation to public/private buildings.

Anytime a business owner changes doors or windows, changes bathroom facilities, changes the occupancy of an existing space, makes structural changes, adds or removes walls or adds new major systems, he will need documentation of the changes – and a sketch on a piece of paper is not acceptable.

Municipalities typically are getting stricter with project reviews, often outsourcing reviews to a third-party engineer for a thorough analysis. An architect can help navigate the permitting process and work out issues that arise, leaving time for the owner to run his business.


Architects can analyze space to help determine if it will meet the business’ needs and if it will function well, as well as determining a project’s feasibility.

Designers often can quickly sketch a schematic plan showing how to use a space with code requirements in mind – and pinpoint challenges one may encounter.

Architects also can review zoning ordinances to determine parking requirements, which may limit building occupancy.

Accessibility also is important, and architects can make a new facility as accessible as possible for customers and employees.


Building code requirements may limit what you may be able to do or how it may be constructed, or you may need a different level of fi re protection than the original use – and an architect can help determine what is needed.

If concerned about using environmentally friendly products in the renovation or increasing energy effi ciency, an architect can recommend materials and finishes.

Architects aren’t the only team members needed. They work hand in hand with structural, electrical and mechanical engineers to help coordinate a complete package for building permits required by municipalities.

If land development work is needed, an architect can work with civil engineers and landscape architects to lay out parking lots and landscaping designs.


Will hiring an architect be really expensive?

Architects typically charge by the hour and can estimate the cost for their services.

Large projects are sometimes billed on a percentage of construction cost. But the investment up front for an architect is a small percentage of the overall project cost and can save money and headaches later on.

Architects also will work with the contractor to determine realistic construction budgets. Well-documented designs are much easier for a contractor to give a business owner a more accurate price.

The designs also allow one to get multiple, competitive prices where one can compare “apples to apples” – instead of contractors giving just a ballpark estimate on a verbal description of work.


Not only can an architect help with the nuts and bolts of the code requirements, but an architect is an invaluable team member to help illustrate your design vision for a contractor to execute and help all team members communicate their concerns to the owner.

Having a well-planned, well-documented design makes the construction and renovation process much easier, with fewer surprises along the journey … well worth the investment.


Kay McLane, owner of the Emmaus-based firm Kay McLane Design LLC (, specializes in design for business and residential customers and teaches classes in organization, feng shui, home staging and interior design. She can be reached at 610-966-9794 or [email protected]

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