A house figurine sitting on top of a home blueprint with a magnifying glass

Building a home comes with a set of challenges and hurdles. Aside from the usual planning, finding, and working with contractors, cost implications, and unforeseen delays, another step you may not have contemplated is the passing of the Architectural Review Committee (ARC). Many homeowners are unaware of this crucial requirement which differs slightly depending on the city you are in.

What Does the Architectural Review Committee Do?

Also known as the Architectural Control Committee, this panel of experts is responsible for protecting the aesthetics and guidelines within a community. Before applying for a building permit, the plans for your new house must be passed by this committee. Homeowner Associations (HOA) are stringent in their requirements, so the design review committee must assess the plans in accordance with the HOA governance documents which will then need to be enforced and upheld by the Architectural Review Committee. This will ensure that look and design of all the houses in the estate are uniform and the standard is maintained.

In order to pass the ARC, there are a few tips regarding the process they follow, to ensure that your Homeowner Association plans are approved:

1) Review the Design Guidelines

Each city and HOA will have its own unique set of guidelines. It is recommended that you find these on your city’s website and review them carefully. Certain renovations and minor changes will also need to be passed by the ARC, so be aware of these requirements, application fees, and plan submission timeframes. You will need to obtain advice and professional assistance from registered and licensed architects, structural engineers, civil engineers, landscape architects, contractors, and other qualified consultants. Don’t make the mistake of trying to submit the plans without professional backup. You can find out more about the design review process and committees in each city, by searching for the government websites for your area. For instance, the Jackson, Wyoming Design Review Committee is found here.

For a major improvement or renovation, the following process takes place:

  • Pre-Design Conference
  • Preliminary Design Review
  • Final Design Review
  • Construction Monitoring
  • Final Construction and Landscape Observation

For minor improvements, the process takes place as follows:

  • Final Design Review
  • Construction Monitoring
  • Final Observation

2) Think Like a Designer

The main purpose of the Architectural Design Committee is to promote the development of neighborhoods that enhance the visual quality of the area, that encourage higher market values to benefit the neighborhood and surrounding properties and demonstrate the best professional practices. To pass the committee, you have to think like the committee. Does your design fit in with the surrounding properties? Does it conform to the specifications of the area? When you first conceptualize your design, approach your local planning committee for their input. This can save you a lot of hassles later down the line.

3) Work With Professionals Who Have a Relationship With Your Local Planning Department

Working with professional architects, landscapers and contractors who know the area and are familiar with the design review process in that particular neighborhood or Homeowners Association, can prevent delays in the process. They have established relationships with people in the review committee and local planning department, so they have first-hand insight into what is required at each step of the process in order to gain approval.

4) Size and Scale Matters

This aspect is an important one to note. Ensure that the size, scale, and form of your house are consistent with surrounding properties. Your design should conform with the general design of other properties, so that does not look out of place. For instance, if all the other houses in the street have a garage down the side of the property with a front porch, don’t expect a triple garage right on the roadside, with the house set behind it, to pass the design review.

5) Consider the Layout and Topography

Careful thought must be placed into the topography of your design, with adequate outdoor space and allowances around the perimeter of the house in relation to the neighbor’s houses. Think carefully about where windows are placed and how the layout functions realistically in relation to your neighbor’s houses. For instance, if you have a window overlooking your neighbor’s pool, you will need to fix this in order for the Architectural Control Committee to approve it.

6) Don’t Forget About Landscaping

Many homeowners leave this aspect out of their designs completely or don’t give it much thought. Well-planned landscaping goes a long way towards getting your design to pass the review. Are you preserving historic trees? Have you factored in environmental concerns? Does your landscaping assist the birds and wildlife in the area? If you are building a pool or terraced gardens, this must appear on your design plans.

7) Think About Materials and Compositions

This may seem obvious, but it is important to show on the plans you submit. The colors you choose should follow the guidelines set out by the city. The materials you choose should also conform to the standard guidelines.If you have a house with all four walls made of different materials, this will not pass the review. The external composition should be uniform.

8) Get Support From Your Neighbors

The Architectural Review Committee looks favorably on designs that have support from the neighbors, as this speeds up the process. If you get to the meeting, only to have objections, the committee is wasting their time investigating these claims. It is in your best interest to meet with your neighbors, show them your plans and get some feedback. Most of the time neighbors are willing to help, appreciate being involved, and are only too happy to have a house built which will add value to the area.

The above advice will help you through the review process and help you to achieve your goal of getting your building plans approved by a Design Review Committee. It is always best to speak to a professional in the field, such as an architect or contractor. They can assist you with brainstorming solutions to your design difficulties and will make the process so much easier. Just by implementing these few tips, and carefully reviewing the design guidelines for your city, you will be able to obtain approval from your local Architectural Review Committee.