Founded by award-winning architect William Maston in 1989, WMAA is a high-quality, full-service architectural firm located in the heart of Mountain View.

 

Selecting an Architect

As a home owner or developer, perhaps the first and most difficult part of starting a project is selecting the right architect. Not every architect has the same skill set in design, public presentation, construction management, problem solving, negotiation, mediation, etc. As a result, it's difficult as a first time client to make "apples to apples" comparison between architects and determine which architect is best for you and your project. For developers, your previous experience helps both the relationship with your architect and the process as well.

If you are selecting an architect based upon price only, you've made your first major mistake. While price is always a factor, the services provided, design skills, quality of construction documents, and ability to interface with the general contractor may prove to be far more important.

Questions you need to ask yourself before you meet with an architect

  1. What is it that I really want to build? What are my needs and wants? What is my budget? To help answer these questions you need to create your own wish list and budget.
  2. How much time do I have to dedicate to this process? If you work all day, or are raising a young family? How much time can you really spend interfacing with your architect?
  3. Do you like to shop? Do you like to research products and finish materials that will be in your new building? Do you feel comfortable picking out colors and finishes for your new building? Or do you need help doing all of this? And, if so, what level of assistance do you need?

Answering these questions helps you determine what type of service you need from an architect.

Creating the Design Team

Keep in mind that when you select an architect that you are embarking on a two to three year working relationship with your architect and your builder. As a result there are more factors than just design skills, construction documents and costs of an architect for the services rendered. When you are selecting your architect, recognize that there is a triangular relationship between yourself, the architect and eventually the builder.

Selecting the right architect and builder may prove to be the most important part of creating the right team. While it's not so important that an architect have worked with the selected builder before, it is important that they share the same philosophy of collaboration and problem solving with your best interest in mind.

Style of Architecture

At the start of every project it seems we are asked "What is your favorite style of architecture?" As an architect, our response usually is "I appreciate them all for different reasons" but do not have a single design style that is our offices "signature".

The reasons for this are many. Unfortunately, all too many times, the style and proportion of buildings are based upon design guidelines and building codes implemented by individual communities that restrict building height, set backs, materials, and even style. As a result it becomes more difficult to create the next generation of architecture as it's met with skepticism and resistance to change based upon guidelines already in place.

Many times we choose traditional architecture because we feel comfortable with it. We grew up with it and are used to seeing it. How is it that we can feel comfortable with so many different styles? For the most part, it comes down to proper proportions that give us a sense of balance. The detailing that makes it a Craftsman, Mediterranean, Tuscan or Contemporary is what makes the difference.

If you don't already have a specific preference regarding architectural style, our goal is to understand what styles of architecture you are comfortable with and understand where those comfort levels come from so that we can apply that knowledge to your design.

Architectural styles continue to change. Our current "going green" emphasis will introduce refined styles most likely based upon traditional architecture that will create new looks and feel. We welcome the opportunity to set the standards of these new designs.

Design Philosophy

We do projects large and small. We recognize that every client has a budget and a wish list. Our goal is to match your wish list with your budget. Architecture is not a vision, but a process. Beautiful architecture, responsive site plans, well thought out floor plans, and interior and exterior architecture are by design. Architectural design, City approvals and construction is a very long process. It can be stressful, so you need to be sure you enjoy it along the way.

"Going Green"

There seems to be a lot of hoopla in today's world about "Going Green", "Being Green" and "Being Environmental Friendly"; what does this all mean? Interestingly enough, these are not new buzz words and have been an active part of the architectural community for years. However, many architects have overlooked the importance of it until our recent renewal and concern over global warming, energy conservation and the environment.

Architecturally, going green can mean many things. Not just meeting the guidelines of "LEED certification" or some other documentation process that evaluates your home or office building as being energy efficient.

As an architect, "Being Green" starts with good site planning and solar orientation. This orientation on many sites might mean as little as orientation of your roof planes, windows, doors and open spaces. This orientation may prove important to limiting solar access to the window openings and creating proper orientation for solar collectors, photovoltaic panels and other energy-saving roof top devices.

"Going Green" also means understanding what construction materials are considered renewable resources. For example, it only takes seven (7) years for bamboo to reach maturity and may take 80-100 years for oak to reach its maturity. From a "Green" standpoint, installing a bamboo floor would be more eco-friendly and "Green" than installing an oak floor. "Being Green" also means understanding how much energy it takes to manufacture a new product, reuse an existing product, or use an alternative product that limits your carbon footprint.

Part of the architectural process is not only good site planning, responsive design, but understanding appropriate use of materials as well.

Resurgence of Passive and Active Solar Architecture

Passive solar architecture has been an accepted element of design for thousands of years. Unfortunately for architects, this specific design element was lost in the 1890's with the advent of mechanical heating and air conditioning systems. It seems that architects forgot how to design buildings that breathe, cross-ventilate, give you the sun's warmth when you need it and keep it out when you don't. Incorporating passive solar elements into your design can be as simple as extending roof overhangs to protect windows, creating optimal window locations for cross-ventilation, solar orientation, natural light and placing the building correctly on site and using materials that absorb and retain heat (or coolness).

Active solar architecture generally focuses on mechanical means to both heat and cool your building. Most common examples in today's world include hot water solar collectors for swimming pools and house needs, photovoltaic panels that can be connected to your existing utility grid to offset your electrical costs with PG&E. Hot water collectors can also be used for radiant floor heating in your home. While initial construction costs for the radiant floor heating will be higher than conventional mechanical means, the long-term benefits reduce heating costs and helps make your house more "green". Additionally, radiant floor heating systems can be used for air-conditioning as well. Roof solar collectors can be used to expel the radiant heat in your floor on summer nights to cool your building during the day. Additionally, cool tubes in the ground below your home can provide air-conditioning as well. While many of these concepts are not new, they are, once again, in the forefront of examples that can be used in creating an energy-efficient home.

The Process

After you have selected us as your architect, we will make sure that you understand the total process involved in your process from its inception to its end. This will include:

  • Identify consultants that you need to use during both the design and construction process.
  • The design process itself
  • Interface with City agencies for the design review process and construction documents and what takes place during the construction process itself.
  • Selection of the General Contractor
  • Construction Administration during the building construction
  • Closing out your project after construction is complete

Selected Projects

In the last 20 years our office has completed many projects. We have designed hundreds of new homes and remodeled hundreds more as well. We have Master-planned country clubs, residential developments, resorts and selective commercial projects. Please go to our website links of selected Projects for more information.