Great communities stay great when everyone understands that the value of the whole community depends on each homeowner taking care of his own property and house.
Which means you depend on your neighbors to keep up the value of your house, by keeping up the value of theirs - with proper maintenance and good design.
But you're going to have disagreements now and then, unless everyone in your neighborhood agrees on what proper maintenance and good design is.
Because it's awfully hard to tell your neighbor what to do with his house without destroying any good feelings you have for each other.
A common solution to this problem is setting up architectural controls, where construction and exterior maintenance projects are subject to evaluation by an Architectural Review Board.
Most ARBs have some kind of a guideline document that helps residents understand what's appropriate and what's not, but one community in Ohio has taken it a step further. They're providing personal consultations with residents before they hire designers and contractors.
One of my "side jobs" is as Design Review Architect for Muirfield Village, a planned residential community of about 2400 homes and home to the PGA Tour's Memorial Tournament. A few years back we started a new program, giving each Muirfield homeowner access to an hour of my time, at their home, to discuss any issues relating to changes they're thinking about making to their home.
At no charge to the homeowner.
We also hired a Landscape Architect and offered his services to residents - a free hour to discuss anything about landscaping, decks, and patios with a professional.
The goal is to help homeowners understand the community's aesthetic guidelines, and to help them start out with ideas for projects that are compatible with the neighborhood - before they hire architects, designers, and contractors.
Which means they're more likely to pass Design Review, and that's good for the whole neighborhood.
It's been a big success - since the program began in the spring of 2010, I've visited 234 homes, almost 10% of the community. John Reiner, our Landscape Architect, has visited even more (he's winning our little competition...for now).
Homeowners have requested help with choosing paint colors; designing outdoor living spaces; remodeling kitchens and baths; and designing room additions. I've visited homes that need a little updating but are otherwise perfect, and homes that haven't been well-maintained for years and need a complete makeover.
Each spring, we kick the program off with a couple of seminars for all Muirfield residents. One seminar's about home design and maintenance, the other's about landscaping.
As far as anyone knows, it's the only program of its kind in the country.
Does your neighborhood have design review? How might a program like this help your community? Tell us about it on the RTAStudio Facebook page.
Need expert Residential Architectural advice for your new home or remodeling project? Contact Richard Taylor, AIA at RTA Studio.