"Building a house is an endless list of tasks to be done" interview with Agnieszka Zakrzewska-Kowalska from the blog ArchitektPisze

Katarzyna Szostak
25 of November '22

Her blog ArchitectWrites has gained popularity for simply explaining complex construction issues. How to prepare for the construction of a house and do Poles have enough knowledge about architecture? We talk to Agnieszka Zakrzewska-Kowalska.

Agnieszka Zakrzewska-Kowalska - an architect with a psychological bent, for whom the priority is that people without technical knowledge can make informed construction decisions and build without costly mistakes. She helps investors prepare for construction and create a functional interior. She gained experience in architectural and construction offices. She runs the blog ArchitectWrites, where she shares her knowledge, writing in an easy-to-understand way about complex aspects of home construction. She promotes an individual approach to each project, focusing on mutual respect and the ability to listen to each other. She has been consulting and analyzing projects since 2020 .

Kasia Szostak: Did you always want to be an architect?

Agnieszka Zakrzewska-Kowalska: I think "always" is a bit too strong a word. On the other hand, I remember that back in middle school, during a conversation with my parents about my future profession, the word "architect" was mentioned. I liked the idea. Despite the fact that at that time I didn't know so well what it looked like, but yes - that's when the idea that "I'm going to be an architect" was actually born.

Kasia: On your blog ArchitectWrites you explain the intricate issues of building and interior design in a simple way. Where did you get the idea for this form?

Agnieszka: The truth is that the thought of creating a blog was born a little earlier than its subject matter. At first I wanted to write about architectural design in BIM technology. On the other hand, it was the time when friends were building a house. My husband and I visited them at the construction site, and at the time I thought to myself that perhaps there were more people who were building and who could perhaps use some help. Incidentally, I noticed at the time that the materials on the subject that are available on the market are directed mainly to people in the industry. There is a lack of materials that could be used by people planning to build their own homes. Such directed strictly to investors. This motivated me to take action.

On the blog I write mainly about design issues. My idea was to help investors prepare for construction. I wanted them to be able to make informed construction decisions. One that is neither haphazard nor made under time pressure, because those are generally regretted, and the basis of construction is, of course, the design.

Kasia: You offer your clients a budoplanner. What is it?

Agnieszka: Budoplanner is, in the most general terms, a construction planning tool. I have noticed that for investors, a schedule is very often synonymous with construction planning. The problem, however, is that a schedule alone is not enough to plan construction. During the consultations I have been doing for almost two years, I see that investors often do not know when they should take care of certain things.

Building a house is an endless list of tasks to be done. There are a lot of things that need to be thought about, planned and, most importantly, aligned in the right order and time. Budoplanner organizes the actions that a builder should take and helps him go through the construction process from the organizational side, without wondering "where to start" and "what's next." Its scope covers the entire construction process, from choosing a design and completing the inspiration, through setting a budget, choosing a construction manager, contractors, building wholesalers to the formal completion of construction and moving in.

Kasia: Is it easy to build a house in our country?

Agnieszka: I think not. Many factors influence it, and most of them come down to financial issues.

Kasia: Exactly. It is impossible not to mention the current economic situation. Is it worth deciding to build a house now?

I think that a person deciding to build should first of all determine how much money he or she can spend on it, and think carefully about how big a house he or she wants to build. It is not uncommon for investors' expectations to exceed their financial capabilities. They don't know the maximum square footage they can build in a given amount, how much the solutions they like cost, and so on. And all this, at a time when the market situation is changing so drastically, becomes quite problematic.

Kasia: When deciding to build a house, we set ourselves a budget. However, there are always some unexpected expenses. How much of the basic budget should we have available "just in case"?

It is difficult to determine this clearly. It is important to remember that building a house is an investment that requires a really large amount of money. The problem, however, is that there is no simple answer to the simple question "how much does it cost to build?". Consequently, determining the amount of money we should put aside "on top" is not easy either. I believe that such a minimum is 20-30%, but of course the more, the better. Investors should also know what influences exceeding the set budget. And I don't just mean increases in material prices. Rather, I'm thinking of changes made during construction, acting under time pressure, failing to control costs, or saving on things that should not be saved on.

Kasia: What is the most common mistake made in building a house?

Lack of proper preparation for designing a house and indecision. Investors think of preparation for construction when they already have a design and treat preparation as the physical start of erecting a building. For the rest, when the budoplanner pre-sale was underway, I asked investors why they were not yet planning their construction. The most common answer was: "It's not that time yet, construction next year" or "I don't have a project yet." Investors very often think about preparing for construction only when they already have a design or a permit. And this is a mistake. There are a lot of things to think about before there is even a project. And they should set aside several to several months for this. The better they think through certain things "now," the less doubts about the rightness of their decisions will arise later.

Kasia: In your opinion, do we as a nation have a lot of knowledge about architecture and construction, or is it the other way around? If not, where does the problem lie?

I don't want to generalize. On the other hand, I regret to say that many people actually lack this knowledge. Which, for the rest, is confirmed by investors themselves. When I was writing the e-book "What you should know before building a house" I conducted a survey among investors who were about halfway through or at the end of construction. According to most of them, the reason why mistakes occur is precisely the lack of knowledge. I think the problem lies, among other things, precisely in what I mentioned earlier - there is a lack of reliable materials on the market for investors to use. An example is the issue of costs. Investors very often do not know what costs they should really expect. They rely on publicly available cost estimates, which are either outdated or - very often - underestimated, and later disbelieve that "construction can really cost THAT much." On my Instagram profile, I told an anecdote about a friend who, based on cost estimates available on the internet, assumed that building a 200 sqm house with finishing touches would cost 400K. He concluded that if he added 150 thousand, it would be fine. Fortunately, after much persuasion, he prepared a cost estimate and it turned out that the construction alone to the shell closed will be about 900 thousand zlotys. I remember that at that time there was a sprinkling of messages asking, "Is it really such a huge cost? "

Kasia: Poland is famous for producing quality prefabricated buildings. Our products are very popular in Scandinavia. However, this form of construction is still extremely rare in our country. Do you think it will be possible to change this?

It depends on the extent to which it is talked about. I get the impression that in Poland design and advice is mainly given to choose brick technology.

Kasia: What do you think about the planned changes regarding construction of houses without a permit?

Agnieszka: A fatal idea. I've been almost running a question-and-answer session on Instagram for the past two years, and it has given me a general idea of what knowledge investors have about construction and what they have problems with. That being said, I think that investors as people without experience and technical knowledge are not the right people to take responsibility for technical documentation. I think that many of the regulations on changes (especially major changes) or the provisions of the Local Development Plan will no longer be respected. This will affect the quality of the houses being built, and in x years it may turn out that these buildings will not be suitable for further operation.

Interviewed by KATARZYNA SZOSTAK

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