Everything to Consider When Planning Your Custom Home

Upon deciding to build a custom home, there are probably a thousand things running through your mind in terms of needs, wants, demands, desires, and more. It’s tremendously helpful for you and your custom-build team to organize your wish-list into a concrete outline, to ensure your priorities are straightforward and central during the planning process. Consistent with our dedication to guide you from architectural concept, through interior design, and into construction, we’re providing you with a list of questions to ask yourself to get ahead of the game.

Your Ideal Home

With some of the technical aspects of a home, it’s easy to overlook all of the possibilities and the shape your custom-build could take! In terms of layout and the overall look and feel of your ideal home, describe its features: 

  • It has approximately what square footage?

  • What kind of home is it? (Bungalow, Two-Story, 1.5 Story, etc.)

  • Does it have a finished basement?

  • What number of garage stalls?

  • What is the style of the home’s exterior: craftsman, contemporary, tudor, modern, etc.?

  • How tall are the ceilings?

  • Does it have a covered front veranda? A rear entry deck?

  • Any fireplaces? Where are they located?

  • And what’s your price range?


Translating your lifestyle into a design that most effectively empowers you to live your best life is the number one objective of building a custom home. With that, the needs of your family and household point to the next details to consider:

  • How many people are in your family? How old are they?

  • Do you have pets?

  • Any grandchildren staying over? How frequently? For how long?

  • Are you homebodies? Are you active? Outdoorsy? Movie buffs? Music lovers? Mixologists? Not-so-amateur chefs? Do you entertain company often?

  • Describe your lifestyle, particularly what’s relevant for your home now, and in the next 5-10 years.


Current Home

Your current home offers plenty of insight into what works for you and your family, and what simply does not. To reflect and improve, discuss:

  • The ins-and-outs of your current home. Why do you want to move out?

  • How long have you been living there?

  • Likes and dislikes, trials and tribulations?

  • Describe your current neighbourhood.

And as the heart and hub of all your activities...

  • When you come home after work, what do you want your home to do for you?

  • How about on weekends? What should your home provide?

  • How should your home make you feel when you are in it?

  • When others come to your home, what do you want it to say about you?

  • In general, how should the interior look? E.g. cozy, open, clean, warm, funky, etc.

Home Expectations

You probably have a picture painted in your mind of what you want your custom home to look like. Give your design-build team access to your imagination by communicating the following:

  • What one thing must your home have for it to be a 10?

  • Can you describe exactly what that looks like?

  • Why is this important to you?

  • If we could add one more thing to make it a 10+, what would that be?

  • What is the one thing you aren’t willing to compromise on in your new home?

  • What is the most important category of your budget? Plumbing fixtures? Appliances? Lighting? 


Imagery Collection

The final (and probably the most fun!) step to creating a foundation for your dream home design is compiling photos for your custom home to emulate. Putting together a montage of images, and the activity of doing so, will really get ideas flowing with a tangible catalogue of the features you want and demonstrates exactly what that looks like to you. Collect at least one image in each category:

  • Exterior Finishes

  • Interior Finish Palette

  • Kitchen Concept

  • Ensuite & Powder Room Concept

  • Lighting Concept

  • Fireplace Features

  • Stair Design & Details

  • Millwork Elements & Storage Ideas

  • And really any image that inspires you!

Architects and design-build firms are experts at creating innovative solutions to inspire fluidity, functionality, and fulfillment from inception, to construction, to completion of your custom home. Mapping out your wish-list means that everyone on your team has a clear idea of your priorities and can ensure your dreams truly become a reality. For a full checklist, or if you’re ready to begin the custom-build process, connect with us!

Myths Around Infill

Whether you’re considering an infill, one is popping up in your neighbourhood, or you are interested in the intricacies of Edmonton’s mature neighbourhoods, you probably have some idea of the common perceptions surrounding infill development. As part of our commitment to infill with integrity, we’re debunking some of the misconceptions prevalent with infill housing.

MYTH #1- A million-dollar home in the suburbs should have the same fit and finish as a million-dollar home in the inner city.

Building an infill is an intricate and much more complex process that requires more design investment and longer lead times on permitting. This, in turn, costs more money. There is a number of factors that drive the cost up on infill. The following diagram highlights some of the financial figures around the reasons why infill is so expensive relative to building in suburban neighbourhoods. In addition, costs associated w/ demolition and hazardous material abatement can tack on additional figures in the tens of thousands of dollars – these are costs unseen in suburban development. And, although one might have to sacrifice some of those accessories that come with a looser budget, infill homeowners benefit from a long list of advantages in living more central.

MYTH #2- There is a lack of information regarding what will be built on an infill lot on my street, and I am nervous about the unknown and all the negative media coverage I hear about living next to an infill.

A number of resources exist to encourage homeowners to look after their best interests as neighbours to an infill build. Genuinely speaking, the city encourages a direct, open dialogue with builders. With developers that champion integrity and close relationships between all stakeholders (neighbours, especially!) you can be reassured that good communication is a priority to keep you educated and in the loop. The city also has a checklist available to reference that outlines the correct steps in looking after your own interest and to help you ensure that builders are also following the rules & bylaws. Signage will be posted on-site with contact information of the builder and owner, should you have any concerns. This signage will also include a graphic to illustrate the look and feel of the future home going up on the infill lot.

MYTH #3- Builders change the design as they go, and there is a lack of accountability to maintain what was approved by the city in the permit phase.

The city of Edmonton has a department dedicated entirely to Development Permit Compliance. This department will inspect the build twice while construction is taking place: firstly, at the framing stage, and secondly, prior to occupancy towards the end of the build. As a result, all elements that were approved in the development permit application (the massing, height, setbacks, window locations, exterior finishes, etc.) are what was actually constructed by the builders. If the build does not comply, the city requires a re-submission for permits. This ensures the accountability of the developers is maintained throughout the entire process. With these controls in place, builders must uphold the integrity of what was initially approved.

 MYTH #4- I am a neighbour to an infill build and fear my lot will be flooded by the new construction in the case of rain or spring melt.

 According to drainage bylaw no.18093, any new build needs to submit a lot grading plan along with the development/building permit application. Lot grading is part of the development permit process and it ensures the ground is sloped properly to direct rainwater and runoff away from the home and the adjacent properties. With lot-grading comes checks and balances by the city to assure cooperation during the build. Before any construction occurs, the city will review the plan. After construction is complete, the property is graded, surveyed for a lot-grading certificate, and inspected so that it complies with an approved lot-grading plan. In case of a negative grade from new infill development that presents the possibility of runoff to a neighbouring property, the city requires that retaining walls and/or swales (a small trench built to collect water) be integrated on property lines in order to prevent existing properties from flooding. See more on infills and drainage in Edmonton here.

MYTH #5- There is a lack of advocacy around infill or any sort of stakeholder group that is working to improve policy around infill.

Quite the opposite, actually! The Infill Development in Edmonton Association or ‘IDEA’ is one of the major stakeholder groups in the city of Edmonton for infill. With a dedicated staff that work full time and are deeply invested in all things infill, they remain up to date with the latest and greatest policy regarding infill, while working closely with the city as strong advocates for urban development. IDEA members represent the bulk of builders and infill stakeholders and meet regularly to discuss ongoing important issues surrounding infill development.

Hear it from them, directly:

IDEA IS A COMMUNITY OF COMMITTED EDMONTONIANS PASSIONATE ABOUT THE POSITIVE TRANSFORMATION OF OUR MATURE AND EXISTING NEIGHBOURHOODS. IDEA is a proactive group that provides education and resources on infill development to the community and industry. We help to connect organizations, experts, businesses and individuals in order to encourage high quality and vibrant infill development in greater Edmonton. Our membership people who share a forward-looking vision of an Edmonton that is vibrant, walkable, efficient, flexible, resilient, sustainable, and healthy. We drive change towards people-centred communities.
— https://www.infilledmonton.com/
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Despite the pervasiveness of misconceptions surrounding infill builds, there is plenty of evidence underlying the collective benefits of infills to sustain thriving Edmonton neighbourhoods. Numerous organizations have poured their hearts into creating resources and establishing research in order to show the value of infill development in urban spaces. It is Urbis’ goal to provide positive architectural interventions that enrich the communities in which they are situated. Interested in learning more? Contact us today!

The Value of Architecture in Designing Your Home

All projects start as a concept. There are numerous decisions to be made in order to make that concept a reality. This includes who you choose to hire and place your trust in for the duration of a project. Here’s why hiring an architect is a good idea when it comes to building your next home.

Delivering Creative Solutions

In the initial phases of design, you most likely have a list of wants and needs in mind. The question becomes: how can those wants and needs be transformed into 3D space? Architects have an extensive skill set and broad knowledge of design and construction to offer you answers you wouldn’t consider otherwise.

You don’t want band-aid fixes or make-do solutions, you want innovation and excellence from the very beginning to be carried throughout construction and onwards. The ultimate goal of an architect is to develop a great understanding of you and your lifestyle such that your physical space reflects your needs and improves your quality of life in beautiful, inventive ways.

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A Worthy Investment

Architects save you money in the long run. Firstly, as architects create your space as you imagined it, the project evolves and changes can be made much easier in the blueprint stage than during construction. A project that’s well-conceived on paper will be carried out more effectively and economically.

Good architects work with your budget to select the appropriate materials and finishes that are durable and beautiful, meaning that you don’t have to sacrifice design for functionality. This creates savings on frequent maintenance and replacement costs that come with cheap inputs.

Harmonizing Design and Construction

Architects are truly invaluable to the design and construction process. To go one step further, there are numerous benefits to pursuing an integrated approach by hiring a design-build studio with an architect in-house.

For example, you can expect increased speed and efficiency of the design and building stage with collaboration between all experts carrying out the project.

From a cost-effectiveness perspective, in-house architects add more value than those outsourced, with additional trust and partnership found in one overarching company. In-house architects offer easy, agile management of any changes that occur during the project. Additionally, there is full accountability from start to finish with zero hand-offs between architects and builders. Your project will be carried out by one firm with your best interests at heart.

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With 35 years of experience and expertise overseeing projects from intent to outcome, our in-house registered architect establishes excellence in residential design and construction.

At Urbis Developments, our in-house architecture, project management, and construction management teams work closely and collaboratively to carefully guide and monitor a project from inception to completion. We offer custom infills with integrity. With 35 years of experience and expertise overseeing projects from intent to outcome, our in-house registered architect establishes excellence in residential design and construction. Connect with us to explore how we can help you imagine your version of design excellence in your custom home build!