Q&A: Understanding Architectural Controls

A closer look at why architectural controls are important, and how they can enhance a community.

At Genesis Land, we know that a home is one of the biggest purchases a person will make in their life. That’s why it’s such an honour when a homeowner chooses to build in one of our communities. 

“It’s a sign that they feel they can really trust us to make sure the community is going to grow and evolve, while still maintaining its original charm and vision,” says Holly Patterson, who holds the position of Architectural Controls Manager here at Genesis Land.  

In her role, Patterson works to ensure that each of our communities evokes a sense of aesthetic cohesion. She does this by developing and overseeing the guidelines (a.k.a. architectural controls) that help regulate the look and feel of the houses within a community. 

“The exteriors of the houses are arguably one of the biggest, if not the biggest, visual aspects of the overall community,” she says. Here, Patterson gives us a closer look at how architectural controls can help to establish and enhance the character and vitality of a new community. 

Q. What are architectural controls?

Architectural controls are the guidelines that land developers put together when they’re building a planned community. The controls are there to ensure a consistent vision when it comes to the look of the homes throughout a community. They also help to ensure that there’s some variation between neighbouring homes to avoid things looking too cookie-cutter and repetitive.

Q. At what point in the design and planning phase of a community are you starting to think about developing architectural controls?

Basically as soon as I find out we have a pocket of land that we’re going to be developing. Once we have that plot of land and determine what the vision is going to be for it, I begin envisioning our future homeowners. I start to think about the kinds of designs we can bring there and which materials are going to work for our customers.

Q. What design elements do you consider when developing architectural controls?

Coming up with the architectural controls encompasses everything from the bigger concepts down to the detail work. So, first and foremost I’m considering the architectural styles of the homes. Whether it’s Craftsman, Prairie, or Tudor, the styles of the houses really establish the feel of the community.

After that, I’m looking at the colour palette, and then the design details that make a certain house style extra special. For instance, with a Tudor-style home, it could be a really steep pitched roof with lots of batten detailing on the house. Or for a Craftsman, there could be some elaborate wood trim around the windows or extra accents on the porch columns.

Q. How do you go about determining the specific controls for a Genesis Land community?

There are a lot of things to consider, but I start by looking at homebuilding trends and soliciting feedback from both homeowners and our builder partners. I track what the market is doing and what people are buying. Then I work in response to all of that. I also consider what’s already working well when it comes to home styles, colours and materials, and I try to determine if there’s room for a new style, or a modern twist on an older classic style.

My personal preference is always going to be toward home styles that are rooted in architectural history. So, even if we’re going for a modernized look, I still want there to be a sense of familiarity — like a design memory — when you’re in one of our communities. I want the houses to feel memorable and familiar.

Q. What are some of the popular home-design trends you’re seeing in the market these days?

The farmhouse style has really exploded in the last few years. It usually features lots of white siding and wood accents — it’s clean and elegant, but it’s also quite homey.

Another current trend is monochromatic homes, specifically in darker greys and blacks. This muted approach to colour allows more room for other design features or materials to be the distinguishing factor of the home. So, for instance, you might see a monochromatic home that’s using vertical siding or mixed textures, or maybe it has a detail in the gable that adds a flourish. The houses are bold but they’re recognizable, and there’s a playfulness to them.

Q. Do you work with other members of the Genesis Land team when you’re developing architectural controls?

Yes. When I’m envisioning what we’re going to be doing with our architectural guidelines, I’m always running those visions through our whole team, from day one. I work particularly closely with our development managers, because they’ve got the best understanding of a community’s technical design. So, I’ll talk with them about what would work in a specific area of the neighbourhood, what wouldn’t, what topography needs to be considered, what community features we want to help highlight — all of that.

Q. How do you collaborate with Genesis Land’s builder partners when it comes to determining a community’s architectural controls?

Our architectural controls are always circulated well in advance of a new community or phase, and we keep the lines of communication very open with our builder partners to ensure we’re making choices that work not only for them, but for their customers as well. Feedback from our partners is definitely encouraged throughout the process to make sure that we’re offering a product that makes sense in the market.

Q. Describe your role when a yet-to-be-built home is purchased in a Genesis Land community.

Whenever someone buys a house in one of our communities, whether it’s a single- or multi-family home, the plans are submitted to me for architectural review. In that approval process, I’m making sure the house is keeping in line with our controls — that all the styles, materials and colours that are chosen jibe with the guidelines and vision of the neighbourhood. From start to finish, we’re making sure that both the builder and the homeowner have an opportunity to put their own stamp on a house, but one that’s still in keeping with the community’s overall vision.

Q. Why are architectural controls important to the Genesis Land team?

The goal of these guidelines is to establish the overall look and feel of the community so that, as future phases are developed, there’s still a uniting theme that ties everything together. Essentially, we want to ensure that we’re putting our best foot forward as the developer — it’s deeply important to all of us at Genesis Land that our communities age well, and that our homeowners remain proud of their neighbourhoods for decades to come.