This is your goodie page! As professionals in the architectural world, we have seen many firsttime and seasoned builders struggle with different aspects of design and construction. Things like ‘what makes a good architect’, ‘how do I get things built’, or ‘who do I talk to’ can often be stumbling blocks. Therefore, we have put together this page to answer some of these questions.

How to Start?
You want to build a new home, a business, or a storage facility, and you have no clue where to begin? Below are some tips and tricks to get started.

Tips For The Initial Meeting With Your Architect
(pdf file)

Codes/Ordinances & Zoning
Codes Ordinances are the rules and regulations that keep buildings safe and functional for everyone. They are great to have but very complicated. They include but are not limited to: egress (travel and exiting of a building), fire regulations, material usage, building heights, plumbing, heating and cooling, and the list goes on. When dealing with them, it is best to talk to your architect or your city’s building code professionals because they understand how each rule interacts with other codes and with other regulations that may be in place.

The main code used for the design and construction of buildings is the International Building Code (IBC). The International Code Council has other books that inform and include specifics that the IBC does not. These include the International Residential Code (IRC), International Fire Code, International Plumbing Code, and many more. There is even one for exisiting and/or historic structures. To learn more about these codes go to the International Code Council’s website ( If vou just want look through them, go to your local library’s reference section. Helena’s Lewis and Clark Public Library has the major books on their shelf, but be careful that they are the most recent. Codes can change rapidly, and can get you into trouble if you are using an old version.

Below is a link to the City of Helena’s codes/ordinances:

There are guidelines for Historic Preservation that is published online by the Department of Interior.

Zoning is equally important and is the first thing you check when you wish to build a building. Zoning maintains order within a city. It divides the city into business, residential, industrial, etc. so that similar buildings can be close together and protect people accordingly. You don’t want a heavy machinery plant near a daycare, for example. It would be too easy for one of the children to get curious and hurt. If your building use changes and you sit on or near a zoning border, you can apply for a Zoning Variance, but there is no guarantee of a yes or a no.

Here is the City of Helena’s 2017 zoning map:

Flood Plain and Other Hazards Maps
Flooding and other hazards are good to know before building or moving into a new home. Here is a link to Montana’s Lewis & Clark County hazard maps so you can protect your precious asset. Scroll through the list for the right map you need, and if you have questions, ask the individuals listed on the website.

ADA Regulations
American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA) for buildings is nicely summed up in the ICC/ANSI A117.1 (2003). This book allows people with a wide range of disabilities to access and operate in buildings. If it weren’t for this, many people would not be able to enjoy restaurants, retail stores, offices, public buildings, etc. This code is for any building or surrounding site that is accessed by the public. Most interiors of private residences are exempt but not all the time. ICC/ANSI A117.1 (2003) is currently used by the State of Montana, but version 2009 will be adopted soon.

Here is a link to the 2003 (current) ADA code:

Here is a link to the 2009 (future) ADA code:

If you would like more infoimation about these topics or have particular questions. please send us a note via the Contact Page. Also visit our YouTube channel at for more great stuff.