Scott Harris - Chief Architect Software

Using design software can increase your productivity, flexibility, and to help you seal more deals!

During this edition of CareyBrosPros, you’ll find out about:

  • Who would benefit from using design software, such as Chief Architect.
  • Various approaches to incorporating design software into a project.
  • The support to help you learn and use Chief Architect, effectively.

Guest: Scott Harris – CKBD (certified kitchen & bath designer) – Vice President of “Chief Architect Software.” Website:

Company phone number – (208) 292-3400

3 Points for Success – from Scott Harris:

  • Design software can improve your productivity. If you’re busy with lots of work, take advantage of using design software to create foundations, framing, elevations, all the items needed for construction documents
  • 3D views can help you close a contract faster and helps keep you on the same page with the client, think “no surprises”
  • Learning how to use design software may seem overwhelming. At Chief Architect, we put a lot of resources together to help – how-to-articles, videos, webinars and actual training classes.


#design #profit #mancave #sheshed #Thanksgiving #partyplanning #room #vision #technology #remodeling #renovation #kitchen #bathroomstyle #resources


Transcript of the podcast:

Magic Mike: [00:00:00] Welcome to CareyBrosPros. The broadcast for construction bros by construction bros. Now here are James and Morris Carey.

James: [00:00:12] Hey, it’s really great to have you with us for another episode of Cary bros pros. I’m James Carey.

Morris: [00:00:18] And I’m Morris. James and I know that both the plans and the design are crucial to a successful construction project. Believe me when I say that our construction drawings are used by absolutely everyone who works on any one of our projects. As such we’re always striving to provide the best clarity and detail for our customers as quickly as possible and with as few mistakes as possible. And on this edition, we’re going to talk about an amazing CAD design software that does just that, and how you can make it a part of your toolbox.

James: [00:01:04] Yes, and you know I learned the hard way that not only didn’t need great design but it’s terrific if you hold the plans right side up. But anyway, that’s another story for another day. Our guest is Scott Harris. And Scott is the vice president of Chief Architect Software, and he’s also a certified kitchen and bath designer. Scott welcome to Carey Bros Pros.

Scott: [00:01:32] James, Morris. It’s an honor to be on the show and thanks for having me.

Morris: [00:01:36] You know Remodeling Babe and I both use chief architect to create all of our designs and plans and we love it. Scott would you please explain who or what types of business would want to consider using a design software such as chief architect.

Scott: [00:01:56] Well really, it’s a spectrum of the professional’s business that has remodeling. Maybe their kitchen and bath designers, maybe they’re building brand new homes, so it’s anybody that’s going through the process of creating a permit and then also using that information to help their clients see what the projects going to look like.

Morris: [00:02:21] I’m going to go off script for a second because I just love this software. And one of the things that I have found amazing about Chief Architect is that it is sensitive to the remodeler. That is, there is a way of designing an existing house, which you must do for the building department, and then putting the addition on and costing only the items that are in the edition. And I think that that is an amazing feature, and I have to compliment you. I want to ask you does the software replace a designer or architect or is this something that can be used to assist either in the early stages or late in the project.

Scott: [00:03:08] Yeah, there’s a few different ways that people use the software. On the one hand you have the conceptual ideas that somebody may want to expand on, maybe push out a kitchen. And I just want to see what the space might look like. So, the 3-D aspects really can help the client see what the projects going to look like, and then when you get to the phase of actually producing the documents that maybe the building department requires, architects obviously can use the software designers can use the software sometimes they may use an outside software to complement it. Maybe some people have AutoCAD details you can bring those in and work with outside designers if they are using something else. So, we’re able to provide the ability to get full permit drawings as well as the conceptual drawings that you can show to the clients.

Morris: [00:04:03] Oh you mean a software collaboration of sorts.

Scott: [00:04:07] Well, yeah.

Morris: [00:04:07] Oh that’s great. Talking back and forth with your plans is a really neat feature. So you interface with AutoCAD as well.

Scott: [00:04:16] Well a lot of the designers and architects out there have had details as well some of the manufacturers.

Morris: [00:04:25] Sure.

Scott: [00:04:26] And so you don’t want to recreate something, and we want to take advantage of using those details. You know maybe somebody has a detail of how a deck ledger screws into the side of the house, there’s no reason to recreate that. So we import those AutoCAD type files and allows you to just be a lot faster in production when you’re producing a drawing set.

Morris: [00:04:45] I love it.

James: [00:04:46] Boy, that makes a lot of sense. Now Scott, you know that I’m not the brother that uses your product. I have other responsibilities in our business and that’s probably because I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed, but a lot of folks that are like me in our business who may be talented craftspeople may also be reluctant to venture into new technology because of the learning curve. So, can you speak to that and how difficult it may be to learn the software and when they can expect to be up and running.

Scott: [00:05:29] That’s really a great question. I think that the common reaction that some of the people have out there is how hard is it to really kind of get up to speed and kind of the fear and uncertainty of it. And what we have done, like any new tool that you buy, is we put some resources together whether it’s a training video series on the quick steps to getting started. And then we dig a little bit deeper and if you’re going to be creating the Dutch Gable design or a cantilevered roof we put together pretty detailed videos to kind of walk step by step through it. And we also do webinars and then we do physical training classrooms just to make sure that you have the right tools to be successful as you learn the software.

James: [00:06:19] You know those videos. Morris has shared some of the videos with me and I have to tell you like anything else whether you’re doing gardening or cooking or home improvement or learning a new software, a well-produced video is worth its weight in gold. So here’s something that’s of interest. People like to see their building projects integrated into the big picture. That is to say, the landscaping and the completed package. Does your software allow the user to create a fully landscaped terrain drawing?

Scott: [00:07:00] Well with Chief Architect we focus on everything residential and that may require a site plan. If you’ve got an existing footprint and you’re adding onto it you need to show the set backs are, as well as any landscaping features whether it’s a slow plot or a flat lot or different terrain features that you need to show in there. We support all those components so anything to do with a house landscaping with site plan, draining. Yeah. Chief Architect does support that.

Morris: [00:07:33] I just can’t say it enough. I love chief architect. Scott I pretty much know how long it takes to create a plan for my use. How long does it generally take an experienced individual to create a basic set of plans for say a 2500 square foot residence foundation to roof?

Scott: [00:07:57] Yeah. Well I usually start that answer with a question. And I’ll ask how many typical pages would you have in your plan set? I think once you understand what somebody would be expected to submit to the building department, maybe it’s 10 pages where you have your foundation, your framing plan, your site plan, I think that it’s a function of being able to go through our QuickStart videos, come up to speed. I typically would say that’s an eight-hour process. And then when you’re actually been able to produce the drawings and you take the design aspect out of it so you’ve already figured out what the material selections are and what the floor plan is going to be, I think you’re going to probably be with something where a typical user’s going to be able to do that about a day.

Morris: [00:08:50] And I know for a fact that you’re not exaggerating, and I know for a fact that some designs the more simpler designs can be done even more quickly. I just can’t believe how well organized the software is.

James: [00:09:05] So here’s what I want to know. Here’s what I want to know. So Morris is on the design end and I’m on the sales and with the client and it’s my job to paint a picture and overcome objections. So these days we’re not living in a 2D world. My wife simply as an example does not have the ability to interpret a 2D drawing. She can look at elevations and she doesn’t get it, but if you share a 3D rendering with her for some virtual reality she’s on board. So can you speak to that technology and how Chief Architect is making it easy for folks like the Carey Brothers, who are design-build contractors, to share that with their clients.

Scott: [00:09:58] Well I think your wife’s not alone. Most people can convert an elevation or floor plan into what is going to look like, and, if you’re in a position where you’re busy, and you want to make sure the clients onboard, the easiest way to do that is to be able to show it to them in 3D. And we can produce really nice 3D drawings that will allow you to see what the space is going to look like. But what we’ve allowed you to do is you can actually export that entire 3D model and then share it with the client on their phone or on a tablet, and they can virtually navigate through the model and be able to see what the new space is going to look like. And a lot of times that helps push the project along much faster and makes them feel comfortable about the fear and uncertainty about the remodeling aspect.

Morris: [00:10:55] I haven’t gotten quite this far yet Scott, but, I’m just wondering, I understand that Chief can create a video walkthrough that you don’t have to touch, you can create the walkthrough, and then show it as a video to the client. Is that true?

Scott: [00:11:13] Yeah that’s part of the whole virtual reality aspect of the program. You can create a 3D render, you can draw a walk-through path through the house. Maybe it winds through the kitchen up the stairs down the hallway, and you can record it. And like you said you share with them, put it on YouTube, put it on your web page. But you can also export that entire model where they can virtually navigate themselves through the model, however they like. And that includes being able to maybe go out on the job site turn on the background camera on your tablet and you can actually see exactly what you might see on the actual building site itself. It’s a pretty fantastic thing. There’s a physical walk button, so you could push the physical button; we call it augmented reality. And the client can actually walk through the model virtually as if it were already completed. It’s a pretty neat tool. We call it the 3-D viewer.

James: [00:12:15] I love that. Yeah, I love that it just keeps getting better and better now.

Morris: [00:12:19] What kind of computer is required to use Chief Architect and what does Chief Architect cost?

Scott: [00:12:26] So a lot of times you might think that it requires a fairly sophisticated computer and really any computer that you got in the last couple of years, most likely, will support it. We do recommend a little bit higher end video card on your computer and it’ll run either on the PC type computer or the Mac computer. It’s the same software and you can purchase Chief Architect, we have the full residential version, it’s called premiere. It sells for $2795. You can also rent that for a $199 a month if you choose to do it for a month. And then we have a version of everything inside the house we call it Chief Architect Interiors and that sells for $1995 dollars and you can also rent that for $199 a month. So, a couple of options for flexibility on how you’d like to use the software.

Morris: [00:13:26] I got to tell you that that price at $2700 is pittance for what you provide in the way of CAD. I have 28 years of experience as a CAD operator, and I was in prison for 27 of those 28 years.

James: [00:13:43] And I have 28 years of experience in being the brother of a CAD operator.

Morris: [00:13:51] And you know one of the things that I had to do on my old program was that if I made a correction to the plan, I had to go in and correct the elevations, and the sections and all the other components. The electrical plan, the plumbing plan, the heating plan, everything. What I’ve discovered and I’m not sure I don’t want to be talking out of turn, but it’s my understanding or at least my experience so far, that when I correct a mistake in either an elevation of section or the floor plan that that mistake is corrected on every other single view of the plan. Am I my talking out of turn or is that correct?

Scott: [00:14:35] Looks like you have it figured out Morris. What I typically always recommend for a designer is get a couple of monitors and then you, depending on what you’re doing, can design in your floor plan view and elevation view or in a 3-D perspective view, it’s the same model, so anything you’re doing in those different views will automatically update. So if you’re going to be pushing out a wall four feet it will automatically update. And as you mentioned earlier in the show, it will automatically calculate the material, so if you decide to bump out a wall another four feet, you can determine what additional materials are used with that type of a change.

Morris: [00:15:18] I got to tell you, that is such a time-saving feature. I just cannot believe I draw something in plain view. The element goes into the plan at a pre-determined height. I’m looking at the elevation. I say that’s too high for this particular project. I drag it down in the elevation and it’s actually dragged down in real time on the floor plan and the next time I look at the floorplan in 3-D, it’s a corrected component.

Scott: [00:15:52] Well you mentioned if you, let’s say you put a window in the wall, and you move it around, or moved it down as you mentioned.

Morris: [00:15:59] Yes.

Scott: [00:16:00] In the software we have a component with automatic framing. So you’re moving the window on the wall. Not only is it moving it around and adjusting the siding and the materials. It’s also adjusting the training component so the header and the studs that are supporting the window, they all move around with that edit that you’re making with the window.

Morris: [00:16:25] It’s just unbelievable. What do they call it Scott?

Scott: [00:16:29] Sometimes. Technically it’s referred to Building Information Modeling. It’s the concept of making sure that if you’re going to put in a wall cabinet it knows that there’s a wall there it will bumps and there is just intelligence in the model. I mentioned if you’re putting in a window or door, they’re moving it around the model, all the framing components are updating automatically for you. So if you’re going to do a framing plan or do a wall detail, it’s always up to date. You don’t have to worry about it being out of sync.

James: [00:17:01] OK Scott. So for someone who doesn’t have the experience that Morris does with your product, or with other products for that matter, they’re in the market for a CAD program. What sets your product apart from others?

Scott: [00:17:23] Good question.

James: [00:17:24] All my questions are goods. See. See I’m the better brother to you you commented regularly that after I’ve asked my question you say that’s a great question. I never hear you say that with Morris. So, I’m very pleased to have you as our guest on our CareyBrosPros.

Scott: [00:17:45] Well I’ve had the luxury of meeting Morris in person just not here. So obviously those are great questions.

James: [00:17:53] Great.

Scott: [00:17:54] So what makes a Chief Architect a good choice, and there are other choices out there, why would you choose Chief Architect? And I think it comes down to we focus on both residential projects. We’re not concerned about commercial projects, so all of our efforts go into developing tools that make residential design easy. Whether it’s figuring out what a site plan needs and the tools you need to generate a site plan to show maybe an added room and set backs on that site plan, we talked about the landscaping. We have 3500 plants in the library that you can accessorize the design. And then when it comes to actual construction techniques you’re doing your foundations, you’re doing your framing, you’re doing your roofs. We have automated tools that generate those elements which gives you a great start. If you’re doing a sophisticated house you can use the automatic tools to generate the majority of your design and then you have manual adjustments that you can make to make the customization that’s required for the client. And I think the final part is any time you get a software there is some learning involved. Like any new tool you may get and we at Chief Architects spend a lot of time on the learning resources. We have over 600 training videos, and they’re really a great way to learn, they’re step by step. So if you’re trying to do something that’s not obvious in the software you can open up the video and the step by step process is available to you. And then you can continue and finish up your drawing and that’s what we do a chief architect.

Morris: [00:19:46] And don’t forget Scott there’s a user blog. There are private tutors. There is. a manual, which is, I don’t know, something like 2000 pages. There is a tutorial guide there. There is technical support, which is, if you’ve got the Premier version, you can call technical support anytime day or night and bang you’re in. I just think you’ve been too modest about all the ways that Chief can be learned. And because I’m a newbie and a learner I’m taking advantage of all of them and I can’t believe the resources that are available for this particular software.

James: [00:20:29] Well I’m a fan of modesty Scott. So with that now we approach the portion of our CareyBrosPros podcast where we’d like to ask our guest to share three points for success with our pro audience. And now it’s your turn.

Scott: [00:20:46] And thanks for being so kind with me with a comment there Morris.

Morris: [00:20:50] My pleasure.

Scott: [00:20:52] I think if there were three takeaways that I’d offer to the listeners design software can really improve your productivity. If you look at being able to use a computer and if you made a change, and you bump a wall out, it will automatically update the framing, it will automatically move the foundation. We can automatically update the roof. If you’re busy with lots of work. You should take advantage of the software and all of the items that you need to produce your construction drawings so that you’re making the most of your time. Think the second point that I believe will greatly help you is your 3D views and a 3D model that you can share with your clients for help you maybe close the contract faster. It keeps you on the same page with the client, and I always like to make this comment, there are no surprises.

Morris: [00:21:50] Yeah.

Scott: [00:21:51] They know what materials are going to be on the cabinet. They know what the floorings going to look like, and if you get as sophisticated, you want to set the time of day the latitude and longitude you can actually see how the sunlight might come through the window. And again, no surprises for the client. And I guess, the last point is I know a lot of people may think that learning the software could seem overwhelming and we just talked about that Chief Architect. We put a lot of resources together. How-to articles with the videos the Webinar, actual training classes that Morris and Carol actually attended here in Coeur d’Alene a couple of months ago. We do those all over the country, and we have a very very active user base that has a user forum, and it’s a great resource because there’s a lot of local issues that are best answered by those people in those areas. And it’s a very active resource and a great benefit to any of the Chief Architect customers.

Morris: [00:23:00] I am just so impressed with this product. I just can’t tell you what a difference it’s made in my life, and I said to a very good friend of mine the other day, I wish I could live 20 years longer, so that I could spend enough time with this software to be a world-class user and teach others. But I’m too damn old.

James: [00:23:24] That that friend happened to be me.

Morris: [00:23:26] Oh I forgot was you. Yeah right.

James: [00:23:29] Well listen Scott. I’d like to thank you for taking time to join us on CareyBrosPros. Remember he is Scott Harris vice president of Chief Architect software and you may learn more about his product by visiting their web site. It is

Morris: [00:23:48] Yeah and remember you’ll find our guest information as well as additional podcasts, videos, and articles on our web site at

Magic Mike: [00:24:02] OK everybody loosen up those tool belts and relax. It’s time for a quick bro tip from the Cary Brothers.

James: [00:24:11] As a design build remodeling contractor the design end of our business is one of the most important aspects of what we do. Traditionally we use design as a loss leader. So for small projects we created design solution at no charge. For larger more complex projects, we asked the client to enter into a design retainer. The fee for which will range from about 5 to 7 percent of the client’s budget depending upon the scope of work and what we believe the project will cost. Under no circumstances will we create a design for a project either free or paid where the client’s budget is not in keeping with the client’s wish list. It’s simply a waste of everyone’s time and resources, and more often than not, will result in ill feelings. The free design is a selling tool that helps us convert good leads into solid sales. On the other hand, the paid design agreement, which consists of a more involved design process, provides the opportunity to demonstrate our value to the client and establish a good working relationship as we endeavor to create design solutions based on a clear scope of work along with a well-defined budget.

James: [00:25:33] When we began nearly 40 years ago we created designs on a drafting table with the mechanical ruler and a pencil. About 10 years later we ventured into computer assisted design, that’s CAD, and have never looked back. And, as is the case with other aspects of technology, CAD has only gotten better and gives the user tools to create a floor plan elevations and perspectives in a fraction of the time and with greater accuracy than ever before, and it’s only getting better. The latest and greatest in CAD is virtual reality and giving your clients the opportunity to walk through their project before a shovel of dirt is turned or the first nail is driven.

James: [00:26:26] What does all this mean?

James: [00:26:28] Well, in simple terms, it all boils down to communication and managing expectations. The better job that we do as pros to communicate details with our clients, crew, and subs, the better chance we have of making our customers happy and maintaining a solid bottom line. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

James: [00:26:52] The plans are the universal communication tool that all parties rely upon on a project, and the more detail the better! The client will be clear about what they’re getting, subs will know what’s expected of them, and your crew will spend valuable time and money constantly asking questions. Remember it’s always easier or less disruptive and less expensive to move a wall on paper or digitally than it is to pull out a hammer and a pry bar. So regardless as to whether you perform design in-house or build to someone else’s plans, good design can help close jobs, improve communication, earn happier customers, and preserve your bottom line. What could be better?

Magic Mike: [00:27:48] Well that’s our podcast for today. Thanks for listening to this edition of CareyBrosPros: the podcast for construction professionals by construction professionals. Want more? Check out You’ll find articles and videos to help make your business a success!

About The Author James Carey

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