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How to Design the Perfect Beach Home: An Interview Ed Rowley of Rowley & Associates, Inc.

By Ed Rowley

Tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

I am an architect in private practice offering commercial and custom residential design and contract administration. I have one draftsman, Randy, who has been with me over ten years. We do new projects, additions & renovations, as well as historic restoration and reconstruction. I am also an architectural illustrator. I have a degree in architecture from Georgia Tech. I have been licensed since 1983, and have been practicing on Saint Simons Island since 1984.

What are some of the biggest decisions that a homeowner will need to make about the design of a new waterfront or beach home?

Construction of homes on the beach in Georgia come under the jurisdiction of FEMA & Georgia DNR, in addition to local planning & zoning requirements, as well building departments, health agencies and the like. The Shoreline Protection Act will limit the area on which you can build, depending on pre-existing vegetation location, types, and sizes. FEMA requirements for building in a V-Zone, which is land where wave action is expected during hurricanes, requires breakaway walls and pile type foundations in many cases. Pile type foundations require geotechnical investigations by professional engineers. Salt water spray turns certain metal into scrap quickly, so more expense copper and stainless steel are required than galvanized steel for flashing and structural components. Exterior HVAC equipment has a much lower service life when exposed to salt spray, so maintenance costs are higher. All of these factors affect the cost of construction.

Can you briefly explain what an architect likes to know about the future homeowners to create the perfect house for them?

I have a list of questions I go through with clients during our first meeting. It covers big items like size, style, budget costs, construction time frame, bidding vs negotiated contracts with general contractors, and the like, down to and including little things like types of appliances. The more the architect knows when the design is started, the better.

What are some of the misconceptions you've come across about beach homes?

Very few of our clients ever considered the need for geotechnical investigations before they purchase the land. Some clients are shocked to learn that a good portion of the land they bought is not "build-able" due to Shoreline Protection Act requirements. Due diligence is critical before the land is purchased.

What are a few of the most in-demand features for waterfront homes?

Ocean views from as many areas of the home as possible, a pool, an elevator, energy efficiency, low maintenance exteriors, durable flooring (not carpet), because of all the sand.

What advice would you give a client who wants a beach home that combines progressive design and comfort?

Hire an architect that has experience with beachfront homes and has designed homes in the style you want, and keeping in mind he latest technology for energy efficient design and operation.

What's the best way for people to get in contact with you and your company?

I have a website, with contact info and a photo gallery, and a profile on, or they can call or stop by our office at 3600 Frederica Road.

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Phone: 912-638-7177

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