Sometimes the hardest part of a new building project is just figuring out what you want to do in the first place; that’s where Joe Vos, Jed Lutgen of Northland Lumber and Supply — Design Center come in.

Sometimes the hardest part of a new building project is just figuring out what you want to do in the first place.

Whether it’s remodeling your bathroom, enlarging your garage, or building a whole new business office on a vacant lot, nailing down what you want to do is the most important first step.

That’s where Joe Vos, Jed Lutgen of Northland Lumber and Supply — Design Center come in.

Standing in front of his new Redwood Falls office this week, Vos said, “Renderings are helpful for people who have a hard time visualizing projects.

“We can provide them with images like a video game, to help them ‘walk through’ the project before it’s built.”

Vos’ background is in custom residential homebuilding. He began his career in the St. Cloud area as a residential contractor, specializing in drafting, blueprints, and construction management.

“When I started out, the firm I was with did lots of historic renovations,” said Vos. “That construction knowledge in older techniques was very helpful.

“When we’re doing an addition to a home or business now, we have to take into account those older construction techniques and accommodate for them.”

As a self-employed contractor since 2003. Lutgen learned the value of good planning early.

“The construction field is always evolving with new techniques,” he said. “Inspectors want to see what you’re doing, and just giving them a descriptive paragraph doesn’t do it.

“A good set of plans — I can’t stress the word ‘good’ enough,” said Lutgen. “There are so many parts and pieces going into a construction project, if the planning is done well the contractor will know it right away. A good plan is the fastest and most efficient way to get started.”

Vos said, “We’re creating an instruction manual for how to do the project.”

Vos and Lutgen teamed up to open Northland Lumber and Supply in Fairfax in 2014. The design side of the business quickly took up so much of their time they decided to expand it to its own headquarters.

The lumber and supply side of the business will continue to be based in Fairfax, while the drafting, blueprints, and architectural services will be based in the Redwood Falls office.

“We decided to locate the design center in Redwood Falls because the need for it is extreme here,” said Vos. “This is a growing community, and we think there will be the demand once people figure out what we can do for them.”

Because they are equipped to handle both design and supplies, Vos and Lugten can act as middle-men between clients, engineers, and building inspectors.

“Our initial business is, we’re a lumberyard. From there we can work with contractors, all reputable licenced people in the area,” said Vos, who pointed out Northland doesn’t do the construction itself.

“If you need a new roof, we can deliver the shingles to your site, and suggest two or three firms who could install them for you.”

Part of doing architectural design is being aware of different towns’ building codes and ordinances.

For example, say a client wants to build a 12 x 12 foot shed in his back yard.

Vos can quickly call up a satellite photo from the Internet, sketch out a site plan with the proposed shed included, then email it to the town’s building inspector to see if there are any building codes that apply.

Vos said that while a good design does come with some costs and fees upfront, it can end up saving thousands of dollars later on.

“It’s a lot cheaper and easier to rip up a piece of paper and try again than to rip up the actual walls and floors,” he said.

Lutgen said, “A good designer will save you time and money — period.”