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Functional, Artistic,


Architectural Services




J. William Waddell - NC Board of Architecture License 4584



1981 Bachelor of Environmental Design, NCSU


1983 Bachelor of Architecture, NCSU


1985 Licensed to practice architecture in North Carolina


1990 Formed Sun Forest Architecture, PA


2001 Formed Distinctive Architecture, PLLC 


Bill W 02-s.jpg

Bill began his internship in Raleigh working with Michael Hager. From there he was mentored by Arthur Cogswell and Werner Hausler. During this time he was afforded the opportunity to design the final Bolin Creek office building on Martin Luther King Jr. Road (historic Airport Road) in Chapel Hill, along with the addition and renovations undertaken on the Employment Security Commission campus in Raleigh. Bill then formed Sun Forest Architecture, PA so as to work closely with Sun Forest Systems, Inc. (formed by a fellow School of Design graduate). Together, these two companies provided a one-point source of residential design and construction services. During a decade of work, Sun Forest designed and built a body of projects in the Durham and Chapel Hill communities that are typified by open, flowing spaces, large expanses of glass and a strong connection to the landscape. Distinctive Architecture, PLLC was created to carry forward and expand upon this history, providing cost-effective architectural services for residential projects of all size and scope.

Some Things Learned in 30+ Years of Practice

Even though a great many people in the Research Triangle region would like an architect’s involvement during the design of their new home or remodel, the time, effort and cost required to achieve this through traditional architectural practice techniques are daunting and off-putting.

Except in unusual circumstances, the cost of building a custom home is above “market value” in comparison to the cost of similar-sized homes in speculative neighborhood developments. To counteract this requires the use of materials, details and methods replicated through the low-cost labor practices employed in the construction of speculative neighborhood developments.

The pervasive market approach to establishing what homes are worth has created a default type of economic segregation. Neighborhoods built since World War II are assumed by banks and appraisers to have roughly the same value across most of their homes.

Improving the quality of a home’s detailing, materials, fixtures, finishes, fittings appliances, etc. will increase its marketability (the desire by others to own it), but not its market value (what an appraiser says it is worth and what a bank is willing to loan to facilitate its purchase).

Assuming a home is in reasonable shape and has a serviceable kitchen and baths, the primary thing that meaningfully increases its market value is to increase the amount of its conditioned living space.

As architects, we sometimes lament that our wonderful design ideas are diminished or even ruined by clients and builders. Ultimately, this is an attempt at placing responsibility for the success of the design on someone other than ourselves. It can also be an indication that we have been designing for ourselves rather than for the client.

An architect’s client has both a stated set of requirements and an implied set of requirements. The implied requirements are most often very difficult for the client to put into words, but are nonetheless essential to understand in order to provide a successful design solution. It takes probing questions, careful listening and an effective means of communicating what has been heard before an architect is likely to discover and articulate these requirements on the client’s behalf.

A builder who, along with their preferred subcontractors and trades people, knows how to interpret construction documents and implement a home designed for a specific site and client is a true craftsman. These skills and professionalism merit a greater level of compensation than is typical for building speculative residential homes.

Matching a custom home design to a contractor with a successful track record building similar projects is more likely to result in a successful construction project than is trying to find a builder who will commit to construct the design within the desired budget.


When working with residential clients, it is generally best to present only one design for consideration - focusing first on the floor plan to ensure the functional and plan relationship requirements are met before exciting them with the beauty of the exterior.

The more widely traveled and well-read a person, the more likely they are to be dissatisfied with the offerings within typical speculative neighborhoods.


A well-trained architect with a gift for design can create a wonderful building of any type, but specializing in one or two types greatly increases the efficiency with which the process can proceed successfully.

If a design meets the client’s requirements and does not require unusual amounts of maintenance, then it is a good building…whether anyone but the client likes it or not. If those elements are achieved and a good many other people find the building to be enjoyable, then it is a really good building. If, in general, the building is well-liked by most people who experience it, then it is a GREAT building.

There is as much art to organizing, marketing and running an architecture firm as there is in designing a GREAT building.

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