The Process of Design and Construction

The creative process is anything but straightforward and neatly organized - have you seen how many drawings are on our desks? Thankfully, the architecture industry has standardized a framework which clearly defines the stages of design, beginning with pre-design, schematic design, followed by design development, construction documents, and construction administration.

These stages guide the architect through the broadest parameters of the project first, before delving into the specific detailing and coordination necessary for construction. Although the early planning stages may seem like we are painting with a very large brush, we believe a truly successful piece of architecture is one in which time and energy is put into the large, and perhaps conceptual ideas, because these ideas will serve as the foundation for the refined end product.


PRE-DESIGN Involves gathering the background information necessary to establish the allowable guidelines for the project.

Initial client interview - The architect will meet with you to discuss project goals, review sketches and ideas you may have for your home. The interview usually takes place at the project site so the architect can walk through your existing home, or view the new property, to advise on potential design, structural or legal issues (if any).

Field measurements - The architect will study the site survey, which is provided by the client. The architect will also take measurements and photographs to document the existing conditions of the interior and exterior of the house. This critical process ensures that any new work will be designed using accurate base files.

Zoning analysis - The town's zoning ordinance sets the parameters of what can be legally build on your site. This includes total square footage of your home, the building height, its proximity to the property lines, etc. The architect will conduct a thorough analysis of all local zoning laws to determine the design parameters of the project, and advise the client on what course of action should be taken.

Programming - The client and architect will discuss the overall project objectives and goals. The architect will then formulate the project requirements and evaluate potential tradeoffs or alternates.

Budget and time schedule - Working off of the client's budget and time schedule, the architect can provide a preliminary construction cost estimate and a time table for each milestone of the design process.

Deliverables - At the end of pre-design, the architect provides: sketches, as-built drawings, zoning analysis tables, itemized budget and rough schedule for the project.

SCHEMATIC DESIGN Establishes the overriding design approach for the project.

Proposed options - The architect provides several options based on the information gathered in the pre-design process. Different ideas will shift the organization of the programmatic elements, leading to different possible building forms, sizes and layouts. Proposing a few design schemes allows the client to see the different ways their goals may be met. Often times, the preferred scheme blends aspects from several options. This preference is discovered only through dialogue with the client, as the architect continually tweaks the options in response to client feedback.

Deliverables - The architect provides plans , elevations, and 3d models to explain any proposed option

Gathering a design team - At the end of the schematic design the architect will alert the client of other professionals required for the project, such as a structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing or civil engineer. The architect will share the design with the client's consultants and oversee the coordination among the team members.

DESIGN DEVELOPMENT The architect begins to zoom in to the design, taking a closer look at the details.

Exterior Composition - The architect will enhance the home's "curb appeal" by studying the balance and proportion of windows to wall surface on the facade. Keeping in mind context in which the project will be situated, the architect studies roof slopes, locations of eaves or decorative trim, and options for exterior cladding materials to suite the client's taste.

Electrical and Lighting - The architect will provide an electrical and lighting layout to indicate the location of light fixtures, outlets, smoke detectors, thermostats, etc.

Millwork - The architect will design or locate built-in furniture, such as a display pantry, book shelves or wet bar.

Material selection - The architect will consult with the client for preferred appliances, flooring selection, tile selections, fixtures, etc. The architect will provide samples of interior and exterior finish materials for the client's review.

Deliverables - This phase will include a formal set of design drawings for the client's final approval

CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENTS Once the design has been determined, the architect will produce technical drawings for the construction and bidding of the project.

Sizes and Details - The architect will call out, or specify, each element of the project, dimension the drawings, and provide structural information, as required.

Energy calculations - The architect will complete an energy analysis of the property to determine the amount of insulation required on exterior walls, the required shading coefficients, and type of glazing, etc.

Code Analysis - The architect will determine if any walls or assemblies must be fire-rated, etc.

Specifications - The architect will provide detailed written requirements for materials, equipment, systems, standards and workmanship for the work, and performance of related services, according to AIA Document A201-2007, the General Conditions of the Contract for Construction.

Coordination - The architect will review each trade's design drawings to ensure that each element's or system's requirements have been thoroughly tracked and acknowledged by each impacted trade.

Deliverables - The architect will provide a full set of construction drawings and specification for the construction and bidding of the project.

BIDDING AND NEGOTIATION The completed construction document deliverables become part of your contract with the contractor, as the drawings specifically outline and detail the scope of work. When collecting prices from several contractors, each contractor will base his/her bids on the same exact documents, allowing their prices to be fairly compared.

Clarifying design intent - The architect will answer the contractors' questions regarding the design intent in the drawings, to ensure accurate pricing.

Contractor selection - The architect will aid the client in selecting a contractor by review his/her qualifications, references and past built work.

Proposal Review - The architect will review the contractors' cost estimates and proposed construction schedules. The architect will also advise the client to review each contractor's license and insurance. At the completion of this review, the architect will offer his/her opinion on which contractor may be best suited for the project.

CONSTRUCTION ADMINISTRATION The architect ensures the project is being built according to the construction documents.

Design Intent Clarification - Questions always arise during construction, and the architect will answer both the contractor's and the building department's inquiries. Sometimes, this may require a simple verbal clarification. Other times, the architect will provide additional drawings to resolve any unforeseen conditions, namely things that were not visible during field measurements and observations.

Shop drawings - The contractor must submit manufacturer's drawings and physical samples for the architect's review. An architect will approve the product or system only if it meets the specifications included in the construction documents.

Site visits - The architect will frequent the site to ensure the drawings are being followed. The architect will issue field reports to document what has been accomplished since the last visit.

Releasing payment - The architect can advise payment to be released based on the completion of construction milestones.