The Design Process
On a full service project, your architect will lead the design process from initial concepts through completion of the construction. Architects lead the team through design and documentation, then typically take a supporting role as owner’s advocate during construction.
Architectural services are typically broken into five phases of work: predesign, schematic design, permit drawings, construction documents, and construction phase services.
In Predesign we clarify the project’s requirements and parameters. We write a program, research code and land use issues, define the allowable building envelope and document your site and the structures on the site. The goal of Predesign is to clearly define the project’s scope, practical realities of time and cost; and any limiting factors such as development constraints or site issues.
Schematic DesignSchematic Design documents
In Schematic Design we define the layout, form and scope of your project. We will discuss materials and details; test plan, section, and elevation options; and consider design concepts and overall experiential ideas with you. This is the time to bring out the images you’ve been collecting, to go out walking and shopping, and to talk about the big ideas. The goal of Schematic Design is to craft a vision that we are all behind developing.
Schematic Design ends with an agreed-upon set of sketched or drafted design drawings. The schematic set is not a finished design, but a clearly documented set of ideas that we all wish to develop. It is very wise to interview contractors at the end of schematic design, both to get on someone’s schedule for construction a few months down the road, and to get feedback from the builders on budget and constructability.
Design development is one of those phases when we tend to go quiet. We haven’t stopped working by any means; rather we have our heads down drawing and may not come up to talk much for a few weeks. In Design Development we do detailed design and permit drawings based on the completed Schematic Design. Oftentimes, at the end of Design Development, the drawings will go to the building department for permitting. Since building departments are most interested in structure and life safety, we can prioritize those items early and save finish details to do while the building department is completing its review of the plans. Architects also generally are the ones to submit the plans to the building department having jurisdiction over the project. This can be done by owners or contractors as well - it’s something to clarify early in the process.
Construction DocumentsConstruction documents
Also known as working drawings, construction documents are the drawings, specifications, and other instruments of service that your architect will produce to see the project through construction. During the construction documents phase, we finalize the details that make the project come to life. Finish detail design and final color and material selections are refined as the documents are developed. If a contractor is not already involved in the project, your architect may assist you in the selection of a contractor during this phase, or if you prefer, the project can be sent out for bids/ tender when the Construction Documents are complete. At PLACE, we highly recommend negotiating with a contractor selected on merit, early in the process.
During construction, the owner - architect relationship that had sustained design becomes a triangle, including the contractor. Your architect is there to ensure that the project is built according to the plans, to advocate for you, to help with possible changes and unforeseen conditions, and to coordinate the work of consulting engineers who may be involved in the project. Many projects benefit from weekly or semi-weekly standing construction meetings on site. These can be efficient forums for questions and answers, as well as changes arising from discoveries made during construction itself. (A classic example is changing window locations after a wall’s opened up, revealing a view no one ever knew was there.) Also during construction, your architect will check material submittals, provide supplemental information in response to questions or changes, facilitate communication where that’s needed, and help to keep the process moving smoothly.
If all goes well, the final walkthrough should be a bit of a celebration. After all, any project — no matter how small — is a major undertaking involving hours of hard work by many, many people. Completion is an achievement to recognize!