Design Process

Here is a guide to the Architectural Process that we utilize. This is certainly not the only way, as there are multiple ways to approach a design.
Once you have selected your architect (Step 1), design starts:

Step 2: Information Gathering + Documentation
Your goals, needs and requirements are discussed. The architect visits the site, reviews the existing conditions. At this time, the architect will request the owner get a site survey to document anything that is existing on the property (water, sewer, electrical, and topography, ect.). The architects gather information from state and city agencies regarding specific land use and building code requirements as well as pre-submittal and pre-permit procedures. The architects also create a work plan to outline what will be done and by when.

Step 3: Schematic Design and Feasibility
The architect will then generate 2-3 preliminary designs incorporating the information from step two. At this stage the architects are also bringing design concepts to the table. For instance you may or may not have thought of a specific site feature that could be enhanced with the new architecture or opportunities within the project not previously discussed. The architects explore the sequence of how you approach the project and move within the project. How the project is experienced is a focus of this stage. The general locations of the functions within the project are considered and graphically represented in diagram form. The graphics, illustrations and sketches are just diagrams at this stage – it’s not architecture yet. Features like windows may be added schematically or not at all. Simple plans and elevations are produced to represent relationships among spaces and the basic envelope shape (think about it like carving a simple model out of a block of clay). Material options start to become part of the discussion and a target budget is established/confirmed with the owner for the overall project. There are typically 2-4 meetings involved with this step. The client makes decisions with help from the architects regarding the various schematic options. An overall design strategy is chosen.

4: Design Development + Permit Documents
As decisions continue to be made, the architects develop the schematic drawings into permit documents. The graphics evolve from diagrams to actual architecture at this step. The drawings are refined in regards to details and methods. Materials are decided on and the architects figure out how everything fits together (how does the floor meet the wall: base trim, flush trim, no trim). Window openings are further defined with mullions and opening locations. Information from other consultants, like the structural, mechanical, and electrical engineers are developed and coordinated with the design drawings. Specifications for materials, fixtures/ appliances, assembly details, and relevant code information are incorporated into the project. Recommendations from trades, suppliers, and manufacturers are added to the drawing set. The client continues to make decisions at a more specific level of detail (four or six burner gas range, which direction do the windows open?)

Step 5: Construction Documents + Permit Acquisition
A set of permit drawings is a simplified construction set. The permit documents are used to submit, coordinate, and obtain the building permit from the city or county. The city/county doesn’t typically care to review each and every detail of a home – they just want to make sure you’re meeting state, city and local codes. It is typically an effective use of time to turn in a permit set early, covering the requirements, to get the ball rolling with the city while the architects continue to work on a more thorough drawing set required for construction. The drawings continue to develop down to the very last details (how the handrail bracket connects to the wall, how the tile floor in the shower is sloped to drain…)

Step 6: Selection of a General Contractor
General contractors are interviewed and a good fit is established. Sometimes a client just knows who they want to partner with (based on a raving recommendation or a specific building philosophy, etc.) and they skip the interview step.

Step 7: Construction Administration
The documents and drawings for the project are now complete and construction begins. Typically with a project of any complexity the architect is retained to answer questions, deal with clarifications and administer revisions if necessary. The architect also protects the interests of the homeowner and the integrity of the design. The architect reviews the invoices, overall costs and scheduling. There is also the option for the client to go the design-build route – but that’s another topic…