Work on a project typically involves six phases:

1. Pre-Design: deciding the program and budget

2. Schematic Design: forming the initial design solution

3. Design Development: developing and refining the design solution

4. Construction Documents: drawings and specifications

5. Bidding: selecting the contractor

6. Construction Administration: building the project

1. Pre-Design

During our initial discussion, we’ll invite you to share your vision of your project. We will listen to key items such as program, budget and schedule, to understand the parts of the puzzle we need to figure out.

Program: A set of parameters can inspire the best in creative design solutions. You will likely have given thought to your program requirements – your wish list of wants and needs – before contacting us. Your program is the ‘problem’ for which we will work with you to develop a ‘solution’.  

Budget: We can help you determine your construction budget, based on project size, quality and other criteria, at the start of the project. Three main, quantity, quality and cost are considered in developing a construction budget. Only two of the three need defining in order to complete the equation. For example, the square-footage of the desired space and quality of desired finishes will enable you to estimate a construction cost (quantity x quality = cost).  If the budget is limited, an ideal project may be scaled down in size while maintaining high quality finishes, or the original size might remain with cost as the dominant factor in selecting finishes.

Schedule: It is important to relay expectations for scheduling to allow time to properly design and build your project. Project timing can vary depending on the scope and scale of the project. Some projects can be turned around within a matter of weeks. Others, of greater scope and complexity, may take months for the completion of design and construction documents. Fast tracking the design process can be discussed and advice will be provided regarding the time required for construction.

2. Schematic Design

After achieving an understanding of the program, budget and schedule, we are ready to formulate the initial design solution. This is perhaps the most exhilarating time in a client-architect relationship.

A conceptual design establishes the scale and relationship of components of the design solution (i.e. arrangement of rooms, offices or production areas), and organization of the site. Engaging clients in the development of a design solution can be as informal as an initial sketch on tracing paper over the plans of an existing building, or a series of computer rendered floor plans. Drawings may include a preliminary site plan, building plans, sections and elevations, study models or perspectives (i.e. 3D models, renderings, animations) to visually walk you through the space.

It’s good to remain flexible about achieving the design solution, as it’s sometimes arrived at through a process of sketching, discussions and revisions that can take time to give form to your ideas. Acceptance of a final version of the schematic design and corresponding estimate of the cost of work signifies the conclusion of this phase.

3. Design Development

During the Design Development Phase, we work together to further refine the size and character of the project. Building materials, structural, mechanical and electrical systems and all other elements incorporated into the construction of the project are identified. This phase requires the most client participation as choices are considered.

This work, based on the drawings approved in the Schematic Design Phase, can accommodate adjustments to the project requirements, schedule and budget. However, detailed drawings and preliminary specifications will begin to be prepared that will become the final construction documents and form the basis of the contract with a builder for the construction of the project.

The documents clearly illustrate and describe the design as well as define the scope, relationships, forms, size and appearance of the project by means of plans, sections, elevations, construction details and equipment layouts. The specifications also establish the quality level for major materials and systems. Decisions are required as to ceiling, wall and floor finishes, lighting, fixtures and hardware. Advice will be provided to the client on decisions regarding major building components like roofing material and styles of windows and doors. The client’s ability to consider all of the choices and make timely selections is important.

At the completion of the Design Development phase, a refined set of drawings is realized that provides a clear representation of the design in detail, as well as specifications identifying all major materials and finishes. Based on client approval of the drawings, construction documents will be prepared.

4. Construction Documents

By the Construction Documents phase, the client’s work in helping to conceive and develop the design is largely complete. Detailed drawings and specifications are prepared that can be used by the contractor to determine actual construction costs, obtain permits and build the project.

Construction documents are detailed depictions of the design development drawings but bear little resemblance to the straightforward representations depicted in earlier Schematic Design drawings. Construction drawings can appear visually cluttered with dimensions, notations, schedules and graphic symbols, each conveying specific information to the builder in a shorthand, mostly unintelligible to those outside the construction industry. Construction documents are in effect the detailed assembly instructions for custom-designed building or renovation.

Any changes requested from the Design Development phase such as relocating a door or outlet should be represented in the final construction drawings. As the author of the design and assembly instructions, the architect serves as an important interpreter during construction. It is unlikely that any set of drawings and specifications will account for every contingency – particularly for projects that involve alterations to existing structures where previously unseen conditions may require modifications during construction – and it is important to retain architectural services through the entire construction process.

The completed construction documents will be used by the contractor to establish a final cost for the building and as the basis for agreement to construct the project.

5. Bidding

The architect can assist the owner in obtaining either competitive bids or negotiated proposals from contractors and help the client identify the most appropriate contractor for the project. The fit between the Owner and Contractor important. Various types of construction options are available. If a contractor has not been identified during the design phases, assistance can be provided to help identify a qualified and competitive contractor according to the nature and scale of the project.

6. Construction Administration

However you may select a contractor i.e. by way of negotiation or competitive bidding, we can assist in awarding the contract to the builder and in preparing the construction contract.

Standard owner-contractor agreements incorporate a set of general conditions, and may also run the gamut from practical requirements of a sight office to details about contractor payment processes. Conditions have evolved to account for contingencies inherent in even the largest construction projects. An agreement form, and general conditions appropriate to the scope and scale of your project, may be selected by the architect.

Basic services of typical owner-architect agreements call for the architect to represent the client, when with the contractor, during construction. Site visits during construction to observe the progress and overall quality of the work at appropriate intervals, will be agreed to within the contract. Depending on the scope and detail of the project, arrangements may be made to have weekly or biweekly meetings with the contractor at the job site to review the progress and quality of the work.

Prior to the Construction Phase, the project exists as an abstract visualization in the client’s eye. The best drawings, renderings, models or computer animations cannot prepare one for seeing the project transform through its various three-dimensional stages. From the initial layout lines on the ground to the completion of rough framing, closing in the building envelope and addition of walls, the project might alternately seem too large or too small, depending on when it’s observed. Be assured, the project will eventually assume the form it was originally conceived.