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Design process

We start with pre-design, often referred to as the programming phase, which kicks off the architectural design process.

01.
Pre-Design
02.
Schematic Design (SD)
03.
Design Development (DD)
04.
Construction Documents
05.
Building Permits
06.
Bidding and Negotiation
07.
Construction Administration
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Our scope of work

Architectural Design Process

What makes construction project management exceedingly difficult is the coordination necessary to connect the involved parties. Think about it; there are architects making the drawings, contractors executing blueprints and engineers making sure that the numerous systems involved have structural integrity. That doesn’t include the other teams working on-site as well as the suppliers, vendors and more.

The architectural design process is how these different parties work together, but for that to happen, there needs to be a process. The architectural design process is made up of seven phases: pre-design, schematic design, design development, construction documents, building permits, bidding and negotiation and construction administration. These phases put realistic project deliverables and deadlines in place.

Pre-Design

We start with pre-design, often referred to as the programming phase, which kicks off the architectural design process. At this stage, the architect works with the client to understand the plot of land on which the project will take place. They’ll also discuss if there are other structures already on the site and what the client wants for the building they’re commissioning. This means the architect needs to conduct research and collect information. Some things they must know are local zoning and land-use restrictions, project scope, client desires, scale, surrounding buildings, neighborhood, site conditions, building codes and more. After this, they will brainstorm, sketch and model various design ideas.

Schematic Design (SD)

Now you want to develop the designs and present them to the client. This means developing a design proposal. Architects will create site plans, floor plans and building elevations. Also necessary are structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. At this point, you’ll want to show your ideas to others and get their feedback. Architects meet regularly with their clients to show them the drawings of different variations to help everyone decide on which design is best. Disagreements are reduced if the architect takes the client’s needs into account when designing. After the meetings with the client, the architect analyzes the feedback and makes changes. It’s always good to make changes at this phase in the design process to avoid adding costs and potentially delaying the construction schedule if done at a later date. This process of meeting and revising will continue until the design is agreed upon by all parties.

Design Development (DD)

Now that the client is happy with the design, it’s time to create a more detailed plan. Those details include the placement of doors and windows and any adjustments to the building form. At this stage, a structural engineer will join the design team to help come up with more accurate estimates for the project. The exterior and interior finishes are then presented to the client and materials, fixtures and other finishes are discussed. There will be a back and forth with the client often determined by costs, which will lead to both sides having to compromise. However, at the end of this stage, the building’s exterior, layout and dimensions are finalized and most of the materials have been chosen. There might still be some minor changes to the building design.

Construction Documents (CD)

Here’s where the design services move into working construction drawings. Of all the phases, this one tends to take the most time. It’s important that architects make sure their designs are well-planned for execution. The construction project documents also must be approved. It’s possible that an in-house construction contractor will join the development team during this phase of the architectural design process. At this point, the required drawings for the permit set and the construction set are needed. The building permit set is delivered to the permitting authority and can take a long time to approve, so it’s advisable to get this done first. The construction set has the details and dimensions of the design for the builder to use throughout the process.

Building Permits

The city or county will review the building permit set and check if it’s structurally sound and follows local zoning laws and building codes. This process is imperative to avoid dangerous mistakes for which the architects, builders and property owners can be liable. It’s also illegal to commence construction without first securing permits for the job. The time to pull permits for the construction project can vary. Smaller construction projects might only take a couple of days, especially if they’re simpler. But larger, more complex or historical construction projects can take substantially longer, taking months versus days.

Bidding and Negotiation

This phase refers only to architectural firms that aren’t building the project themselves. The bidding process is when architects contract with a construction company that will do the actual construction. The process is expedited if permits have already been pulled. The architect will advise the client when bids come in to find the best fit for the project, including qualifications and costs. This can be done through negotiated bids where builders go through construction documents and review materials and schedules. Keep in mind that sometimes the client already has a construction company in mind for the project. A competitive bid process is when the architect looks over the local construction companies and their past projects. Then, the bidding process starts and construction companies will compete for the job, a process that usually takes three weeks. Quality, cost and experience are considered when choosing the winning bid. In both bidding cases, the winning construction company will contract with the client, not the architect.

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