The process of designing a home or project can be broken down into phases each of which are equally important and help streamline the project as a whole. Each phase focuses on a different aspect of the project. These phases may overlap or be combined depending on the type of project. Understanding each phase is necessary in order to grasp the entire architectural design process.
The first phase, Programming, is a pre-design meeting with the client where we explore basic design concepts based on the client’s needs, lifestyle, and budget.
Most of this process requires us to listen and understand what the client’s project goal is. We then ask questions and explore possible ideas based on the information we gather. It is very important to understand the client’s ideas and taste. This can be done by providing us with pictures, clippings from magazines or books, or a list of wants and needs. We provide a questionnaire that covers some general design criteria. Some questions may seem obvious while others you may not have thought of. The goal isn’t only to list ideas or features that are appealing, but to understand why they were chosen and how they best suit your needs. Each project is clearly different. One client may require a formal dining room while the other may not, especially if the space is used infrequently. That extra space and money may be used elsewhere or saved altogether. Do you have a family pet? Often times small details like providing a permanent built-in cabinet in the laundry or mud room for an animal bed and food area can be overlooked. How many times have you kicked the water dish or tripped over the dog bed in the kitchen? Providing a description of your family’s daily habits can better help us give you an efficient and well thought out design. You might enjoy walking through your existing home noting your likes and dislikes, which areas you use frequently and which areas you use infrequently. The more you can tell us about what you would like and need, the better we can come to providing you with the home of your dreams. That information does not take a significant amount of time and the more there is, the more likely that your new home will live up to, or better yet, exceed your expectations.
There are other tasks that need to be addressed before the start of design. Providing us with a site survey is very important. If you’re building a new home, we can use this to establish the best possible position on the site for the home to be built taking into account many criteria including sun location, views, and access. If you’re planning on an addition, it’s important to clearly document and measure the existing house. Using the survey we’ll be able to determine locations to setbacks which may restrict the design considerably. Occasionally an owner’s idea of where they are located and actual position are different. Understanding this at the beginning will ensure no hidden surprises down the design process. Our job is not limited to design… if you’re searching for a suitable property to build on, we can be help in performing a site analysis to determine which would be most beneficial. You may find a less expensive lot accomplishes as much or more than a higher costing site. We can help you throughout this process by listening to your needs and offering solutions you may not have though of. Our goal is to create a home that you are proud of and enjoy living in.
The schematic design sketches will convey the overall design by illustrating the layout of spaces and placement on site.
Once we have decided what to build, we present the ideas in the form of sketches, drawings and three dimensional models, if required. A basic exterior elevation is shown to grasp proportions of elements, slope of roofs, approximate location of doors and windows. These drawings may be used to calculate square footage and to obtain preliminary cost figures. These estimates are very general at this stage and in no way contain enough information or detail that is required for determining actual costs of construction.
There are still many details and solutions to be established about your project. Some conditions that will affect cost are market conditions, availability of materials, regional costs, and other unforeseen circumstances that can arise during the entire design process.
For example, if you own a home in one area of the country and are building in another, costs can change dramatically based on region. For instance, stucco in California is considered a low cost material where as in the Northwest, stucco is much more expensive. Material and labor costs go up dramatically. Comparing a home you had built in one region to a home you’re having built in another is not a practical thought process because costs can vary widely.
Before moving on to the next phase, it is vital that the entire team agree on the essence of what the project will be and the design direction. Making changes later on in the design process will be much more difficult than it is now. For instance, if you determine at the beginning stage that you’d like your home to be LEED certified or have LEED characteristics, making that decision now will be much easier to integrate those ideas into the project at this stage and in fact making that decision later could increase the cost of the project altogether. Plan changes later on can have a negative cost effect in the amount of hourly changes made to plans or in worse case scenarios, foundations have been poured.
At this stage we refine the design.
This can be based on a previous schematic design or an integration of schematic ideas. Detailed floor plans, elevations, and sections are used to illustrate all aspects of the design. Exterior materials, finishes, lighting, window types, door types, etc. need to be decided. Many decisions may impact other deciding factors. As the project proceeds, changes to these decisions due to unforeseen circumstances or not will have a ripple down effect, requiring changes or adjustments elsewhere. Once the integrated team approves these drawings, we move on to the next phase.
Drawings are generated that best illustrate floor plans, sections, building components, structural notes, door and window schedules, architectural details, etc. These are compiled into a plan set.
The plan set illustrates the scope of work required to build the project. Specifications may be used which offer a comprehensive written documentation outlining the level of quality in workmanship and materials. These documents will be used by the contractor to establish actual construction costs and subsequently to build the project. Having a detailed and complete document set will help eliminate questions, problems, and delays during the construction period. The more detailed the construction documents are will also help acquire more accurate bid prices.
Our preferred method is design through an integrated project team from the initial programming phase. The owner, architect, and contractor work together commencing at the early design phase and continuing through occupancy. This creates a highly effective collaboration that utilizes the talents and insights of all participants to optimize efficiency and results. When the construction documents have been completed, the contractor will use them to obtain competitive bids from sub-contractors.
Another method of hiring a contractor is through a bid process. This process usually involves 2-3 general contractors and can take upwards of 4-6 weeks to complete. Once the bids have been turned in, we can provide assistance in determining the best potential contractor. In a lot of cases, lowest bidder wins, but the lowest bidder may not be the best suited for your project needs. If the bidder hasn’t done a thorough job reviewing the plans and specifications it can lead to multiple change orders and possibly cost overruns. We can help you make the contractor selection based on your needs and the best value.
The structure begins to take form. We offer site observation to assure the course of construction is in your best interests and to streamline the construction process.
Even the best construction documents cannot fully convey all aspects of a three-dimensional structure. Knowing the intent of the design is fundamental to proper construction. We are best qualified to ensure the finished project is built as intended. Besides site observation, answering questions by phone, email, and providing supplemental drawings as requested are very helpful throughout the construction process.