While there are differences between new buildings and retrofits, residential and non-residential, the general structure of our design process follows a similar course:
PRE-DESIGN: We begin with a research phase that includes analysis of site, climate, neighboring context, zoning and code parameters, potential contractors, and construction methods. This is followed by in-depth conversations with the owner to establish project inspiration, goals, and budget targets; these establish a project concept that guides the team all the way to the end of construction.
CONCEPT DESIGN: In the first design phase, we develop loose concept drawings and models to begin to visualize how the building can take shape to best realize project goals. This is a fun, collaborative exploration phase in which our expertise in space, structure, materials, energy, and systems gives shape to the owner’s desires.
SCHEMATIC DESIGN: Once the building form is established, we model the building in our 3d software (ArchiCad) and use energy models to optimize the envelope and mechanical systems. In meetings during this phase, owners are often excited to see both the architecture come to life, and the data that show how it will perform. At this point, typically 25-30% through the overall design process, we engage one or more contractors to provide budget pricing. This gives insight into the real cost drivers, and allows early scope revisions if required to meet the budget.
PERMIT AND CONSTRUCTION DRAWINGS: The bulk of our design work is in integrating the specific engineering (structural, mechanical/electrical/plumbing) with the design, specifying all materials and components (windows, doors, hardware, fixtures, finishes), and documenting it all with drawings and written specifications. This phase involves many meetings with owners to review technical decisions, develop interior and exterior palettes, and select finishes and fixtures. A new house may have 30-50 pages including interiors and consultant drawings.
PERMITTING: Once drawings are prepared, we submit to the municipality and respond once we get their review comments. Following satisfaction of code review, the contractor submits information to the municipality and pulls the permit. This phase may also include historic preservation, homeowner’s association, or zoning variance hearings, if required.
BIDDING AND CONSTRUCTION: Our role shifts once we head into construction, as the contractor leads the construction effort. We act as your agent, reviewing contracts, visiting the site, helping ensure construction meets design intent, and reviewing substitution requests, change orders, shop drawings, and other contractor submittals. Given the many subcontractors on site confronted with detailed design information and sometimes uncommon specifications, it is expected that the architect helps interpret the design documents. We typically have kickoff meetings before major phases: foundations, framing, HVAC, electrical, to ensure that the workers on site understand and have an opportunity to comment on the design. We enjoy the collaboration and have often adjusted specs and even layouts based on good observations from the workers on site.
Construction wraps up with a two-step process: first, Substantial Completion, when the building can be safely used; and Final Completion, after which punch list items have been completed and final payment is made. We help with the punch list review with owner and contractor.
For an illustrated example of the process from Pre-Design through Schematic Design, see the illustration below.