Standard design services are typically the same from architect to architect, however the names may be slightly different.  Our process is made up of six or seven phases depending upon the type of project:

  • Existing Conditions Survey
  • Conceptual Site Planning
  • Schematic Design
  • Design Development
  • Construction Documents
  • Bidding & Negotiation
  • Construction Administration


If the project involves an existing building that is going to be renovated or require an addition, the existing building needs to be documented.  Although technology allows an existing building to be scanned and a 3d model be created, most projects only warrant old-school methods such as physically measuring and photographing.  It is important to be able to walkthrough the existing building and be able to visually inspect it as we are documenting it.


If the project is a new building, then we can immediately begin planning the design conceptually.  This means that we are not focusing on the details such as locations of windows and doors, or the style of roofs to be used, we are focusing on where the building will be located on the site, how do you access the site, where are the neighboring buildings located in reference to the new building.  The focus is more contextual, we want the building to belong to the neighborhood and this starts with the site.  Additionally, we need to understand what zoning restrictions the municipality has for the site, which will directly impact the size, height, and location of the building.


Once we have a conceptual site plan as described above, we now can begin designing the building.  The design, whether new, renovation, or addition, will all be based on the requirements of the client.  I have yet in my career to have two clients with the exact same needs, this is what makes each and every project unique.  We refer to the requirements as the “program”.  The program will include the number, size, and relationship of rooms, among other things.  I will always ask my clients to provide me with pictures of other buildings that will best describe what they like or dislike.  This is typically the easiest way for me to understand what their “vision” is for the aesthetics of the building.  The result is the creation of design options that includes floor plans and exterior elevations of the building.  The drawings at this point are very simple and includes walls, doors, windows, room names, and dimensions.  Very limited information is required on the drawings at this point for the client to understand the design.  We find it helpful to present 3d digital models of the building in order to take the guessing out of what the building will really look like. Once again, it is kept simple so that the client understands the basic concept of the design.  Through the course of a few meetings, we will be able to finalize the schematic design of the building.


This is a very important phase in the process because it now that the schematic design is completed, we need to manage the client’s budget.  The schematic design is further developed to now include the type of framing and foundation systems, finish materials, the types of windows and doors, and the mechanical and electrical systems. All of these “systems” come with a cost and we are able to select the systems that are most economical for the project.  We will present the client with cost estimating based on the systems selected for the project.  At this point, the client typically will have to make some sacrifices, most of these being in the finish materials, appliances and fixtures.  We help the client make these decisions because it is important that all of the selected systems come together to make the project successful, not only financially but functionally and aesthically.  The result of this phase is a set of drawings that can be issued to contractors for preliminary bidding.  By issuing the drawings at this point for preliminary bidding, we are able to make any necessary changes to the design prior to the drawings being finalized.  Once the design is approved, we are able to complete the drawings for final bidding.


The construction documents consist of the “working drawings” and the specifications.  Typically for most projects, the specifications are included in the working drawings so that the contractor has all the project information in one package.  The construction documents are very technical and include all necessary details for the contractor to build the project.  The architect will coordinate the drawings with all the various consultants that may be involved in the project such as civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection and fire alarm design.  Most residential projects do not involve consultants unless if there is a specific situation that requires them.  The architect is the “conductor” of the orchestra and therefore, directs the consultants as the construction documents are developed and completed.  The result of this phase is a final set of construction documents that can be issued to the contractors for final bidding as well as to the building department for permitting.


Once the construction documents are completed, the architect will create the “bidding documents”, which not only includes the construction documents but will also include another document that serves as the “Instructions to Bidders”.  These are self-explanatory, they instruct the bidder as to how they are to bid the project, when the bids are due, and who receives them.  A form will be included that will provide a pricing breakdown.  Typically, there will be a walkthrough of the project site so that the contractors can understand the existing conditions and whether or not the conditions will impact the construction process.  The contractors will typically have questions about the construction documents and will submit questions to the architect.  The architect will respond to all of the contractors, no matter who asks the question, and will issue additional documents or drawings as required.  The architect will then receive the bids from the contractors and open them with the owner.  Once opened, the architect will begin the process of evaluating the bids.  There will always be missing information from a bid, no matter how complete the bidding package is, and this is why it is so important that the architect review the bids for completion.  The architect will create a comparative spreadsheet of the bids and review this with the owner.  Typically, one or two contractors will be invited to a meeting to review their bid with the owner and the architect.  It is important that the owner have the opportunity to ask the contractor questions in order to get a feel for themselves who may be the right contractor for the job from a personality standpoint.  Part of the meeting is to negotiate with the contractor, because normally at this point, there will be more than one contractor interviewed.  Based on the discussions at the meeting, the contractors will resubmit their bids with any necessary adjustments.  The architect will review the revised bids and then recommend the best contractor for the project based on the price and what the contractor has included in the price.  The owner ultimately makes the decision as to whom they want to hire.


This phase is hands-down the most important phase of the project and unfortunately, it is the one with the least involvement from the architect.  Most clients feel that they can manage the construction process because now that the contractor is on board, the project should just be in cruise control.  This could not be farther from the truth!  The architect possess the insight, expertise, and balanced decision-making ability that is so crucial to this process running smoothly and successfully.

The architect will begin by creating the agreement to be used between the owner and the contractor.  This document may be a custom made agreement or a standard AIA (American Institute of Architects) form agreement.  The difference in using one prepared by the architect is that it will better protect the owner’s interests.  Once signed, the architect will coordinate and run the construction meetings.  As work is being done and the contractor submits invoices, the architect will review those invoices and visit the construction site to make sure that the work has been completed as invoiced.  This process continues thoughout the construction phase through completion.  Once the project is reaching completion or a point known as “substantial completion”, the architect will request the Closeout Documents.  These documents include all information on the materials, fixtures, and equipment used.  Additionally, the contractor will provide Lien Releases from all the subcontractors as well as from themselves.  The lien releases ensure that the contractor was paid by the owner and that the contractor has paid all their subcontractors and suppliers.  Too many clients do not know to do this and end up finding that liens have been placed on their property because the contractor never paid the sub contractors or the suppliers, and now the contractor is long gone.  I cannot stress that it is so important for the architect to be involved in this process.

Once the construction is 100% completed, it is time to open the wine and enjoy the fruits of your architects hard work!