Architecture Process and How We Work With Our Clients

The process of hiring an architect can be a daunting task. What comes first? When can changes be made? How long will it take? When will the design be simply a concept versus a final document that is ready to be built?

We hear these questions on a daily basis and have prepared this document as a roadmap to our architectural process. There are 7 steps in our process and each is dependent on successful completion of the prior step.

Step 1: Interview and Initial Explorations

The interview is a great opportunity for the Client to make sure there is a fit with the Architect they are considering hiring. This step is skipped if the Client has already decided to hire the Architect based on a great referral or if they have worked together in the past. We consider each project we embark on to be a partnership and the interview is typically the first step in all healthy and mutually beneficial relationships. If both parties decide that it looks like there is a good fit, a contract is executed for the project and preliminary work begins.

Step 2: Gather Information and Documentation

In this step, the Architect and Client review all of the requirements for the project. The Architect will visit the site and create “as-built” drawings of any existing conditions that exist. Typical as-builts are very basic (but accurate) representations of any built conditions currently present. A surveyor will also be contacted at this stage to create site drawings, which are an exact representation of the project site. This is very important and absolutely necessary not only for permitting reasons (see Step 4), but also to make sure the project gets built correctly after being designed. Combining the survey and as-builts into a single site plan drawing results in the starting point of all schematic design and feasibility studies.

Step 3: Schematic Design, Feasibility Studies

Depending on the project timeline and complexity, the Architect will generate as many as 3 ideas for the project’s preliminary conceptual design. Elements like the flow of the space, organization of the space functions, and how the project is experienced are addressed diagrammatically. There is no “real” architecture at this stage per say, although the Architect will start to consider materiality, structural, and mechanical systems when appropriate. The Client should expect diagrams and sketches at this point, and possibly very general floor plans, elevations, or sections for the purpose of explaining the concepts behind the project. Once all concepts are agreed upon after a few meetings with the Architect and Client, these ideas will then be further developed into a much more realistic set in preparation for permitting and ultimately construction drawings in steps 4 and 5.

Step 4: Design Development, Permit Drawings

The design continues to be developed (as the name implies) and what were concepts now turn into architectural decisions. Materials are selected and the major systems of the project (mechanical, electric, plumbing, structure) are created by various consultants and added to the drawing set by the Architect. This is also the time to address important areas like code compliance, architectural details, fixture selection, and window/mullion configurations. The drawings and renderings that are developed are not quite ready for construction (more on that in step 5), but can be used for obtaining permits, to be used as marketing collateral, or in the case of a developer used for fundraising purposes.

Step 5: Construction Documents, Acquire Building Permits

The largest and most time-intensive step of the Architect’s process, Construction Documents (CDs) are drawings that have enough detail to be handed off to the General Contractor to build the Client’s project. The permit drawings from Step 4 are a simplified version of the highly detailed CDs and the local jurisdiction requires these in order to make sure the project complies with all relevant codes. Most Architects will submit permit drawings early in the development of the CDs so that no time is lost waiting for the building department to provide feedback and ultimately approvals for the project. The finalized CDs will have each and every specification needed to build the project, down to the color of the trim and the size of every window mullion. Once the Architect has all CDs finalized, the Project is ready to go to bid.

Step 6: Bidding and Negotiation with Contractors

The Construction Drawings are sent to multiple contractors and the resulting bids will be reviewed by the Architect and Client. The best fit can be decided based on cost, timeline, experience, or best value – it all depends on a number of factors when making such an important decision and the Client will always have the final say.

Step 7: Construction Administration

The Architect will remain involved with the project all the way through construction completion (with the exception of minor work or other unique situations). The Architect’s role at this point in the project is to make sure the project is built in accordance with the Construction Documents, especially as it relates to the design intent and the Client’s best interests. Periodic meetings with the Contractor will take place to monitor job progress, and if necessary, Change Orders will be created and submitted to the Client for approval to adjust for any issues that occur in the field. The Architect will also review all invoices and scheduling to ensure the project stays on track.

In addition to the steps outlined above, there are numerous milestones that will need to be signed off on by both the Client and the Architect in order to proceed with the project. We do this to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that there are no surprises. Surprises in architecture result in increased costs and delays…the two things we always do our best to avoid!

Contact us today to get started on your project. We can’t wait to partner with you and help make your vision a built reality!

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