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Architecture firms are as widely diverse as the various people who inhabit the buildings they design. Buildings are complex undertakings when considering factors such as materials, environment, sustainability, compatibility, and various building codes and regulations. Add to those considerations client requirements to ensure the building performs to meet the specified function, and the design effort becomes even more complex.

Considering a hospital, specific requirements exist to facilitate performing medical procedures and healing, which is far different from a church intended for spiritual revival and religious functions. Stadiums, schools, museums, and even houses pose different design challenges to develop successful designs.

The Architecture Industry has established a systematic process of phases that allow the design team to evaluate all of the regulatory and client considerations to ensure the building performs as anticipated. Each phase of the project is important as the process establishes stepping-stones to the final solution. If you are preparing to engage the services of an Architect, understanding each phase and its specific goal will make the process much smoother.

Phase 1 – Programmatic Design Phase

What’s the goal? Often times a client may realize they have a building operational deficiency, but they aren’t sure how to resolve it. A large portion of the programmatic design process is understanding how users currently use the building, and ideally how the building would perform to meet their expectations.

In this phase, the Architect will spend time with the client, ask questions related to current operations, where the perceived deficiencies exist, identify the goals, and start to define the spaces required to satisfy the client’s intentions.

Deliverables in this phase include spatial planning and relationships, identifying potential new spaces including size, amenities, and proximity to other functions. These deliverables will define the design intent moving into the Schematic Design Phase.

Phase 2 – Schematic Design Phase

So we have identified the goals! We spent some time in the Programmatic Design Phase helping the Architect and design team understand the project goals or perceived deficiencies. Now it's time to put pencil to paper… except we now use a computer mouse to mouse pad.

Full rendering

The design team will begin to draft up preliminary plans and elevations, using all of the information obtained, to develop conceptual designs to meet the established expectations. Don’t be surprised if the Architect has many more questions during the development of this phase. Once the drafting begins, new challenges, questions, and considerations arise that need resolution and client input.

The deliverable for this phase is sketches, conceptual building plans and elevations, and possible renderings showcasing how the building might look. The goal at the completion of this phase is to ensure that we have identified and resolved all of the project goals and additional considerations presented during the phase. Developing the design into Construction Documents in future phases could be disastrous if the solutions to the problems have not been fully vetted. It is much more difficult to incorporate solutions into the Construction Documents that were not initially identified and resolved in the Schematic Design Phase.

The solutions satisfy all of the goals? Great, let’s move on!

Phase 3 – Design Development Phase

In this phase, we revise the Schematic Design drawings per the owner’s comments, making adjustments to the design to ensure we have met all of the established requirements, and start into the technical design. A review and analysis of building codes is on-going to ensure the proposed design is in compliance, we start to identify construction materials, and develop the drawings for construction.

At the end of this phase, we really start to see Construction Documents (Blueprints) coming to life. These drawings are only about 50% complete when delivered to the owner; again, we want to make sure that we have everything considered!

Phase 4 – Construction Documents Phase

We’re getting close to seeing excavators on-site and starting the construction process; but first, we need to finalize the Construction Documents which will be used in the Bidding Phase as well as issued for a building permit.

In this phase, the design team again revises the drawings for any client-desired changes from the Design Development Phase. The drawings are fully coordinated between all disciplines of the design team from Architects to Structural Engineers, Mechanical and Electrical Engineers, and Plumbing designers. It’s imperative at this stage that the Civil Engineer and his plans align with all other disciplines and that everybody is coordinated for the final drawing release. The drawings and project specifications are developed to 100% and contain all of the information needed for a contractor and his suppliers and sub-contractors to build the structure.

One final review by the owner, and it’s time to hire a builder!

Phase 5 – Bidding (Proposal) Phase

The approved documents are either sent to contractors the owner desires to work with, or in the case of public and taxpayer funded projects, advertised publically. The Architect has the responsibility in this phase to ensure that the bidders all understand the drawings and project specifications and ensure that it’s a fair bidding process. The Architect and design team will attend a walk-through meeting (existing building) with the contractor, respond to their questions (RFIs), and ultimately accept bids on behalf of the owner.

The Architect will review the bids to ensure compliance with all of the requirements, identify any discrepancies, and then recommend the owner either accept one of the bids or re-bid the project.

At the completion of this phase, the Architect will generate the Agreement for Construction between the owner and the contractor.

Phase 6 – Construction Administration Phase

Finally! Building is commencing. It seems like a long road to get here, but these steps are a tried and true method to make sure that the building meets current and future needs of its users.

The contractor will begin the process of installing the work, and the Architect’s responsibility during this phase is to be the liaison between the building team and the owner. The architect will review the contractors’ questions, shop drawings for installation, pay applications, and attend project progress meetings. The architect will also review the contractor schedule with the owner, and keep the owner updated on any action needed on their part.

As the contractor starts to wrap up the work, the Architect will review the installed work for compliance with the project requirements, and prior to closeout make sure the owner has all warranties for installed products, and that the work is fully complete.

The Architect’s job is done!



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