Our Design Process: The 7 Phases of Design

Designing a home is not a simple task and it takes a great deal of effort from both the design team as well as our clients. There are hundreds of decisions that need to be made, and we need to consider the many aspects that impact a design - from codes and regulations, to the complexities of the site, to our clients needs and budget. Therefore, we break down the design process into phases, with each helping move the project from the initial idea through to a constructed reality. Typically, projects go through the phases listed below. However, each project is unique and several of these steps might be combined or additional steps added as we discuss your project needs in order to deliver the best service we can.

Project Phases:

  1. Pre-Design: Background Research & Programming

  2. Schematic Design: Defining the Look and Feel

  3. Design Development: Refining the Design

  4. Construction Documents: Detailed Drawings and Specifications

  5. Permitting: Getting Approval

  6. Bidding: Hiring The General Contractor

  7. Construction Administration: Building The Project

  8. Additional Services: Optional service you may consider adding

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1. Pre-Design: Background Research & Programming

The main goal during this phase is to gather information, do background research, conduct precedent studies, document the site and/or existing house, and understand the context in which we will be designing. We also engage you in order to understand how much space you need now and in the future, how you plan to live in your house, what layout would be most effective for your needs, what areas in the house do you value most, where are there unique characteristics that you want reflected in the design, and generally understand the style and aesthetics we should be designing for. We call this dialogue the programming part of a project.

This is all done before we put pen to paper and it provides a foundation on which we build our architectural design ideas. We share all of this information with our clients so we are all on the same page as we begin the schematic design phase.

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2. Schematic Design: Defining the look and feel

Once this foundation is built we use hand sketches, physical models, computer renderings and other methods to explore various design ideas, floor plans, and building forms. We make sure clients are tied into this process and can add their ideas and filter through ours as we narrow in on a solution to further develop. This is the phase where we define what the look and feel of this house will be, how the spaces will be laid out and flow, and start conversations about materials and aesthetics.

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3. Design Development: Refining the Design

Once a concept is agreed upon by all parties we proceed into Design Development. Here we take the Schematic Design work and start defining more of the building. This includes beginning working on the details, considering how it will be built, refining the layout, and reconciling the design ideas with the set budget. At this stage we are engaging with the structural engineers and other consultants, to begin their work and coordinate with our design. This is also where we recommend you hire a General Contractor so they can start giving cost and constructability feedback. It is during this phase that we start locking in all of the dimensions, sizes, and material selections so we can proceed into the next phase.

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4. Construction Documents

When everyone is comfortable with the developed design we proceed into construction documents. Here we get into all of the nitty gritty details that describe exactly how the building will be constructed. This is where we create all of the architectural details, and specify all the materials and systems in the building. At the same time, we are working closely with you to select all the materials, finishes, fixtures, etc. that will define the look at feel and function of the home. Along the way we continue to update the clients on the progress, the cost estimates and planning the construction timeline.

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5. Permitting: Getting Approval

During this phase we coordinate printing, complete the permit application, and bring in the permit drawing set to the Building Department. We meet with the intake review staff and follow up on any questions or plan review checksheets from all the department reviews. This phase includes making changes to the drawings requested by the plans reviewers, catching potential mistakes or omissions on the construction documents, and submitting any additional drawings, information, or forms needed in order for the city to issue a permit.

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6. Bidding: Hiring The General Contractor

This is where one of two things can happen. If you haven’t hired a General Contractor yet, we can send the project out to bid. This is where we take the fully developed architectural plans and send them to three General Contractor companies to give us construction bids. When we get their responses we will sit down with you to analyze the bids and select the best Contractor for the project. We look both at their proposed costs as well as the company qualifications to make the best selection. We don’t want to solely base selections off their cost as we feel that quality of construction is incredibly valuable. We want to make sure we have the best team for the job and not just the cheapest.

On the other hand, if you have hired a General Contractor already, this is where we work closely with them to to go through the full project documents and put together a full bid for the work. We review all of the drawings, details, and specifications and have them reach out to all of the subcontractors they plan to use to get accurate pricing. We answer questions from them and provide them with any missing information as they put together the final numbers for your construction contract.

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7. Construction Administration

During the construction phase we will communicate with you and your contractor to provide general administration of contracts and answer questions regarding the interpretation of the design intent of the construction documents. We review contractor’s submittals, visit the site a reasonable amount to observe and evaluate the work, and provide a determination of substantial completion of the project in order to help facilitate a high quality finished project. Basically we help facilitate the construction process and communicate with you and the general contractor to hopefully make construction as smooth and low-stress as possible. Construction can be complicated and stressful as hiccups pop up along the way. We are there to help and ease this process along.

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Additional Services:

The core services above are what we typically provide to our clients on our custom residential projects. Knowing that each person and project is unique, often there are other services that might be valuable or necessary to get a project across the finish line. Some of these services are worth considering before you even purchase a property, while others may be required by the local jurisdiction, or could be helpful as we work through the design process together.

  • Feasibility Studies

  • Code or Zoning research

  • Design Review or Historic Review

  • Interior Design (selecting furniture, decorations, art, etc.)

  • Renderings or Physical Models

  • Surveying

  • Geotechnical Engineering

  • Civil Engineering

  • Landscape Design

Depending on the service above and the unique aspects of your project, we would either perform the work ourselves, or contract with the necessary experts to provide the necessary information.