What is the Value of an Architect?

The value we bring to your project is far more than merely helping get a permit, working through the construction drawings, or even merely the finished project. Our value is derived from our design process, the advice we give, our guidance along the way, the end result of the project, and the ongoing enjoyment of living or working in an inspiring space. The process we go through with each client aims at maximizing the value we provide for the project, hopefully making the experience fun and low-stress. Although many people think architecture and design can be an intimidating undertaking considering the significant investment of resources it demands, our aim is to make this process straightforward and fun.

Design Process

We understand that it can be confusing or nerve racking to take on a complex project like designing and constructing a new home or space for your business. This is why we break down each project into phases to make the process easier to understand and less stressful for our clients. Below are the various phases we go through and description of what the task and deliverables are and what to expect as one of our clients.

Pre Design

We start the pre design (PD) process with an information gathering session (programming) with our clients and by doing background research on your site to better understand its context and the regulations that affect the project. This includes developing a site plan showing all the existing structures on the site and the property lines. We do zoning research and talk to the city planning officials if any questions arise. Programming includes compiling a list of all the rooms and spaces for the project, including approximate sizes and any specific qualities or unique features you are looking for. This phase allows us to get to know you better and understand your values and needs.

This phase relies on client input and collaboration so we can design a project that reflects your personality, lifestyle and needs. This phase becomes the foundation for the design phases that follow.

Schematic Design

The Schematic Design (SD) phase is where we start exploring design concepts and when the plans and look of the project really starts to take shape. We start our exploration with precedent imagery, hand sketches, and digital models in order explore your needs and taste. Once we have a rough idea of the layout, form, and siting of the project on your property, we start discussing general ideas for materiality and aesthetics. Schematic design includes several meetings where we discuss our design approach and options until we refine the design, into your preferred option to proceed. It is important to take the necessary time in Schematic Design to test a few options and refine them into the best path forward. This is a very collaborative phase of the project and it is important for our clients to feel comfortable expressing their ideas, goals and really engage in the design conversation so we can design a project perfectly suited to them.

Design Development

During Design Development (DD) we take the preferred option from above and start diving into more specifics about the look and feel. We spend time discussing interior and exterior aesthetics, functionality, and materiality. At this point we have a finalized floor plan but now we start zooming into each room to discuss how bathrooms, kitchens, closets, etc. are laid out to suit your needs. This is also where we refine window and door placements and make any final adjustments to the building’s form. This phase is where our clients start to feel the design coming to life as it becomes easier to imagine what life would be like in the newly designed project.

Construction Documents

Construction Documents (CD) is where our team takes the design from the previous phases and generates thorough drawings of the project to describe how it will be built. This is where we document all the decisions made, and create all of the details needed for the General Contractor to construct the project. We develop the material connection details, coordinate our drawings with our structural engineers and other consultants, specify all the materials, finishes, fixtures, and appliances that will go into the project, and compile all of the information into a drawing set that will be used for permitting, cost estimation, and construction. This phase takes the most amount of work, and often takes longer than what most clients expect. However, this is a vital step in the process in order to build a project that meets you desires and our high standards.

During this phase, we bring in the final permit drawing set to the Building Department and follow up on any questions or plan review checksheets from the various departments. Recently, the City of Portland has been taking around 10-12 weeks to review and approve permit applications, plus additional time to review checksheet responses as needed. This time can vary greatly based on the local jurisdiction and the complexity of the project. Additional time and expense could apply to your project if you are in a historic district and the project is required to go through the historic design review process. Our goal is to facilitate this process as much as possible to get through permitting as quickly and painlessly as possible.


Construction Administration (CA) occurs over the course of the project’s construction timeline. We communicate with you and the general contractor to answer any construction questions and provide information that is requested to interpret the design intent of the drawings. This includes working with the contractors to examine details in the field, follow the construction process, and make any necessary edits or adjustments based on site conditions. We also have conversations with you, the client, about any new design decision that need to be made. Together the Owner, Architect, and Contractor work together to ensure the project is a success.

Our involvement in this phase is extremely valuable and necessary as we work to address issues and solve problems before they compound and affect the quality of the final project.

Construction Administration

How Long Does it Take?

It is hard to predict the amount of time needed to complete the design of a project because it can very greatly from client to client, and project to project. However, you can expect the design process to take anywhere from 3 months to a year, depending on the project’s complexity, the length of the permitting process, and your ability to schedule meetings and make decisions. The project schedule is flexible and will work around your schedule, understanding that you have a busy life and important commitments outside of the design process.

Once the design and permitting phases are complete construction can begin. We find that a typical interior project would take 2-3 months to build, where an ADU would take closer to 6 months and a custom home close to a year or more from start to finish. With these estimates it is also important to consider timing of the construction and anticipating some potential delays due to seasonal weather.

What are the client’s Responsibilities?

Considering that all of our projects are custom designed specifically for our clients, it is important for us to have a collaborative approach to the design process. Although we try to limit the amount of your time needed, we do request your involvement throughout the design process. This is particularly true during the Programming part of the project and through the Schematic Design and Design Development phases. It is important to get lots of feedback as we are establishing the design of your project, so we ensure it meets your needs and taste. Knowing that you are busy, we try to create a schedule of meetings to allow you to efficiently weigh in on the project and have a simple decision making process. This being said, we can customize our process to give you more or less involvement - depending on how engaged you would like to be. Our goal is to make our clients happy and create projects that you will love.

How does a project stay on budget?

At the outset of each project it is important to be open and transparent regarding the overall project budget. Throughout the design process we will revisit the budget and discuss some of the design decisions, some of the client requests, and how these may affect the overall budget. Through the early design phases we can do rough cost estimates based on a cost per square foot basis. We also recommend bringing a General Contractor on board early in the design process so we can get feedback on constructability and cost as we work through various design decisions. Usually we get a cost estimate upon completion of Schematic Design, another after DD, and then the final Bid gets put together once the Construction Documents are complete. At the end of the day, you as the client, control the budget and we work with you to design a project that meets your needs and falls within your budget range.

How do we get started?

Most of our clients first reach out by email, describing their needs and goals. From there we usually respond with some follow up questions to see if the project is realistic. If all goes well we then schedule an in-person meeting. This being said, knowing that each of our clients are unique we are happy to have our first conversation by email, phone, text message, or in person by scheduling a consultation through out online system. Our goal is to make the process as easy as we can for our clients.

If you have a project that is ready to start design, or you are just starting to think about building a new home, a new office, or renovate your current space, don’t hesitate to reach out. We are always happy to answer questions and help in any way we can. If you are ready to meet in person, you can go ahead and schedule a free consultation through the button below.