DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS necessitate several steps. Typically, projects go through the following six phases. However, on some projects, several of these steps may be combined; on others there may be additional steps. (AIA, a beginner’s guide to architectural services)
Step 1: Deciding What to Build
This first stage, called programming, is probably the most valuable time you will spend with your architect. During programming meetings you discuss the requirements for your building or remodel: how many rooms, what function the structure will have, who will use it and how. It is also the time when you begin to test the fit between what you want, what you need, and what you can spend.
Don’t come in with solutions already decided upon. Be prepared to explore new and creative ideas. Be very frank about how you want the end result to feel and work. The architect will ask you lots of questions to get a better sense of your goals and needs and to determine if your expectations match your budget. The architect may suggest changes based upon knowledge, experience, and your budget. After thoroughly discussing your functional requirements, the architect will prepare a statement outlining the scope of your project. During the next step, your program will be realized.
Step 2: Rough Sketches
Once you have defined what is to be built, the architect will then do a series of rough sketches, known as schematic designs. These sketches will show you the general arrangement of rooms and of the site. If you have difficulty understanding the sketches (many people do), ask the architect to explain. Depending on the project, architects should be able to show you computer-generated views of the design to help you better visualize it.
Don’t panic if these first sketches seem different from what you first envisioned. Ask your architect how these
designs satisfy the requirements you discussed in the first stage. It is much easier to make changes now when your project is on paper, than later on when foundations have been poured and walls erected.
Step 3: Refining the Design
This step, called design development, is when the architect prepares more detailed drawings to illustrate other aspects of the proposed design. The floor plans show all the rooms in the correct size and shape. Outline specs are prepared listing the major materials and room finishes.
At this point the architect can create a 3-D virtual reality walk-through of your new home or addition. “Walk” through the design with your architect then review it several times on your own. Imagine yourself using the spaces. Ask yourself: Do the traffic patterns flow well? Does each space serve the intended purpose?
Your architect will provide your contractor (or the architect’s “build division” with a “Bid Packet” so he/she can prepare the preliminary construction bid, remember the final costs will depend on market conditions at the time of construction.
Step 4: Construction Documents (CDs)
At this point, the architect prepares construction documents, the detailed drawings and specifications the contractor will use to establish actual construction cost and to build the project. These drawings are also used to acquire a building permit from the city or county. A good architect will produce a very thorough set of plans which facilitates the permit process and construction phase.
Step 5: Hiring a Construction Firm
At this point you retain the ‘build’ division of your architect’s firm or hire an outside general contractor.
Step 6: Construction
This final step is often the most anxiety-producing part of the entire process. Up until now, your project has been confined to discussion and planning. At this point your architect will provide construction observation which includes: periodic site visits to monitor the progress and quality of the completed construction and to determine, in general, if the work is being performed in a manner that, when complete, will be in accordance with the construction documents and local codes.