“Architecture is like portraiture, buildings embody their patrons.”– unknown. There are a million solutions to any given building problem, but a far fewer number of solutions that are great. Of those, only a handful will be exactly right for a particular client. It is the architects job to design a building that represents the values of, and satisfies the goals of, a particular client. Thus, I have designed a working process that helps me to fully understand what is important to my clients, and to explore the very best way of making sure the building satisfies their needs and desires.
Schematic Design Phase
Step 1: Gather all information that will effect the building design. This includes site information, program information, budget information, and code information.
- Site information: I analyze the site for physical and cultural factors. Physical factors include prevailing wind directions, sun angles, storm directions, neighboring buildings, site lines, soil conditions, rain conditions, and flooding potential. Cultural factors include easements, views to preserve, views to be blocked, traffic around the site, approach angles, and setbacks and other code proscriptions.
- Program information: I discuss the project in detail with my clients to ascertain what their goals are for the building. We discuss all of the required spaces and adjacencies, but also the feeling they want the building to convey, and the aesthetics that are most appropriate for them.
- Budget information: The architects job is to design the best possible building for a given budget. At each stage of the project I provide an updated construction cost estimate and discuss where the project stands in relation to the budget, so that adjustments can be made, if necessary, during the design process. Many clients do not have a firm budget in mind, and know only that they want a building that provides a good value. In these cases I work with them to explain what is feasible for a given budget range, and how we can maximize the building value.
- Code information: It is very important to know upfront all of the factors that will impact a building, and so I spend time upfront reviewing all of the relevant codes. These range from local codes, like historic district regulations or neighborhood association guidelines, to municipal, county, state, and national codes. I prepare a code review document for each project that is typically 20-30 pages long, containing a summary of the most relevant information.
Step 2: Analyze and diagram the information gathered. In analyzing the site information, various forms begin to emerge that work well with the site factors. In analyzing the programmatic information, largely through block diagrams, certain arrangements begin to emerge that provide the best function. By combining this information at the diagrammatic level, a few different conceptual layouts begin to emerge.
Step 3: Develop the two or three most promising solutions. It is important to pursue more than one solution, as a way of generating numerous ideas to be discussed with my clients. That way, I can get a greater range of feedback from clients on what works for them, and what appeals to them. Eventually, my clients and I select the most promising schematic design, which I then develop and present to them.
There are typically two client meetings during the Schematic Design phase, but there are often more.
Design Development Phase
In this phase the approved Schematic Design is developed and refined. Materials are selected, dimensions are fine tuned, details are worked out. In this phase the building goes from a concept to something much more concrete. There are typically two client meetings during the Design Development phase.
Construction Documentation Phase
Once my client signs off on the Design Development phase, I begin work creating the Construction Documents. These consist of drawings (“blueprints”) and a specification booklet. Together they describe nearly every material and construction method to be used during construction. The goal is to make the documents so complete that the contractor will not need to make any decisions on site. The Construction Documents are sufficient for permitting and bidding.
Bidding & Negotiation Phase
If the contract for construction is to be arrived at through competitive bid, then in this phase I prepare a list of qualified bidders, and distribute bid packages. I typically meet and do a walk through of the documents with each bidder to ensure they understand the scope and nature of the project. During the bidding process, I respond to RFIs (Requests for Information) and clarifications from the bidders. Once the bids come in I help my clients in analyzing the bids and then selecting the contractor.
During construction, I act as a representative of my client, and an advisor. I visit the site at appropriate intervals to become generally familiar with the progress and quality of the work completed, and determine, in general, if the work is being completed in accordance with the Contract Documents. I review shop drawings and prepare change orders as required. I act both as a policeman, ensuring that the contractor does not cut corners, and as a liaison, assisting the contractor in resolving unexpected conditions. The Construction Administration phase of work is critical, as without it there is a real possibility the project will devolve into conflict and my clients may not get the building they and I have worked so hard to perfect.