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The Design Process
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What to Expect

The Steps Involved in Design and Construction

What is the Typical Project Process?

A. Finding out what's there:

The architect reviews and checks existing drawings, visits the site and takes
measurements and photographs required to help analyze the owner's needs and develop the subsequent drawings.

B. Programming: (deciding what you want and need).

The owner and the architect discuss what kind of spaces are required, both
interior and exterior; what kinds of rooms are needed (both types and quantities) how much space will be allocated to various rooms and what will eventually go into these spaces. The relationships between the spaces will also be explored (what goes where, and which rooms need to be in proximity, and which need to be separated). The owner's budget will be reviewed and compared to the space needs identified earlier. Other projects will be reviewed to determine the owner's design style preferences. The architect prepares a diagram that shows the various spaces and how they relate to each other.

C. Schematic Design (design ideas and sketches):

Based on meetings and discussions from the programming phase, the architect develops a series of rough sketches showing basic planning concepts and alternative schemes for arranging the rooms and the site. The architect explores the positioning of the house on the site taking into account access, light, views and appropriate codes and regulations. Sketches of plans (floor layouts) and elevations (views of the front, sides and back) are prepared. Sometimes, for complex projects, three dimensional massing models are created to assist in visualizing the design. The owner approves the sketches before proceeding on to the next phase.

D. Design Development (refining the design):

Once the owner has approved the design, the architect prepares detailed drawings that illustrate scale, materials, cabinetwork and furnishings. The drawings will show the exact floor plans, walls, roof plans if needed, ceiling plans, interior and exterior elevations and views, all lighting and electrical outlets, finishes (wood, carpet, paint, tile, etc.), fixtures (plumbing, appliances, lighting, etc.), building elements (doors, windows, fireplaces, etc.) skylights, exterior decks and walkways, all according to the owners' requirements. These drawings will be converted into construction drawings in the next step. Outline specifications are prepared listing the major materials and room finishes.

E. Selecting Consultants:
Upon the owners' request, the architect helps select any of the consultants
required for the project, reviews their proposals, and contacts them to set
up the work. These consultants may include a structural engineer, energy
consultant (if required by law for the specific project) and any other required specialist. Although consultants are generally hired directly by the owners, the architect coordinates their work, makes sure their proposed designs conform with the owners' requirements, and incorporates their designs into the architectural drawings.

F. Construction Documents (construction drawings and specifications):

After the owner reviews and approves the developed design, the architect
prepares detailed and specific construction documents consisting of technical drawings and written specifications which can be used to solicit construction bids. These drawings will also be the basis for the actual construction, and become part of the building contract.

G. Getting the Permit:

The architect normally applies, on behalf of the owner, to the Planning, Zoning and Building & Safety Departments (and any other required bodies and committees) in order to obtain approval of the plans. The architect submits  the plans for permit, meets with the appropriate inspectors, and makes any corrections required by the building authorities. After the permit is 'ready to issue' the contractor pulls (that is, pays for and obtains) the permit, obtains various additional permits such as electrical or mechanical and pays all required fees.

H. Hiring a Contractor:

The owner selects and hires the contractor. The architect assists the owner in obtaining bids and/or negotiated contract prices from contractors or subcontractors. Should the owner prefer to negotiate a contract price with a particular contractor, the architect helps the owner develop specific negotiating criteria, and then works with the selected contractor to make sure the price conforms with the owner's budget. Alternatively, should the owner prefer to obtain competitive bids, the architect will issue drawings, specifications and bidding criteria to prospective contractors, clarify any questions that may arise during the process, and help the owner evaluate the various bids.

I. Construction Administration:

While the contractor will physically build the home or addition, the architect can assist the homeowner in making sure that the project is built according to the plans and specifications. Once construction begins, the architect makes periodic visits to the construction site in order to answer questions, approve payments (at the owner's request) and generally determine that the work is being done in accordance with the construction contract, schedule and design. The architect helps the owner determine whether the contractor's payment requests correlate with the actual amount of work done, and issues the paperwork for any change orders. Before the project is complete, the architect reviews the work performed, and develops a list of final items to be finished or corrected before the project is considered complete and final payment authorized to the contractor. The contractor is responsible for the actual on-going day to day supervision of the work, construction schedule, and coordination of the various subcontractors and methods of construction, including safety procedures.