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Understanding the Design and Construction Process

Design and construction projects involve several steps. Typically, projects go through the following seven phases. However, on some projects, several of these steps may be combined or there may be additional ones.

Step 1: Programming/Deciding What to Build

The owner and architect discuss the requirements for the project (how many rooms, the function of the spaces, etc.), testing the fit between the owner’s needs, wants and budget.

Step 2: Schematic Design/Rough Sketches

The architect prepares a series of rough sketches, known as schematic design, which show the general arrangement of rooms and of the site. Some architects also prepare models to help visualize the project. The owner approves these sketches before proceeding to the next phase.

Step 3: Design Development/Refining the Design

The architect prepares more detailed drawings to illustrate other aspects of the proposed design. Floor plans show all the rooms in correct size and shape. Outline specifications are prepared listing the major materials and room finishes.

Step 4: Preparation of Construction Documents

Once the owner has approved the design, the architect prepares detailed drawings and specifications, which the contractor will use to establish actual construction cost and build the project. The drawings and specifications become part of the building contract.

Step 5: Hiring the Contractor

The owner selects and hires the contractor. The architect may be willing to make some recommendations. In many cases, owners choose from among several contractors they’ve asked to submit bids on the job. The architect can help you prepare bidding documents as well as invitations to bid and instructions to bidders.

Step 6: Construction Administration

While the contractor will physically build the home or the addition, the architect can assist the owner in making sure that the project is built according to the plans and specifications. The architect can make site visits to observe construction, review and approve the contractor’s application for payment, and generally keep the owner informed of the project’s progress. The contractor is solely responsible for construction methods, techniques, schedules and procedures.

Step 7: Project Close Out

The architect can help bring your project to a close by ensuring that it is complete and ready for use, and that the contractor is entitled to final payment. You now have a working relationship with your architect, and no one knows your building better. You may wish to retain the same firm to assist with start-up, to review operations at a later date, for tenant related services, or for later alterations and modifications.


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