Breaking Down the Architecture Design Phases

Posted on: December 21, 2021

Designing any home is a complex process. To understand it better, you need to know the different architecture design phases.

To be clear, we are not talking about the process of building a home yet. We are only focusing on the design part of that larger process.

Knowing about the different design phases will give you a better grasp of what the architecture is doing. Shape your expectations better and avoid getting frustrated by the pace of the process by studying the design phases. You can also make better hires down the line thanks to the knowledge you have gained.

Let’s use this article to talk all about the different architecture design phases. Find out what they are about so you can better prepare for the home building or home renovation project.

An Overview of the Architecture Design Process

Before we dive deep into the design phases, let’s first take a broad look at the entire process.

You will frequently hear that the architectural design process has five phases. Those phases are schematic design, design development, contract documents, bidding, and contract administration.

It is important to note that those phases do not take up equal amounts of time. Some take only a few weeks to complete, while others cover several months. Numerous variables also affect the length of time that those phases take. Do not expect them to be fixed timeframes.

The various phases also account for different portions of the allotted budget. Do not be surprised if one phase takes up a huge chunk of the architect fees, but we will get to that later.

The architecture design process also progresses along a fixed pattern. It goes from schematic design to design development to contract documents to bidding, and then it ends with contract administration. You will not see that progression change.

One last thing we want to point out is that there is a sixth phase included in the architecture design process. It is known as the pre-design phase.

The Pre-Design Phase

The pre-design phase, as its name suggests, occurs even before the architecture design process gets underway. This is an important phase that requires a lot of work.

One reason why this phase is technically not included in the architecture design process is because an architect is not required for it.

Some of the tasks performed during this phase can and should be conducted by other professionals. You will need to hire an architect eventually, but you can opt to hold off on that at this stage.

The pre-design phase takes about a month to complete. Let’s now use this opportunity to discuss the tasks during the pre-design phase.

Tasks Included:

  • Creation of a Building Program – The building program accounts for the client’s needs and preferences. With the building program in hand, the architect can estimate how much space the client will need, both short-term and long-term. If you have a specific design in mind for your home, you can also bring it up during this time.
  • Site Analysis – You need to hire a land surveyor to analyze your property. They will help determine if they can build the home you have in mind. The land surveyor will also flag potential hazards if they emerge.
  • Zone Analysis – Professionals will identify any zoning laws that could affect your project during pre-design. You need that zone analysis because you do not want potential violations derailing your project.
  • Budget Planning – The budget does not need to be finalized at this point, but you should start talking about it with the architect. Give them a clear idea of how much you are willing to spend so they can account for that moving forward.

The Schematic Design Phase

According to Western Michigan University, the goal of the schematic design phase is to convert the building program into sketches. Essentially, this is when the home design is supposed to start taking shape.

The schematic design portion of the process requires a lot of trial and error. The architect will draw up plans for a specific room and see how it fits the rest of the structure. The architect will continually be doing revisions as they piece everything together.

Beyond the rooms, the architect must also account for the different equipment and systems installed in the home. They have to make room for the plumbing, electrical, and HVAC systems.

The schematic design phase may last for two months. On average, it also accounts for 15 percent of the total budget.

Tasks Included:

  • Drawing Sketches and Creating Models – Different sketches and models are created at this stage. They base the sketches and models on the preferences and needs of the client determined earlier.
  • Attending Meetings with the Client – Several meetings between the architect and client will take place during the schematic design phase. These meetings allow the architect to examine the plans so far. The client can then either approve the plans or request revisions.
  • Revising the Plans – As a client, you should not feel any pressure to approve the initial plans presented to you. If you do not like some aspects of them, voice your concerns and request revisions.

The Design Development Phase

Continuing with the architecture design phases, the next stage we are progressing to is the design development phase.

At the start of this stage, the architect will refine their sketches and models. The focus will shift to creating a model of the finished property instead of only working on the fundamental elements.

It is also where the architect may start to bring in more professionals.

A structural engineer may join the team, along with experts on plumbing, wiring, and HVAC systems. They will flesh out the plans from earlier.

Bringing them in is wise because they can also identify issues with the existing plans. The architect can change course sooner if there are problems that emerge. The architect will be able to change course sooner if there are problems that emerge. That could potentially save you a lot of time and money.

The client will remain heavily involved in this part of the architecture design process. They will have to sign off on the new plans that were created with the help of the experts we mentioned earlier. The client still has to sign off on those plans before they implement them.

During this stage, the client and architect work together to finalize plans for the interior and exterior of the home. You must get those aspects of the project in order so work can progress further.

Clients will also have the chance to select the materials, fixtures, and other items they want to see inside their new home. You can start to get a good feel for the finished home during design development.

You should not be surprised if the design development phase lasts three months. It may also account for 20 percent of the budget.

Tasks Involved:

  • Further Refining of Sketches and Models – The sketches and models do not need to be completely finalized, but they must be close. They are supposed to feature numerous details already.
  • Adding More Members of the Team – The architect is likely not the only person you will be talking to. More members will join the team to flesh out the plans.
  • More Client and Architect Collaboration – Expect the architect to ask for more of your feedback during this stage. Do not be shy when it comes to offering your feedback, so your home takes shape according to your exact vision.

The Construction Documents Phase

We are now getting into the construction documents phase of the architecture design process.

This is the phase where they finalize the design of your new home. Make sure you take the time to review the latest plans set down in front of you. Check if they truly align with the vision you have for your home.

Do not worry if you notice some things that are not to your liking. You can still change them now.

They must finalize the plans during this stage because they must create the construction documents.

First off, those construction documents must go to the building department of your local government. They will be reviewed by the person in charge, and they will decide if the project receives the green light.

Note that the approval process can take quite a bit of time. Submit those documents as early as possible so you can know if they can execute the plans.

Construction documents will also be sent to the candidates you are considering for the contractor position. Give them ample time to review the construction documents so they can make some good bids.

Similar to design development, this phase can also take as long as three months. However, it often takes up 40 percent of the budget instead of only 20 percent.

Tasks Involved:

  • Finalizing Building Plans – Whatever your plans may be for your home, now is the time to finalize them. Review every aspect of the plan carefully before providing your approval.
  • Submission of Construction Documents – The construction documents will be provided to the local government and the contractor candidates.

The Bidding Phase

It is now time for you to meet your potential contractors.

Contractor candidates will submit their bids based on the contents of the construction documents. If you want the contractor to work under a specific contract, you should let them know about that as well.

According to Esticom, you can offer three types of construction contracts. It will be up to the contractor candidates to decide if they are okay with working under your terms.

You can ask the architect to handle dealings with all the candidates while you wait for their bids. The candidates will likely have some questions, so let your architect handle them.

Now, you do not need to go through the bidding phase if you do not want to. As the client, you can decide to hire a specific contractor. You may already have a contractor you trust, so you would prefer to work with them.

Waiting until this point to hire a contractor is also not necessary. You can hire one right from the start of the architecture design process. Doing so may even work out in your favor since that gives the architect and the contractor more time to get on the same page.

The bidding phase is pretty short if you decide to go through it. The entire phase only takes about a month on average. You also only have to allot 5 percent of your budget to this phase.

Tasks Involved:

  • Review of Bids – Take the time to review the bids from the contractors and identify the one you like most.
  • Bid Approval – Select the bid you like and approve it. Hire the contractor who submitted it so you can move to the final phase.

The Construction Administration Phase

Last up is the construction administration phase.

The architect takes a backseat during this last leg of the architecture design phases. The bulk of the architect’s responsibility is to occasionally visit the worksite and see how the project is progressing. They will note if the project is on schedule.

If you want to make some changes, you can send them to the architect. The architect will then relay your request to the contractor, and they will work together to see how to implement your request.

After finishing the project, the architect will conduct a final run-through of the finished home. They will check if every element has been built according to the established plans.

The construction administration phase takes up 20 percent of the budget. It will last as the entire construction process.

Tasks Involved:

  • Observing the Project – The architect will visit the worksite from time to time to check on the progress of the project.
  • Issuing and Implementing Change Orders – Any requests for revisions made by the client will be handled by the architect. The architect will work with the contractor to implement those changes.
  • Conducting the Final Inspection – Once the general contractor indicates that the project is done, the architect will inspect the home to confirm that.

Work with us at Eco Minded Solutions if you wish to simplify the architecture design portion of your home building project. Our design and build approach means you will not deal with many people throughout the process. Contact us today and let’s start drawing up the plans for your dream home!

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