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Architectural Phases

The following phases are involved in the design of a project.
  • Predesign phase:
    Data gathering and program definition
    The owners often have plans which they have worked out. They have pictures from magazines, or they have pictures of buildings already built. They may have a sketch with notes or clippings of things to be included in the project. There needs to be a survey of the site. Deed restrictions and codes have to be examined. All of this requires unspecified time which must be included along with meetings with the client to get a feeling for solutions. It is difficult to estimate the time required to define parameters.

  • Schematic design phase:
    Alternate solutions to design problems
    During this phase the architect seeks solutions to the architectural problems that arise out of the pre-design phase. Does the client want hardwood floors or rug? Does the client want eight foot ceilings or ten foot? Does he want cathedral ceilings in some rooms? All of this requires meetings with the client to get approval before proceeding with the next phase, and it is hard to predict how many meetings will be required. The phase is complete when the Client and Architect come to an agreement on a functional solution.

    After the schematic design phase is complete, the plans are sometimes sent out for a preliminary construction cost estimate. At this time the owner has several options. If the costs are:

    • Too high:
      • The owner may abort the project and stop services
      • The owner may instruct us to revise the design and re-price. The fee is at an hourly rate.
    • Within budget:
      The owner may instruct us to proceed to the design development phase to finalize design and prepare contract documents for bidding, permit, and construction. The architect's fee is at a fixed rate based on probably costs or actual construction costs.
    • Lower than expected:
      The owner may want to add to the design and re-price. The fee is at an hourly rate.

  • Design development phase:
    The solutions and information obtained in the design phase are now put to hard line and scale. If engineers or specialists are required, this is when they will be brought in. Structural and mechanical solutions must be evaluated and material selections recorded. The design is finalized and the client's approval is required.

  • Construction document phase:
    This phase is usually routine and since all of the decisions have been made, most architects can estimate the time needed to produce the documents and prepare specifications.

  • Bidding Phase:
    Finding and Selecting a General Contractor.
    This phase can also be predicted. It entails meeting with contractor and examining bids. It may be that only one contractor is selected (a negotiated contract) or one contractor from a number contractors may be selected. The owner must make the decision on which way he wants to get a contractor. In any event a contractor must be found to build the building.
    For more on this, please read Finding a General Contractor.

  • Contract Administration Phase:
    Construction Process
    Contract administration begins after the contract is signed with the builder/contractor and includes all of the items which ensure the proper execution of that contract and of the drawings. There are many advantages to hiring the designing Architect for this phase - not the least of which is his familiarity with the drawings and specifications.
    For more on this phase, please read Contract (Construction) Administration.

By David D. Red, AIA, Architect
January 15, 1987

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