Working With an Architect: Phase One

This is the first installment of our “Working With an Architect” series, where we’ll discuss an architectural project’s different phases.

An architect is a person who designs buildings and advises in their construction.

While the above definition provides a comprehensible description of an architect and, therefore, architecture, said definition is deceivingly simple.

Architects must wear many hats. They’re designers, consultants, engineers, analysts, coordinators, and more. You want an architect that can wear all those hats and look good doing it!

Successfully designing and completing a project takes an immense amount of time and work from an artistic, skillful, and dedicated architect.

Read on to learn about our design phase and all that it entails.

The Four Phases

To complete a project, we follow four phases. From the start to finish of a build, these phases are:

  1. Design
  2. Interior Design
  3. Technical documentation
  4. Contract administration

While this list may seem straightforward, each phase contains multiple complex steps the architect must complete.

Phase One: Design

Our design phase is comprised of five components that a designer will follow as they piece together and finalize a design with their client.

1. Programming

This is the first step of any architectural development. The program refers to the various rooms, functions, and spaces you would like in your home, business, etc. Without a proper understanding of the program, an architect will fail to meet the needs and expectations you have for your project.

2. Site Visit

Any architect who takes their craft seriously wants to know where the structure will be located. They will walk the site and observe everything from the various views to the sun’s position.

Is it heavily wooded? Does it sit on a hill, or is it flat? What influence will the site have on the architect’s concept for the structure? Are there limitations?

The site visit is equally important (if not more) as the program is during the design phase.

3. Code and Zoning Analysis

Every municipality will have zoning ordinances that will dictate the number of architectural limitations, from how tall the building can be to what materials it can be built from. Neighborhood indentures can often make these limitations more restrictive.

The architect must analyze all these restrictive elements and requirements before beginning the design. Otherwise, they risk creating a structure that will not pass official review/permitting.

4. Schematic Design

This is a highly complex process and requires time. An architect invests many hours of intense work before presenting a design to a client.

The architect has spent days, weeks, or months chasing possibilities, creating options, reorganizing spaces, and starting from scratch. When they have arrived at what they feel is the best solution, they will call you in to see the design.

Just because the architect has arrived at what they feel is the best solution does not mean you aren’t allowed to provide feedback. This is your project too. If something is amiss or out of place, or you want it to look differently or function another way, you need to relay that information.

Client feedback is necessary, as it will inspire the architect to rethink their concepts in new ways to create a better product.

The schematic design process takes several weeks. There will be multiple meetings between you and your architect. In each meeting, you should see the project developing more and more to align with your needs.

When you are satisfied with the design, the architect may ask you to sign a document confirming that you are ready to move on to the next step.

5. Design Development

Once the design is approved, the work may shift to someone else in the office. There are two reasons for this:

  1. The person creating the design may not be the most capable person for creating technical documents.
  2. To save the client money. The designer will have the highest billable rates on the project, while a drafter will charge far less per hour.

The drafter will refine the design, ensuring dimensions are accurate and elements line up appropriately. This step is necessary to improve the speed of technical/construction document formation and prevent errors in the field.

Design Changes After Client Design Approval

Even after the design has been approved by the client, there are instances when clients contact us with what they believe to be minor changes.

These changes will significantly impact the architectural process and timeline at this point in the project. Be thoughtful in your change requests and understand their impact on the overall design.

Design at Mitchell Wall Architecture & Design

At Mitchell Wall Architecture & Design, we believe in creating a solid foundation to ensure your project lives up to your standards. That foundation starts with our design phase.

Our design team is full of talented and dedicated professionals ready to put everything they have into creating the necessary groundwork to make your project successful.

For more information about our services or to get in touch with a team member, please call us at (314) 576-5888 or fill out this contact form.

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