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The Architectural Design Process Simplified for Beginners

The architectural design process might seem complicated to someone unfamiliar with it. There is, however, a purpose to every phase when you consider how important they are for the successful completion of a project. Architects are at the center of projects and responsible for ensuring the building is everything their client envisioned. The American Institute of Architects (AIA) highlights five basic phases of architectural design, but in reality – there are more. Let’s review the architectural design process stages and why they are essential to the final product.   

Phase 1: Vision and Pre-Design Exploration  

During the pre-design phase, the architect learns more about the client’s vision. Seth A. Leeb Architecture is most proud of our ability to find a creative, yet affordable way to make our client’s vision and goals a reality. At the end of this phase, it must be determined if the project is feasible based on various factors. If feasible, the architect must set project goals, establish a program, and draft a preliminary budget.

Phase 2: Schematic Design – Crafting Initial Concepts  

The schematic design phase requires an architect to develop study drawings, documents, and other media to illustrate the design’s concept to the client. It includes a site plan, floor plans, sections and elevations. Jurisdictional restrictions and zoning requirements are investigated and addressed during this phase. A final schematic design with overall dimensions is produced, and the construction cost is estimated.

Phase 3: Design Development – Refining the Vision 

The project adopts a more defined form during the design development (DD) phase since mechanical, electrical, plumbing, structural, and architectural details are added. The architect will elaborate on the schematic designs by specifying design elements such as materials and finishes. The interior and exterior aesthetics of the design are meticulously defined. The drawings and an updated estimate budget are formally presented to the client for approval.     

Phase 4: Construction Documents – The Blueprint Stage

Architects must produce a highly detailed set of drawings during the construction document (CD) phase that includes specifications for construction details and materials. Dimensions and annotations are required to ensure the design is clearly understood on the construction site. The architect will, if part of the contract, send the construction documents to contractors for pricing or bidding. 

Phase 5: Securing Building Permits – Navigating Legalities 

The building permit phase is generally one of the slowest parts of the construction process, depending on the project’s size and complexity. The architect submits a set of drawings for permit purposes as part of a larger permit application. The submittals are reviewed by the city or county to ensure they comply with building codes and zoning laws. They also determine the design’s structural integrity. The project moves to the next phase once building permits are approved.   

Phase 6: Bidding and Negotiation – Partnering for Success

Bid documents are prepared during the bidding and negotiation phase and sent to construction contractors for pricing. The document set generally includes an advertisement requesting bids, instructions to bidders, a bid form, the bid documents, the owner-contractor agreement, a labor and material payment bond, and other relevant information. The owner and architect evaluate the bids and select a winning bid. When the construction contract is signed, the project can start! 

Phase 7: Construction Administration – Bringing Designs to Life 

Construction administration (CA) services are outlined in the owner-architect contract. During this phase, the architect works with the contractor to ensure the project is executed as specified in the construction documents approved by the client. There are different types of owner-architect-contractor agreements, but the CA services only finish when the project is complete, and the final certificate of payment is issued.

Seth Leeb Architecture is a full-service architectural firm serving New Jersey clients for more than 25 years. A commercial and residential architect, Seth A. Leeb’s expertise includes construction bidding and administration. Contact us today to clarify the architectural design process and how it affects your proposed project. To learn more about all of our architectural services, you can also visit our website at: https://leeb-architecture.com/

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