Understanding The Architects Design Phases: Schematic Design; Design Development; Construction Documents

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April 8, 2015

Working with an architect seems like a complicated process, am I right? But, did you know that most architects utilize a typical design process to complete the design services for your new home? By knowing just the basics before talking with your architect, the process will seem a lot less daunting.

There are typically 5 phases that an architect practices to complete a project.  However, in smaller projects such as new homes, I usually employ only 3 of them:

Schematic Design:

Schematic design is the first phase.  In this step, an architect talks with the client to determine the project requirements and goals.  The architect usually starts with rough study drawings that illustrate the basic concepts of the design.  This most often includes spatial relationships as well as basic scale and forms the owner might desire.  Also, initial research of  jurisdictional regulations is completed at this time.  Initial cost estimations are also investigated based on total project size and complicity.

Schematic Design often produces rough drawings of a site plan, floor plans, elevations and often illustrative sketches or computer renderings.

Design Development:

Design development collects the results from the schematic design phase and takes them one step further.  This phase involves finalizing the design and specifying such items as materials, window and door locations and general structural details.

Design development usually yields a more detailed site plan as well as floor plans, elevations and section drawings with full dimensions.  

Construction Documents:

Once the architect and client are comfortable with the drawings produced from the design development phase, they can move on to the construction documents. The construction document phase produces drawings with much more detail which are used for the construction of your project. These drawings typically include specifications for construction details and materials.  Once the CDs are completed, the architects send them to contractors for pricing or bidding as well as to the building department for required permit approvals.

Construction documents often include a complete set of architectural drawings (site plan, floor plans, sections, details, etc.) that are combined with structural drawings (and possibly mechanical and electrical drawings) that have enough detail for the contractor to build your project.

Other Phases:

In larger projects there can be a bid or negotiation phase as well as a construction phase service.  These typically aren’t utilized in smaller home projects, but they are an important part of larger residential, commercial or industrial projects.


So, there you have it.  That in a nutshell is the complete process of an architect’s service.  By being aware of this entire process, it will hopefully help your overall anxiety of your new home project!

Bear Rock in New Hampshire, is an example of one of the homes I have designed with Canadian Timberframes and has its drawings posted.

Explore our commercial projects at Canadiantimberframes.com/Commercial

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