Many people think that an architect designs a project according to the client’s wishes and budget, hands over the plans, collects payment, and that’s it. In reality, most architects have about five or six phases that make up a comprehensive service:
- Schematic Design – This is known by many names such as Preliminary Design, Initial Consultation and Design, Building Program and Site Analysis, etc. This is the first contact the architect has with the project. They will visit the site, analyze it, consult with the client to get design ideas and budget information, and determine the client’s needs. These discussions will turn into a written program defining the client’s needs and design goals. This is where the rough draft is created, identifying key design concepts and sketches of the project’s size and layout. Some architects may present a couple of options at this time.
- Design Development – After the client has accepted a plan sketched out in the first phase, the architect will turn it into a more detailed and technical plan. Through 3D computer modeling, some architects can show you a complete model that you can walk through on the computer. This is also where some specific design details will be created that give your project its distinctive character. For larger projects, this is the point at which the engineers get involved.
- Construction Documents – These are the hard-copy blueprints that you can take to different contractors to get bids. Enough detail is included in these documents that a contractor can make a fair assessment of what it will take to turn the plan into reality. This is also the point in the process where you can submit your plans for construction permits.
- Bidding and Negotiation – Not all builders can build everything. During this phase, the architect can help you get bids from contractors who can perform the tasks needed for your project. You can also bring in your own choices, and the architect will interview each of them to work out any questions that the contractor may have and details that they may need to know. Some plan revisions may happen at this time, especially if a design element is over budget or simplified. After gathering all the information and bids, the architect then presents a final decision to the client.
- Construction Administration – Though the architect is not the contracted supervisor for the work, they will visit the site to answer any questions and clarify any details. This phase may also include:
- Preparing any necessary additional drawings
- Approving the contractor’s request for progress payments (payments made at specified milestones in the project)
- Handling any changes made to the plans (Change orders can come from several sources. Many times it’s a request made by the client. Other changes result from site issues, conflicts in existing conditions with new design, or changes in design due to schedule.)
- Negotiating disputes about payment for change orders (such as who pays for them)
- Resolving issues caused by conflicts or lack of detail in the design
Here at LPA, we offer full-service proposals as described above, but we are flexible enough only to provide the services you need based on your comfort and level of experience. We are here for as much or as little support you need.
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