Initial meeting with the Architect

 Designing & constructing a building can be an exciting and rewarding process for both the owner & the Architect. It can also be time consuming and complex with many unexpected twists and turns in the road to completion.  This initial meeting will allow the architect to understand  your goals for the project and assess whether he feels he can provide the services you require in the timeframe you have in mind. It will also give you an opportunity to get to know the architect’s personality and way of working.  Design and construction of a typical custom single family home tends to be around 18 months to 2 years. Like any long term relationship, you want to make sure you & your partner are compatible and that you have realistic expectations.

Contract for Design Services

The state of California requires an Architect to execute a written agreement for design services prior to starting any work. The contract is designed to clarify exactly what services will be provided, what the scope of work includes, what each partys responsibilities are, and what the compensation will be. The Architect will typically provide a standard form for the contract. You may want to have your attorney review the document before signing it.

Zoning Ordinance Review

Zoning Ordinances establish building heights, setbacks, allowed uses and many other constraints that can have significant impacts on what can be built on a given parcel. It is important to know these constraints up front. For this reason we will typically attempt to identify all local and state agencies that may be involved in the project and asses what impact they may have on the project & process.  This may include local Architecural historians, planning staff, as well as various state agencies and entities. Note that typical projects may only involve planning department review but the involvement of any of these agencies can have both design and fiscal impacts on the project and should be brought to the owners attention as early as possible.


Once a contract is in place, formal work on the project can begin. The American Institue of Architects defines Architectural Programming as follows  “Architectural programming is the thorough and systematic evaluation of the interrelated values, goals, facts, and needs of a client’s organization, facility users, and the surrounding community “ .  

The product of this process is a written document that outlines the owners goals for the project and gathers as much information as is known about the project. The information in this document will be synthesised into a “design concept” that the will guide the Architects design process. The program may be a single page document or a large complex program depending on the scale of the project

Building code anaysis

Depending on the type and complexity of the building a preliminary building code analysis may be performed at this stage to identify requirements that could affect the design or overall organization.This will typically include meetings with building department officials and if the complexity requires it, may include specialized consultants as well.

Design development

Concept drawings will now be further developed and refined into formal plans, sections elevations, 3 computer dimensional models & where appropriate physical models. Specialized consultants will typically be involved at this stage including Civil,Structural, Mechanical & Electrical engineers at a minimum.  The type of structural, mechanical & electrical systems will be determined at this time in order to refine the design as these elements can have major impacts on the form & organization of the building.  Additional specializations may include lighting designers, energy consultants, environmental consultants & others as the need arises.  Where possible we prefer to involve consulting professionals early in the process as to help identify problems or opportunities relating to their area of expertise. We have developed relationships over the years with a variety of highly competent consulting professionals that we can recommend. Preliminary design documents along with a preliminary construction cost estimate will be prepared and presented to the owner for review and approval. 

Design review submittal

Upon the owners acceptance of the preliminary design  the Architect will prepare drawings & documents for submittal to the various agencies including Architectural Design Review Boards and other entities necessary for planning approval.  The design review process can be lengthy & require a number of revisions & re-submittals before approval is granted, particularly where there are homeowner associations & design review boards involved.  We will submit the drawings for review and present the project to the various entities for approval. In more complex projects we may employ planning consultants to aid in these submittals, particularly in the case of multi family developments requiring complex document preparation & submittals to various local and state entities.

Construction documents

Typically, construction documents will start once the design has been approved by planning. In cases where we have a high degree of certainty that the design will be approved or the owner is willing to proceed at-risk due to his schedule we may prepare the construction documents concurrently with the design review process, however, this is not typically recomended. In this phase we will coordinate with the various consultants to produce a coordinated construction documents package for submittal to the building department for approval. 

Our design and construction documents are prepared in an integrated 3-dimensional modelling system known generically as “Building Information Modelling” or by its acronym “BIM”, the system we use is “REVIT” and is the leading BIM system on the market. This is a relatively new technology that is quickly replacing 2 dimensinal CAD drawing, which is little more than an electronic pencil & a calculator. With BIM we create an integrated “parametric model” of the building.  This includes both a geometric model & a data model that includes all information that defines the building. This model contains what is known as “bi-directional associativity”. This means that all the data is connected in such a way that a change in one part of the model is automatically reflected in every other related part of the model.

All drawings are a “view” of the model, and if a change is made in one drawing it is instantly reflected in all other drawings and in the model. This offers a number of efficiencies & guarantees a well coordinated set of construction documents with minimal errors. This translates into fewer problems on the construction site and fewer cost over runs.  When the construction documents are completed they will be submitted to the building department & related agencies for approval.

Bidding & Construction contract administration

At this stage we will typically assist the owner in preparing bid documents including bid forms, drawings & specifications & form of construction contract. We will assist the owner in reviewing the bids and the contractors qualifications Typical duties performed by the architect during construction include visiting the site on a regular basis to observe the progress of construction & determine that the work is in general conformance with the construction documents & prepare regular reports documenting our observations at the job site.

Throughout construction we will answer all Requests for Information by the contractor & document change orders that may occur. We will also review the contractors requests for payment to assure that the work has been completed prior to issuance to the owner for payment and will obtain sub contractor lein releases as required.