Our Integrated Design Process
When you first come to us, we start the project by learning more about your vision and objectives, visiting the site, and discussing the details of the design process with you, including the proposal, fee estimate, and schedule.
If we decide to work together, we begin our integrated design process. This process has three main steps:
- discovery, investigation, and research;
- design; and
- permitting & construction.
Step 1: Discovery, Investigation, and Research
In this foundational stage, we work to understand the goals of the buildings and the opportunities and constraints around them.
Based on discussions with you, we create a building-specific program based on your design objectives, desired uses, and the buildings’ required spaces.
To better understand the context of the buildings, we analyze views, sun orientation, topography, and drainage, among other issues.
Zoning & Development Analysis
To understand the legal requirements and limitations of the site, we research local codes and zoning ordinances, such as building height, allowable square footage, and site setbacks.
Step 2: Design
The design process has four steps, each with increasingly more detail. This process takes us from the ideas phase to detailed documents that help guide construction.
i. Conceptual Design
In this design phase, we get the main qualities of the project down on paper. We create drawings showing the following:
- Site planning: the relationship of the buildings to the site
- Massing studies: general shape, size, and scale of the buildings
- Architectural character: drawings showing the outside of the buildings
- Conceptual floor plans: size and location of uses inside the buildings
We also draft a schedule and work with a contractor who prepares the budget estimate. Since the project schedule is a product of the schedules and availability of the various players involved, permitting processes, and other factors, we regularly update it from here on throughout the process. At this point, the goal of the “order of magnitude” budget estimate is to better understand the feasibility of construction.
ii. Schematic Design
The goal of schematic design is to create a refined concept and further explore its feasibility. We create a more detailed site plan, refine the architectural character of the building, and design more specific floorplans showing all spaces and their dimensions, circulation, and other issues.
At this point, we assemble an integrated design team, including a general contractor. To explore feasibility, we engage with the general contractor to provide feedback on scope and program, site constraints, and preliminary engineering narratives. The general contractor also prepares a preliminary budget estimate based on the schematic design.
iii. Design Development
The goal of design development is to evolve schematic design with additional detail that represents the intent of design and construction. This includes figuring out systems within the building, how the structure of the building will be built, materials to be used, and details on the appearance of the buildings. We determine if changes to engineering or design are necessary to respond to site issues such as environmental impact, drainage, or market demand issues.
The general contractor gets a better sense of the budget by calculating building costs and reflecting preliminary engineering to arrive at a detailed estimate. This updated budget in turn informs the design.
iv. Construction Documents
In this step, we create construction documents, which show what is to be built and that it can indeed be built. Architects, engineers, interior designers, and landscape architects, among others, work together to create a coordinated suite of documents. These documents comply with rules and regulations and guide construction but are not themselves complete instructions – the contractors undertake the exact construction means and methods.
At the completion of the construction drawings, a final estimate based on this suite of documents is prepared by the selected general contractor.
Step 3: Permitting and Construction
This final step involves finding the specific contractors and subcontractors for construction, working with and obtaining permits from the local government for the project, and then…building the project!
We facilitate the construction drawings through the governing agencies. This includes applying for the permits, attending design review and approval meetings, making requested revisions, and receiving the permits.
Negotiation & Bidding (if required)
If a general contractor was already involved in the design process, they take the final construction documents out to bid to subcontractors and trades to generate a construction budget. Otherwise, the project is first bid out to general contractors, who (with their subcontractors and trades) generate a construction budget. In both cases, you as the owner and the general contractor negotiate the terms of the construction contract. We help in this process by answering questions and providing further details.
During construction, the design team acts as an additional check and set of eyes on the project. Our goal is to work as a team with you and the general contractor to ensure that the original vision and intent shown on construction drawings are carried through construction. This includes advising you as the client during construction and visiting the site to observe progress and quality of work.