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The Architectural Process

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In the profession of architecture, drawing is essential to the process of design. From diagrammatical to highly technical, hand drawing brings to every architectural project by allowing us to quickly explore ideas and convey intent. The development of the analysis of a site, the organization of spaces, even the exploration of construction details are all efficiently produced in the line work of a sketch.

At one point, I was working with a great older couple to do their final home in a beautiful canyon of color and an eagle’s nest! I would usually show up weekly with updates from the previous meeting. I sat down at their kitchen table and had a cup of coffee, then one time they just sat there, I asked what they were waiting for. They were waiting for me to “perform”! My use of sketch paper, pens, markers, etc. creates an easy way to communicate on the plan and elevation thoughts. I would revise the plan until they were pleased.

In this project, views were critical and the owner would take pictures of all directions at different times of the day. This helped use put each room in the correct location at the right time of day. Each project has driving elements to capture and avoid. This can be done by landscaping window locations, and architectural elements.

Computer work has its place and is wonderful for clarifications and Construction Documents [CD] for bidding and submitting for a building permit.

An example is when you are snow skiing and stop at the top of a big hill which seamed really scary! Realistically, you are not going to ski down the entire mountain at one time. You are going to take small bites to make realistic decisions. You can ski to the other side of the run, then turn and ski back to the other side. You are taking smaller bits out of the run to achieve the total goal of getting to the bottom of the run at your comfort level. The architectural process is similar in that we start with a big picture of goals, existing elements we will deal with, then slowly get to the door handle style and color.

There are specific phases in the architectural world that must be achieve prior to going to the next phase, similar to skiing one direct line then turn to complete the total mountain in a zig-zag pattern.


STRUCTURE created a specific Survey for the Client to be completed and discussed to systematic evaluation of interrelated values, goals, facts, and needs of the business. A well-conceived program leads to a high-quality design.

As the scope, features, purpose, and functionally are defined, together with the Owner and Architect, the “vision” is being developed and refine through the entire process.

At this early stage, we all need to understand the timeframe, budget, style and functionally of the project. The budget, as always, is part of the driving focus in the project.


Once the requirements of the project are determined via the programming process, the design phase begins. STRUCTURE gives shape to the Client’s vision through drawings. We keep in view the evaluation of the program, schedule and construction budget for review by the Owner. At the end of this phase, the Owner will have preliminary hand drawn floor plan(s), building character elevation, and a site plan. These elements will be presented with square footage to give to a “local” General Contractor. The GC will give a project cost range to present to funding sources.

At the end of Schematic Design we have a floor plan, construction cost estimate. This information is given to lenders. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP IN THE PROCESS!!



Design Development [DD] is a logical extension of Schematic Design. In this phase STRUCTURE will translate the design of the realm of ideas to physical form. DD tasks build on the approved schematic design to reach a level of completeness that demonstrates the project can be built. The Schematic Design is overlaid with more detailed information obtained from consultants and team members.

The designs lay out the program on the site and address schedule and construction budget requirements. The Client input in this phase is vital, along with the latest elevations and major focal points. At this step, the building and branding show the vision on all that the Client sees. It is important to establish a clear decision-making process.

Spending considerable time contemplating the design now, during the earlier stages of the process, will save time and potential expensive changes later.

As a note of caution, significant changes made after approval of the DD’s, during the construction drawing phase, may warrant significant additional fees.

Once construction has commenced, changes made to the design, can be quite costly: so make sure to speak up and voice your mind before moving into the CDs.


Continuing the design build process, STRUCTURE prepares drawings suitable for a permit submittal and construction which are referred to as construction drawings (CDs). These drawings are an instrument of communicating the project to those who will be involved in the construction; the CDs set the parameters for the building process. Tasks include developing remaining elevations and beginning the structural analysis as it relates to the architecture. During this critical phase, the consultants communication at length. The team adds the consultants, such as, Architecture, Structural, Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, Civil, Landscape, Lighting, Interior Design. The Architect interfaces with consutlants coordinating the total project.  CDs are produced on a larger scale and describe, in detail, the need to get components ordered, fabricated and assembled.


Public Approval has a number of paths to take to achieve the best course for the City and the Client (land owner). Zoning is focused on the exterior of the building, traffic flow, landscaping, etc. There are many departments that must approve prior to taking the drawings from Zoning to the Building Department, which will provide the building permit.

Continuing the City approval process, next to be involved is the Building Department to achieve a Building Permit. They examine the interior of the building. i.e. regarding life / safety, American Disabilities Act, energy calculations for the use and energy used by the building.


During this phase the subcontractors or General Contractors gather their best trades for this project scope. All of the trades are judged by cost, understanding of the project, and duration to complete their portion of the project.


This phase is during the construction of the project. Inspections are done when a specific inspection is needed. Coordination with the Architect and the General Contractor is critical to the success of the building. Possible changes are discussed to increase the quality $/or decrease the cost.


The design build process is a creative solving endeavor that transforms ideas and visions in the 3 dimensional reality for the Client, staff, and customers, it is an exciting journey. At this point, the Client can take this opportunity to market this exciting time share the “good news” of making the new or remodeled hospital a reality.

I hope that this paper will help you to better understand what you can expect during the architectural construction process. We don’t want the Client to be overwhelmed, STRUCTURE will keep communication and collaboration between the team and the Owner!

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