EVERY PROJECT IS UNIQUE. As you might expect, the process of designing an outpatient medical clinic downtown is different than designing a guest house on a suburban property. The following descriptions of Basic Architectural Services are applicable, in some fashion, to nearly every Project. Simpler Projects may accommodate abbreviated delivery of services, but in every case, this should be discussed, agreed upon, and written into the Owner-Architect Agreement prior to the Project's start. In general, however, the process serves to hone the abstract concept of a Project into a useful, beautiful, quality-constructed building.

Fig. 1 > Traditional Project Development Process (Design-Bid-Build)

Fig. 1 > Traditional Project Development Process (Design-Bid-Build)

Often, a modification to the more traditional approach is possible, even necessary, to expedite matters. Here, the Design Team works with the client's General Contractor throughout the design process to receive immediate feedback regarding cost, schedule, and constructibility.

Fig 2 > Abbreviated Project Development Process for expedited delivery (Modified Design-Build)

Fig 2 > Abbreviated Project Development Process for expedited delivery (Modified Design-Build)

Regardless of the process, we believe that the direct relationship between client and Architect is vitally important to ethical practice and better outcomes. For that reason, we never contract directly to a General Contractor; this creates conflicts of interest and generates much more risk than it mitigates, much like a situation in which a physician would contract directly to pharmaceutical manufacturer.


"What is the Project?" 

Schematic Design is a distinct duration in which the possibilities of the Project are explored. Interior spaces, in their respective sizes and quantites as identified in the Functional Space Program are arranged within the allowable building envelope and the design intent of the exterior is established. The orientation of the building is set on the site and the Project begins to take shape, even if several options are included in this first glimpse. The final Schematic Design set is signed off by the client, signaling approval of the process thus far. This set of drawings and outline specifications is also used to obtain an Estimate of Probable Construction Cost from a specialized consultant or a General Contractor/Construction Manager providing Pre-construction Services.


"This is the Project." 

Design Development is the next phase of design work which answers the questions posed during Schematic Design. A single scheme is developed further, with finishes, equipment and furniture proposed. Interior planning is refined to greater resolution, with structural, mechanical (plumbing, heating, air conditioning) and electrical (lighting, power) systems design coming into focus as well. As before, the final Design Development drawings are reviewed by the client and approved before moving on.


The single design solution previously developed is transformed into technical drawings and specifications. These documents will be used as the basis for the client's construction contract with a General Contractor. They identify the exact scope of Work to be performed by the Contractor, with sufficient detail so that te Contractor can identify the cost and time needed to construct the scope of Work (both of which are the terms of the contract.) Ultimately, the Construction Documents are used by the various trades to build the Project.


This is a short, but busy time. Construction documents are sent to the local Building Department for approval and, if the client wishes to seek competitive bids for construction, the documents are sent to General Contractors. Even when a Contractor has been pre-selected, bids for subcontracts will be solicited. Hopefully, bids are received that reflect the budget already established and an Owner-Contractor Argreement can be negotiated to build the Project about the time a building permit is granted so that Work can begin right away.


Services support the client and the Contractor while the physical building is constructed according to the construction documents. The Architect answers questions to facilitate construction, observe that Work being performed is complete, correct and of quality specified, and and issues revision to the documents to accommodate unanticipated field conditions or changes in scope. When the Contractor and Architect agree that construction is substantially complete, the client my finally occupy the building.


This seems like a complex process. What if my Project isn't that complicated?

As mentioned above, every Project is unique. A more abbreviated process is approriate for many residential Projects and smaller commercial ones. We are happy to discuss with you and your contractor, if you have already selected one, the best and most expedient process for your particular needs. However, bear in mind that there are aspects to every Project that occur outside of normal view but that still need to be addressed. Making architecture is more complex than it seems to most.

What if I don't have a Contractor?

We are able to refer you to several reputable Contractors suited to your Project type and size and are happy to facilitate meetings and interviews to help you find the right builder. We also enjoy an exclusive relationship with an experienced Contractor which permits us the ability to offer clients savings on Construction Administration fees.

How much will my Project cost?

Project cost management begins with cost-per-square foot values for specific building types (e.g.--single-family residential, commercial/retail, clinical) and levels of quality and is refined further as the scope of your Project is better defined through design. Using industry standards, current labor rates, and experience, we can provide you a Preliminary Estimate of Probable Construction Cost including professional design fees, financing costs, and permit fees.

What advantages are there to Design-Build?

To some extent, nearly every Project is Design-Build. The question really centers on the degree of the scope of design work for which the General Contractor is responsible. A Design-Build process can, potentially, save a measure of time by turning over the technical design of portions of the Project (heating/cooling and electrical systems, for example) to the General Contractor's subcontractors once the quality and performance criteria have been established by the Design Team. Naturally, this time saved can present cost savings to the client. The offset is that the client may have to relinquish control over the more mundane aspects of the Project design to realize those benefits. Most clients aren't aware of--and rightfully don't care about--those aspects, so that loss of control is of little concern. This should be discussed as early as possible in the design process.

I've never hired an Architect. How is that done?

Since you're reading this, you've begun already, simply by researching professionals in your area. Hopefully, this website helps you understand what to expect from the design process, what an Architect does, and how that adds value to your Project. It all starts with an e-mail or telephone call to set up a meeting for an honest conversation about your Project. From there, the process of retaining us--or anyone else--is a matter of evaluating your needs, determining that we want to work together to realize your vision, and arriving at an agreement (required by state law) to proceed.

How do Architects determine and invoice their fees?

Professional design fees are discussed and agreed upon in advance with the Client and are identified in the Owner-Architect Agreement, depending on the Project type and exact services to be provided. There are several methods of determining fees that Architects might employ:

TIME-AND-EXPENSE NOT-TO-EXCEED - Hourly billing at staff's rate, up to a maximum amount, appropriate for unknown durations of services like Pre-Schematic Services;

FIXED FEE - Establishes a set amount of compensation for a predetermined scope of services to last a set duration of time;

PERCENTAGE OF COST OF THE WORK - Generally 7% to 15% of hard construction costs;

ROYALTY - Compensation as a share of the client's income or profit derived from the Project. 

All of these allow the Client to manage design fee costs for the different nature of professional design services required. Fees are typically invoiced monthly.

Overall, however, fees are based on an hourly unit of service. We are happy to talk with you about our hourly billing rates and how we can accommodate your budget.

How does a Project Team Work? Who do I need for my Project Team?

The complexity and size of your Project Team correlates with the complexity and size of your Project. While the figure below may seem complicated, it really reduces down to the parties necessary for your Project that are retained by you, the Client/Owner, the Architect and the Contractor as they act in concert on your behalf.

Fig. 3 > Project Team roles and responsibilities

Fig. 3 > Project Team roles and responsibilities