Your project step-by-step

While every project is different, the process is similar.

Most of my clients have not undertaken a large remodel or built a new home and wonder, “Where do I start?” It can seem overwhelming, but there is a process that’s been around for a long time and has standard practices that guide decision-making, design and construction.

1. Needs Assessment

Before starting design, we need to determine your wants and needs. I encourage clients to write down as much as possible and then review the list and prioritize it. This list does not need to be complete; I will interview you when we meet. Often my questions, objective observations and experience will uncover things you may have not considered. We will also discuss a preliminary budget to understand if it matches the scope and quality of the project.

During this phase, I will research zoning code implications for your property. I may need to meet with the building department if there are code questions about height restrictions, lot coverage or setback requirements.
What you can do during this phase:
  • List all of the things you want/need and then prioritize them.
  • Determine your financing.
  • Gather images that inspire you.

2. Schematic Design

During this phase, I develop drawings that illustrate the spatial relationships, scale and form of your project. These drawings are often at a small scale (1/8 inch equals 1 foot) and often don’t have a lot of detail so that we can keep the focus on the overall design. They are based on realistic information about functional and construction sizes so they are accurate but abstract at the same time.

I typically have a couple of different potential directions to show you at our first design meeting and we will discuss the pros and cons of each one. I will have tracing paper so that we can sit together and sketch new ideas that come up. I then take your comments, make changes and add more information and we discuss the design again. Depending on the size of the project this process might be repeated a few more times or we might quickly nail down a design direction and be ready for the next step, design development.

Deliverables often include preliminary site plan, floor plans, sections and elevations. A computer model created with SketchUp or a physical model built out of cardboard may also be part of schematic design.

At this time, I will discuss your project with a contractor to get preliminary pricing. This will be a rough estimate but should provide enough information so that the scope of the project can be adjusted as necessary. Getting a contractor involved early in the process as a team member allows us to benefit from their expertise in construction methods, materials and controlling costs.

What you can do during this phase:

  • Set aside time to thoroughly review the drawings.
  • Understand that not all decisions will be made at this time.
  • Let me know your thoughts.

3. Design Development

This phase builds on and refines the decisions made during schematic design. Window locations, sizes and types will be determined. Exterior and interior materials will be examined and presented for discussion. We will begin working with a structural engineer and details of essential elements of the design will be developed in conjunction with their input. The drawings will now be at a larger scale (1/4 inch equals 1 foot) and there will be more detail on the plans and elevations. We will continue to work with the contractor to estimate the building cost.

As part of my basic services, I will design and/or help you select everything that is typically built-in to the project from a curated selection of options. This includes kitchen cabinetry, bathroom vanities, bookshelves, etc. and large-scale drawings of these are part of design development. I help you select lighting and materials such as tile, wood flooring, carpet, etc. I will also help you select appliances and plumbing fixtures. I will bring samples and cut sheets to our meetings so that we can discuss options. The drawings will show a basic furniture layout, but if you’d like me to select furniture or stand-alone lights, I am happy to do that as an additional service or collaborate with an interior designer.

The deliverables at this stage often include an outline specification (listing materials); interior elevations showing built-in cabinetry, reflected ceiling plans, finish schedules and key details.

What you can do during this phase:

  • Make time for several meetings to review the curated options presented.
  • Visit showrooms to review appliance, plumbing, etc. options.
  • Sign off on the drawings to give approval for next phase.

4. Construction Documents and Permitting

This phase involves adding technical detail, energy code compliance information and integrating the consultant’s work into the drawing so that a contractor has a description of the project to be constructed. While the drawings establish standards of workmanship, the contractor is responsible for construction methods and means. This set will also be used to apply for a building permit. I will fill out the building department forms and submit the set.

A note on permitting: It is difficult to determine the time it will take for the building department’s review. It may take weeks for them to get to a set after it has been submitted. Typically, they will request corrections—which is not a reflection on the quality of the drawings—and I will work with the consultants to address these and resubmit. It will then require another round of review.

The deliverables at this stage include a set of construction documents, specifications and application for building permit.

What you need to do during this phase:

  • Make time to review the construction documents.
  • Sign applicable building department forms.
  • Be prepared to pay building department fees.

5. Construction

During construction, I will act as your agent and observe the construction of the project for general conformance with the document set. Clear communication between owner/architect/contractor is key to the success of this phase. I will visit the site at appropriate intervals, answer questions from the contractor and provide additional drawings to clarify design intent for the contractor. I also review shop drawings, product data and material submittals. As construction is wrapping up I develop punch lists and assist you with project close out.

What you need to do during this phase:

  • Set aside time for regular meetings with the contractor and me.
  • Expect that there will be surprises during construction.
  • Keep children and pets away from construction site for safety.