The Design Process
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The following are design phases required for a typical project. Your project may or may not require all phases, as some may be consolidated for simple projects.
Phase 1.1: Existing Conditions
The Kastrop Group will visit the site to take specific required measurements, review information provided by the Client, verify site conditions, take photographs, etc. These are necessary to create a baseline to begin the project design. The jurisdiction (City or County, Fire Dept., Health Dept., etc.) may be called for code information. Sometimes library research is required, especially for historical preservation projects. For most projects, we will enter dimensions of the existing building and site information into our Computer Aided Design and Drafting (CADD) system.
Phase 1.2: Preliminary Design
Based upon one or more interviews with the Client, our designer(s) will prepare one or more preliminary drawings. These are sometimes sketches, or can be actual plans such as a floor plan (view from above), site plan, interior or exterior elevations (inside or outside view faces). At this time, a general direction about materials will be determined (e.g., wood or steel construction, etc.). During this phase we want to make sure we are on the right track with the Client’s vision for the project. The scope of work will be discussed in general, to determine budget considerations.
At the completion of this phase, the Client will be asked to approve the preliminary design. This approval will indicate that the actual construction documents can be produced. After this design approval, changes to the basic design are considered “additional services” and will result in fees above and beyond the original estimate. The approved Preliminary Design documents will be provided to a trusted General Contractor to get a preliminary construction cost estimate at this time. This would be a non-binding, ”ballpark” estimate to determine whether the concepts are within the range of the Client’s budget.
After obtaining a preliminary bid, we will provide a more detailed estimate for the construction document phase, since we will have a more accurate idea of the scope of work. We will usually request an extension to the original contract for the fees for the next phase(s).
Phase 2.1: Design Review
In some cases a project requires an extra step that we call Design Review. It usually occurs when the Planning Department requires an additional review before the project can be submitted for a building permit. Each jurisdiction has their own set of guidelines for this step and it can be triggered by a variety of circumstances. Design Review often requires neighborhood outreach and a public hearing. It is called by different names depending on the circumstances and can serve several purposes. Design Review can be required for an Architectural Permit, a Variance, a Conditional Use Permit, Use Permit, Architectural/ Site Review, Residential Design Review, Home Improvement Exemption, etc.
The Kastrop Group will provide drawings that are intended to provide what the Planning Department is looking for, such as size, shape, floor area, lot coverage, parking, orientation, color, exterior finishes and lighting, etc. We will also represent the client at any formal hearings (before the Planning Commission or a review Board), if necessary, and provide documents necessary if neighbors must be notified, or if there is a public hearing. Once the Design Review process has been passed, that information is not necessarily reviewed in great detail by the Building Department and other agencies. The drawings required for this phase are extensive, but most of them will be re-used in the Construction Document Phase.
Phase 3.1: Design Development
At this point the design team should know basically what the Client wants and is starting a more detailed part of the creative process. Design ideas will be presented to the Client for discussion and decision-making. Sketches of decorative elements will be presented. Interior design considerations, such as electronic needs, fixtures, cabinets, etc., will be chosen, if applicable. A trusted General Contractor will be consulted to provide feedback on cost-saving considerations, timing, ease of construction, and many other variables. Submittals to the City or County Planning Department are also part of this phase to verify that the project fits within their guidelines. This may require a formal design review process.
Phase 3.2: Construction Documents
This is the phase in which we produce the drawings (plans, elevations, details and specifications) which you will need to obtain a building permit and to obtain bids from contractors. (Sketches from the D.D. phase will not be adequate for building officials.) Most of the costs in this phase are for CADD operators to enter the design elements into the computer. The Project Manager will coordinate and review the drawings and “redmark” (make changes) as necessary. The Project Manager may be contacting materials manufacturers for information on specifications for their materials.
The Project Manager will have the responsibility for the “Presentation” to the necessary government officials. This is usually the Building Dept., and/or Planning Dept., but can also include an Architectural Review Board, Planning Commissions, Health Dept., etc. We will do whatever presentations are requested (for example, to investors, a Homeowner’s Association, a church building committee, or any interested parties), but any presentations outside the defined “scope of work” will be billed by the hour as “additional services”. This phase ends when the proper permits have been received for the project.
Phase 3.3: Construction Administration
This phase may include helping with bidding and negotiations among contractors. It will also include site visits to determine whether the work is proceeding according to the plans. This time is typically billed by the hour, since the amount of work varies widely from project to project.
These are services that are included in the Construction Administration phase:
a. Construction Submittal review and approval
b. Contract document interpretation
c. Site observations
d. Change order review and approval
e. Review and approval of contractor payment applications
f. Certificates of substantial and final completion
g. Preparation and disposition of punch lists
h. Responding to contractor requests for information
If the Contractor has questions about the drawings during construction, they are encouraged to contact our Project Manager directly for answers rather than going through the Client. Most licensed contractors have excellent skills for reviewing and interpreting architectural drawings. Because this is not a science, however, the Contractor’s judgment may sometimes conflict with the Architect’s specifications. In a positive way, we will attempt to provide expertise, or sometimes even make changes based on input from the Contractor (especially if the change can save money or time in construction without negatively impacting the quality of the design). For example, a contractor might suggest a material or product that is more readily available than what was specified. The architect could explain any difference in quality or appearance to the client and then approve (or disapprove) the change order request.
A word of caution: It is not wise to exclude the Architect from the Construction Administration process. Some contractors may argue that the architectural drawings were inaccurate or incomplete so that they can request “change orders” for fees above and beyond their estimate. This causes the Client to be caught in the middle, and can cause delays, costs, and aggravation. It could also cause problems getting a final approval by the Building Department, who will check to make sure the construction complies with what was approved. The Client should always refer the Contractor to the Architect to clarify any questions about the approved Construction Documents.
When choosing a contractor, get recommendations from others (including your Architect) and check references to determine whether the work proceeded in a professional and timely manner, what amount of change orders the contractor requested on their project, and whether all subcontractors were well supervised and paid promptly (to avoid mechanic’s liens on your property).
Trust your instincts about the type of people you want to work with. Don’t forget that the lowest bidder may not be the least expensive in the long run. Check with the State Licensing Board and the Better Business Bureau regarding contractors before you sign a contract. No matter which General Contractor you choose, we will treat them as our partner on the project team.