Making Your Project Tick

Fleshing-Out Your Project in the Design Development Phase

Having plunged boldly down the design path chosen during the schematic design phase, it's now time to roll up our sleeves. We know what we need to accomplish and we've mapped out our methods for achieving our design aspirations.  Now it's time to put the rubber to the road and make it happen.  As compared to the more exploratory and visionary processes used in the Schematic Design Phase, the strategies used in the Design Development Phase tend to be more deliberate and articulate.  If Architects were watchmakers, Schematic Design would involve the aesthetic design of the watch.  How large is the face? How long are the hands? What color is the display? What kind of band will we use? During design development, it's time to peel back the face, design the gears and get that watch to tick. 

How does this translate into a building?  Leading up to the beginning of the design development phase, the scale of focus has been larger, centering on big picture issues.  How many floors will we have?  How will the spaces be organized?  How will the building's circulation work?  Having solidified the major diagram for the building, it's size, layout and shape, we can now zoom in and focus on the experience of the space.  What materials will we use?  How will we light the space to emphasize the ideal functions and intended mood(s)?  How will we optimize the energy-efficiency?  What will spaces look and feel like?  

At this stage of the design process, we focus on the human-centric details of the project. We breathe life and personality into the more abstract version of the project from the previous phase. In addition to refining the skin and bones of the building or space, the Design Development phase looks to give the project it's breath, a pulse, a circulation system, a nervous system and even a digestive system.  This involves the design of the HVAC systems, electrical power & lighting systems, plumbing supply and waste systems and numerous other requisite infrastructures that makes the project tick. Depending on the scale and complexity, Architects will sometimes design these systems in-house.  More commonly, Engineers specializing in these building systems will be folded into the design team at the start of the Design Development phase and, via direct collaboration with the Architect, and will play a key role in facilitating the design and implementation of these components of the project.  These include engineers of numerous specialties including structural, mechanical (heating/ventilation/air-conditioning), electrical (power and lighting), plumbing (supply water and waste water), fire protection (sprinklers, etc.).  Other, more specialized engineers may also be folded in during this phase to consult and assist in the design of the building's acoustical systems, audio/visual infrastructure, security requirements, etc.

Design Development Phase Recap


GOAL: Having established a clear direction at the conclusion of the Schematic Design phase, the goal of Design Development phase is the refinement and solidification of the looser design vision into a focused path of project development.  This phase marks the hinge point between the visionary ideas of schematic design and the translation of those into technically viable concrete solutions.  Although creativity is ever present from start to finish in every project, the goal of this phase is to zoom in on the project to calibrate each element into a part that supports - and is in harmony with - the whole.

ARCHITECT'S SERVICES: The Architect's services for this phase include design refinement, material selection & specification, budget refinement, construction detailing and the rigorous coordination of all major building systems (structural strategies, mechanical/electrical/plumbing solutions, etc.)

CLIENT ROLE: Similar to the previous phase, the role of the client is to provide open and honest feedback with timeliness and regularity.  Equally important during this phase is to practice the discipline of sticking by the design decisions made and approved during the previous phases.

PROJECT TEAM DURING THIS PHASE: Architect(s), Owner(s), Additional Stakeholders, Engineering Consultants (Structural, Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, Fire-Protection, Acoustical, Audio-Visual, Security, etc.), Contractor(s) (in cases where the Owner would like pricing and construction input on the front-end of a project to help steer its development).

HOW ARCHITECTS CAN SAVE YOU TIME & MONEY IN THIS PHASE: A deep knowledge of construction systems, building systems (HVAC, Electrical, Plumbing, etc.) and the agility to marry the Owner's needs with the appropriate strategies (systems, materials, etc.) can build-in major savings into a project, both on the front-end and long-term.  Missteps during this critical phase of development can set costly measures in motion so having an Architect in your corner to guide you through these choices can dial back the bottom line in significant ways.  In support of this value, the Architect is typically responsible for assembling a qualified team of consultants (engineering & otherwise) as required by the scope and ambition of the project.  Choosing these team members wisely can extend the savings dramatically.

Be sure to check out the previous posts in this series as well as the subsequent posts covering the remaining phases of your project.  Links are provided below:

01 - What...Would You Say...You Do?

02 - Soup-to-Nuts: The Stages of Your Project

03 - What is Your Problem?

04 - Blazing Your Trail

05 - Making Your Project Tick

06 - Speak With Purpose

07 - Price It, Permit It & Put the Rubber to the Road


American Institute of Architects - Emerging Professional's Companion - Design Development

Ellipsis on Pinterest - Phase 02 - Design Development