Speak With Purpose

Communicating Your Design Intent During the Contract Documents Phase

The Design Development phase has concluded.  The project now has a face, a body, a soul and even a name.  It has well-considered bones, skin, organs, a circulation system, a digestive system and a nervous system.  It inhales, exhales and, for all intents and purposes, is alive in the minds of the client and the design team.  It's ready to build, right?  

Sorry Charlie, not just yet.  Although the conclusion of the previous phase (Design Development) marks a significant milestone in the project and opens the door to increasingly-precise project budget assessments and preliminary permit reviews, the project is far from ready to hit the job site.  It requires numerous measures of translation from the idea-centric drawings, models and images of the previous phases to technically-specific, communicative drawings.  These 'Contract Documents' will act as a detailed instruction manual for the contractor(s) to use as a guide for construction.  Of equal importance is the role these drawings will play in the permitting & pricing of the job as they will act as the key tool in both of those processes.  Most important to the client and the general contractor is the role that the CD's (contract documents) play as the primary exhibit on which the contract between the Owner and General Contractor will be based.  What does that mean?  It means that the agreed-upon scope, specifications, price, and project schedule will be based directly on what is shown and articulated in the Architect's drawings.  Bad drawings can yield ambiguity and costly disagreements between the owner and contractor while thorough, professional drawings will manage expectations from start-to-finish between these parties in a clear and concise manner.

Contract Document Phase Recap


GOAL: To create the tools necessary to facilitate the permitting, pricing and construction of the project and lay the foundation for the contractual relationship between the Owner and the Architect.

ARCHITECT'S SERVICES: This phase includes the creation of drawings, calculations and specifications for the purposes of 1) securing a building permit, 2) obtaining final pricing and 3) guiding the manner in which the building or space is constructed. The various iterations of the drawing set (blueprints) and the design specifications that are created during this phase become the key tool with which the construction of the project will be priced, evaluated for the required permits and will ultimately become part and parcel to the contract between the Owner and the Contractor.  

CLIENT'S ROLE: As technical drawings are created, questions emerge on a daily basis.  Although this phase is more technical in nature, design is still in full stride.  The willingness of the client to engage in frequent discussions and to make clear, timely decisions is key.

PROJECT TEAM DURING THIS PHASE: Architect, Owner, Engineers (structural engineer, mechanical engineer, electrical engineer, plumbing engineer, fire protection engineer and specialty engineers as required)

HOW ARCHITECTS CAN SAVE YOU TIME & MONEY DURING THIS PHASE: Confusion during construction can be very costly. The quality of the drawings and documents created during this phase can make the difference between large sums of money.  Clear and informative drawings yield a smooth construction process where tasks are completed once in an accurate manner.  Half-baked drawings and specifications often lead to numerous stalls on the job site and can lose the clients thousands upon thousands of dollars in required rework and remediation to work that is insufficient.

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 - Construction Documentation-Drawings

Ellipsis on Pinterest - Phase 03 - Contract Documents