Residential design process

Your home is the most important building in your life. It is your refuge from the world. The place where you spend the majority of your time and one of the few places where you have full control over your environment. Shaping your home is major undertaking and we approach it with respect, eagerness and joy. We also approach it with an open mind and receptive ears. We pride ourselves on working collaboratively with our clients and that means listening closely to your hopes and dreams. So how does this typically work? It depends on the size and scale of the project but in general, our residential projects typically fall into two main types:

Small(er) additions or remodels – Kitchen remodels, ground floor additions or whole house remodels that don’t add space fall under this category. With projects of this size, we typically do not need as complex a drawing set as with new construction projects or major additions.

New construction and major additions – This category includes new homes, new mother in law cottages and major additions such as second stories. These projects go through all of the design stages listed below.

The design process is more of a journey than a checklist but it helps to break to process into stages to better understand it. For smaller projects, we may not go through all of these stages while a large project would utilize all of the stages shown below.

Design stages:

1. Initial meeting

The relationship between client and designer is critical to ensure a successful project. Our design process is a collaborative effort between us and you. The first meeting allows us to get a look at the site or space and to see whether we are a good fit for you and the project. We will discuss expectations, timelines, likes and dislikes. Ideally we will come out of this meeting with a good idea of what you want to do and what is important to you.

2. Proposal

Based on the initial meeting, we will prepare a proposal that describes the design scope and our anticipated process along with time and fee estimates for each stage of the design

3. Predesign/feasibility

Once the proposal has been accepted we begin by gathering as much information as we can about the site, the program and your likes and dislikes.We study any images or information you have collected and identify any zoning/landuse and code requirements that may add constraints to the project. We will work with you to develop a program (a list of the required spaces and functions of the home) and a rough cost range. At the end of this phase we should have a good idea of what we can do, what you want to do, and how much it can cost.

4. Schematic Design

This is the fun part. Based on your input, we will explore a range of options to satisfy the design program. We will look at massing, circulation, siting, views, light, ventilation etc. This stage starts with diagrammatic studies and progresses towards a basic set of plans that will set the design direction for the project. There is usually quite a bit of back and forth during this process. The idea is to come out of schematic design with a good idea of form, layout, size and appearance.

5. Design Development

During design development the design gets refined. Materials get chosen, windows are detailed, casework is designed. This is where the drawings become much more detailed and precise, showing sizes, materials and how item A interacts with item B. Somewhat independently, we will create a set of drawings that can be submitted to the city for permit. Depending on the type of project, these can be relatively simple or incredibly complex. Given the long review times typically seen at building departments these days, we try to submit for permit during design development and continue to work on the construction documents as the project is under review. For smaller projects, design development can be the end of the design process.

6. Construction Documents.

The construction documents phase is concerned with creating a comprehensive set of drawings that describe how the design created in previous phases gets put together. For competitive bid projects, a full and complete construction documents set is required.

7. Construction observation / administration

We work closely with the contractor throughout the building process. Ideally the contractor is selected early in the design process but regardless, we work with the contractor during the construction process to answer questions and make revisions as necessary.

8. Post occupancy check in 

At some point after project completion, we like to check in to make sure things are working out and touch base again.

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