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Design Phases

The architectural design process consists of five phases. As you begin working with an architect, or consider hiring one, it’s helpful to know where you are in the process and where it will take you.

Originate

This first phase includes all of the discussions, thought and exploration that lead to the moment when you realize you need to build something new. The phase ends with your decision to move forward with a project. When you reach the end of this phase, you can use this site to prepare yourself for working with an architect.

Focus

Here you define the project – its scope, features, purpose, and functionality. This is the time to select an architect and establish an owner-architect agreement. Together with your architect, you develop and refine a “vision” for the project. Your architect leads you through a “programming” exercise to help you explore the needs of those who will live, work or play in the space you create. You will identify the services you need from your architect, and the design team will begin to form a cohesive relationship and a shared concept for the final building.

Design

Once the requirements of the project are determined, the design phase begins. Your architect gives shape to your vision through drawings and written specifications. Your input into this phase is vital, as you get the first glimpses, and then a more defined look at how your building will take shape. It is important to establish a clear decision-making process with your architect during this phase. The design phase ends when you agree to the plans that will guide construction.

Build

The contractor who will construct your building becomes the most active member of the team during this phase. The contractor will make investments in materials and create timetables that are extremely important. Good communication within the project team is critical, as the need for changes often arises. This is typically the time of highest stress for the project owner. Your architect will discuss changes and options with you, and ensure that alterations are compatible with your vision for the project.

Live

This phase begins the day the project is up and running and never really ends. It’s where your satisfaction with the project is determined. If you are turning over the project to others who will ultimately use it, then good communication during that process is essential. Your architect can help ensure that the terms of your building contract were met, and can use the experience of this project to inform future work, should you team together again. For these reasons, it’s a good idea to maintain a relationship with your architect.

(Based on the American Institute of Architects Five Phases of Design)

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