Five Basic Design Phases

The five phases of design are a way we to break up the work we do into categories that should be easier for everyone to understand. Understanding design phases can help explain what we do and how the project is structured.

The initial consultation will generally result in a proposal for our services as well as a breakdown of our fees. At this point, you will have the option to either sign the contract "as-is" or adjust the scope of services to best suit your needs. Once we have come to an agreement, we will begin the pre-design services/project programming, or if the project is planning work to an existing structure, we will additionally document any "existing conditions" through field studies and gather any relevant architectural data to initiate the first phase of the architectural design process.

These phases are the breakdown of how most architects define their design services and their role in design process regardless of the type or size of the project.

Modern Tuscan Villa - Schaub Projects Architecture + Design - St. Louis, Missouri

Pre-Design and Programming Services

While there are five distinct phases of architectural design, some research and planning must be done to enable those phases to begin. We consider this the Pre-design and Programming phase. Often considered an additional service at other firms, we consider it a standard service, and it’s what we do before we start designing any building project. It will include work on both the client's and our part. This phase can be a lengthy or short process depending on the type of project and its complexity.

At this level, we and the client will identify the project scope, project schedule and the construction budget. It is of extreme importance that this information be shared with us, so we can work on your behalf to create a successful project in the end.

During this phase, we also research, analyze and evaluate the building code and zoning regulations, as well as site data to develop recommendations on the feasibility of a project.

The 5 Main Phases of Architectural Design


Schematic Design

The Schematic Design Phase is the first phase of designing the project and will typically account for about 20% of the firm's work and fees on your entire project. Think of it as the preliminary drawing phase. During this phase, we will perform individual space planning with input from the client. By the end of this phase, you will have a good understanding of how the project will look, flow and operate inside and out. You will also understand how the structure interacts with the site. The process will be accomplished through sketches, renderings and other materials that will be presented during several design meetings. The final design concept will be presented to the client along with a preliminary cost opinion.

Once the design is presented, we and the client will agree, in writing, to proceed to the next phase of design.

Design Development

The Design Development Phase typically accounts for approximately 15% of our work and fees for the project. In this phase, we revise and further clarify the initial design while transferring the design from sketch form and inputting into our computer software. We, along with the client, will work together to select materials, including interior finishes and products such as windows, doors, fixtures, appliances and other materials. Engineering will start on the structure as well as plumbing, electrical, heating/ventilation systems and any other project-specific systems. By the end of this phase, most product selections and systems designs should be progressing. This phase concludes when the interior and exterior design of the building is firmly established and accepted by the client. Also, at this time, we will refine our construction cost opinion, or if the client has already selected a builder, start collecting hard estimates for construction.

Once the client is provided with drawings of the revised design and updated construction cost opinion, we and owner will agree, in writing, to proceed to the next phase of design.


Construction Documents

At this point, we and the client will have settled on a final design and we will begin preparing the technical drawings, details, building sections, schedules, notes and outline specifications necessary for bidding, construction and permit application.

The Construction Documents Phase is the largest and most time consuming of all the phases for the firm and will account for about 40% of our work and fees. During this phase, we, along with our engineers and consultants, will finalize all the technical calculations, drawings and details. Mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems and all products and materials are selected and/or scheduled. Once complete, we can produce multiple reproductions of drawing sets, including sets for approval from the building department and for the general contractor.

Once the Construction Documents are presented to the client, ready for bidding and we’ve completed a submittal for a permit, we and the client will agree, in writing, to proceed to the next phase of design.

Bidding and Negotiation

The Bidding and Negotiation Phase is where the client prepares to select the contractor for the job and sign contracts to proceed with construction. This phase will typically take up 5% of our time and fees. We can provide a list of contractors and invite them to bid based on the client’s decision on who they would like to invite to bid. We will prepare a bid package and send it out with instructions to the contractors on bid requirements. We will receive the bids, organize the information to be clearly understood by the client and work with the client to compare the bids accurately. During this phase, we will also issue clarifications and prepare addenda to disseminate all information to each of the bidders as to not create any advantages between the bidders. The client may have multiple contractors submit bids on the job or the client can directly hire a contractor without getting competitive bids. Our role here will be to assist the client, answer contractors' questions, provide any additional documentation if requested or needed by the contractor during the course of bidding and negotiating the contract with the client.

Having us on your side during the bidding phase of construction is of great advantage to you. At minimum, we aid you in developing a list of qualified contractors for your bid list as well as submitting bid packages to bidders. But we can also review submitted bids, provide analysis and help you compare the cost figures you receive from your bidders. This phase will ensure the contractors you are considering for your construction project have read and understood the plan set and the design intent correctly, and are providing an accurate and complete bid for your project. Having us to consult with during this phase of the project can help you navigate what can often be a confusing process and can provide you with extra reassurance that you’re hiring the best contractor for the project.


Construction Administration

The Construction Administration Phase of our services is the last phase of your project and accounts for about 20% of our time and fees on a project. Even though this phase is the longest scheduled phase, it is not the majority of our work on your project. We do NOT supervise construction, this is the role of the general contractor. Instead, we will periodically visit the job site to see the progress and evaluate if the contractor’s work is following the plans and the design intent. We will review the contractor's monthly payment requests to confirm work completion. We will review all shop drawings and material samples and evaluate any substitution requests. Our attention during this phase will ensure the smooth and satisfactory completion of your project. The ultimate goal is to ensure that what was envisioned from the start gets built as planned and to your satisfaction.

Architectural Fees

Again, the percentages of architectural fees can vary. The architectural fee breakdown is a general guideline of how our resources are distributed throughout a given project. Here's a quick review of those fees:

  1. Schematic Design 20% of Architectural Fees
  2. Design Development 15% of Architectural Fees
  3. Construction Documents 40% of Architectural Fees
  4. Bidding 5% of Architectural Fees
  5. Construction Administration 20% of Architectural Fees
Old Oak Plantation - Schaub Projects Architecture + Design - St. Louis, Missouri