Design Phases and Deliverables


What documents or levels of detail go along with the Pre-design/Programming, Schematic Design, Design Development & Construction Documents phases of the design process?
This would apply to a 2-family residential building, owner/occupant is the client.
Any opinions/experiences are appreciated.

Jan 26, 06 2:57 pm
el jeffe

it can be whatever you want it to be - seriously.
are you the owner/occupant?

Jan 26, 06 3:08 pm

it all depends on the level of detail needed by the project. small additions are very different then larger projects, although sometimes the small projects are the most detailed. i have also found that on residential projects design development and construction documents become the same phase.

Jan 26, 06 3:33 pm

From The Architect's Handbook of Professional Practice:

Services in the schematic design increment establish the general scope and conceptual design of a project, and the scale and relationships among the proposed building components. The primary objective is to arrive at a clearly defined, feasible concept and to present it in a form that results in client understanding and acceptance. To achieve this objective, the architect must understand and verify the project program, explore alternative solutions, and provide a reasonable basis for analyzing the cost of the project. Deliverables at the end of schematic design may include a conceptual site plan, preliminary building plans with elevations and sections, perspective sketches, study models, electronic visualizations, and a statistical summary of the design area and other characteristics in comparison to the program requirements. The final step in schematic design is to obtain client approval—preferably in writing.

Services in the design development increment strive to achieve the refinement and coordination necessary for a polished work of architecture. Here decisions made in schematic design are worked out at a more detailed level to minimize the possibility of major modifications being needed during the development of construction contract documents. In design development the design team works out a clear, coordinated description of all aspects of the design, including architectural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection systems. Deliverables are similar to those of schematic design but are more detailed. They include drawings and specifications, an updated cost estimate, and, if required, the preparation of estimated schedules for construction. Again, written client approval provides a basis for subsequent work. The approved design development documents provide the basis for the construction documents increment, which sets forth in detail the requirements for construction. Depending on the project delivery method, the design development increment could be significantly minimized or even skipped over.

See also the contractual language provided in AIA B-141, which defines in some detail what a client can reasonably expect from the Architect:

2.4.1 The Architect's design services shall include normal structural, mechanical and electrical engineering services.

2.4.2 SCHEMATIC DESIGN DOCUMENTS The Architect shall provide Schematic Design Documents based on the mutually agreed upon program, schedule, and budget for the Cost of the Work. The documents shall establish the conceptual design of the Project illustrating the scale and relationship of the Project components. The Schematic Design Documents shall include a conceptual site plan, if appropriate, and preliminary building plans, sections and elevations. At the Architect's option, the Schematic Design Documents may include study models, perspective sketches, electronicmodeling or combinations of these media. Preliminary selections of major building systems and construction materials shall be noted on the drawings or described in writing.

2.4.3 DESIGN DEVELOPMENT DOCUMENTS The Architect shall provide Design Development Documents based on the approved Schematic Design Documents and updated budget for the Cost of the Work. The Design Development Documents shall illustrate and describe the refinement of the design of the Project, establishing the scope, relationships, forms, size and appearance of the Project by means of plans, sections and elevations, typical construction details, and equipment layouts. The Design Development Documents shall include specifications that identify major materials and systems and establish in general their quality levels.

Jan 26, 06 3:34 pm

Thanks for your responses. I am the owner/occupant. Hope that doesn't put a chill on things!

post-neorealcrapismist, your comment that "i have also found that on residential projects design development and construction documents become the same phase" goes to the heart of my present dilemma: I have schematic floorplans and elevations, and a rough rendering of the front facade of the building. I have had a couple of general discussions about materials for the building shell, and received a written "specification" that mentions using CMU for exterior wall construction. Mind you, the pros and cons of various shell materials and structural support systems have not been explored.

And the architect is saying that the design development phase is over!

Is it unreasonable for me to expect some rough schemes for the structural, mechanical, plumbing and/or electrical systems before plunging into construction documents?

BlueGoose, thanks for the excerpt from the Handbook. That book is a valuable resource - too bad it's generally available to the public only at the library. I've been poring over those very same documents for awhile now, and they seem to support my feeling that a level of detail is missing from my plans at this stage. "sections and elevations, typical construction details, and equipment layouts"...? I have none of those things.

I'm genuinely interested in hearing what you professionals have to say on this topic, so I don't want to turn this into a personal gripe session. Suffice it to say that I wish I had been presented with the B141 or 151 contract by the architect, instead of discovering it myself, post-hiring, after a few episodes of unmet expectations.

BTW - Building is two stories of new construction atop an existing single-story concrete block structure.

Jan 26, 06 5:04 pm

Depends on how much you're paying the guy. Depends on if he is part of a "Design-Build" firm. Most design-build firms have their own tried and true method of getting a project approved by permit office and built. They may not follow that "Handbook" as you see it here, they don't necessarily have any legal requirements for doing so. If he's an independent architect you can ask for that, but you'll likely pay more. It's probably worth it though, you should request. I find that most clients want to leave much of that to the general contractor, but if the design is complex or you are unsure about how these systems will interact or believe there could be something missing, you're better off to pay more for someone to figure it out ahead of time.

When I go thru this type of residential project, even if we keep it cheap, I usually have a senior structural engineer look it over and at least another set of senior / mechanical / electrical engineers do a mark-up before it goes out the door. For a bit more complex project we did in Baltimore a while back, we ended up running a bit over budget, but got zero RFI's from the GC and very little (if any) questions from the city permit office. On the other hand I did a small addition to a single-family home a while back, we gave them a huge discount since the GC was one of our buddies who did commercial work with us occasionally, and we totally lost our shirts. I hate when the bosses want me to do that kind of discount work, but hey, I get paid, the company takes a loss, and that's why the V.P. of the firm refuses to take residential work any more. You think he'd know better, considering the firm design-built his own 1.6 million dollar home! I'm not sure how much longer small firms like ours will be around, seems like more and more people are working for firms with over 100 employees, also combining landscape architecture studios and civil engineers into the mix. It's a sad state of corporate america squeezing out the little guys.

Jan 26, 06 5:44 pm
el jeffe

are you saying that you feel there is information lacking that you require allow the project to proceed, or do you just feel uncomfortable about not knowing some info at this point in the process?

depending on what you want, how involved you expect(ed) to be in the process, how difficult the addition will be to accomplish, and not knowing your background & experience in participating in this process makes addressing this somewhat difficult.
more info from you would help.

Jan 26, 06 5:56 pm
R.A. Rudolph

Without a contract detailing what was to be included in the phases & what was charged for each phase, there's not much you can do other than explain that you had expected more and are dissapointed.... as others have noted, there is a huge amount of variation in what architects include in their drawings - depends on the client, contractor, building dept, and many other factors.
On residential projects we would generally bring in a structural engineer during what we consider to be the 'design development' phase for an initial meeting and evaluation of the project - however we're young and don't have as much structural experience as someone with 20 years of experience might - that person would be able to anticipate accurately what the structural requirements would be and might not bring the engineer in until cds. Also depends on whether you are paying the architect for the structural work as part of their fee, or if that will be a separate contract (we usually separate them out unless the budget is over $1 million).
In terms of plumbing, mechanical & electrical systems, we generally don't do those plans until the end of CDs, if at all - it's often design/build in the field. I've only had one experience where plumbing schematics were required by the building dept - generally they might want to know where the electrical panel is or what the BTUs are for the mechanical equip, but that's about it.
To make a long story short, the AIA has those basic definitions that they include in their contract, but generally the AIA contracts are geared towards larger projects and in my opinion don't reflect a lot of what goes on in the residential realm. I don't think by law that there are any requirements - it's up to you and the architect or designer to work out what they will provide and how much you'll pay... that said, it should be the architect's responsibility to clearly explain the phases of design & construction, what will be required in terms of your particular project and the work they will be doing for each phase.

Jan 26, 06 6:43 pm

I am definitely saying that I feel there is information lacking that I require in order to sign off on both the schematic and design development phases. This isn't a design/build contract, and this isn't the guy with 20 years experience who can layout the structural scheme himself (by his own admission). So... here's some more background followed by a question or two.

My experience with this process until now experience. I'm a design professional myself, though, so my expectations as a client are guided by how I deal with my own clients - i.e., I consider it my responsibility to communicate to clients anything necessary for them to make informed decisions. Hmm...I can see that we could debate what constitutes "necessary" information. Let me bring it back 'round to this project.

If a contract specifies "preliminary structural design and layout by structural engineer" as a requirement in the schematic design phase, and the architect's fee includes the structural work (engineer's fee), then I guess I expect some sort of rough layout. On paper. Sound right?

As far as plans for plumbing, mechanical, and electrical systems - the building dept. requires a plumbing riser diagram for filing. A "detailed study of all major design, structural and mechanical elements" is specified in the contract during the design development phase. And I hope that since I stated at the outset my desire to have an energy-efficient design, using solar as an energy source, somebody intends to talk to me about electrical systems and HVAC before the end of CDs.

Question: What does LightMyFire66 mean by having senior/mechanical/electrical engineers do a "mark-up"? Is that a mark-up to CDs?

R.A.Rudolph, thanks for your observation that the AIA contracts "don't reflect a lot of what goes on in the residential realm." I used those documents and other AIA publications to give me an overall idea of the types of services architects perform, but I knew that it all came down to the individual client/architect agreement.

Jan 27, 06 3:12 am

aia also publishes:
B-181: Standard Form of Agreement between Owner and Architect for Housing Services, and
B-188: Standard Form of Agreement for Limited Architectural Services for Housing Projects, and
B-155: Standard Form of Agreement between Owner and Architect for a Small Project

... you may want to check those out ... they typically can be purchased at your local aia office and many reprographics houses

Jan 27, 06 9:47 am
el jeffe

do you have a contract that itemizes the required deliverables at each phase?

Jan 27, 06 10:26 am

Yeah... in most states a contract is required just in order to prevent these sorts of problems. Also, the architect shouldn't be able to roll through design phases without authorization/acceptance of the previous phase by the client.

Jan 27, 06 11:37 am

my view is this: as architects, we generally are hired to exercise professional judgment ... the language BlueGoose included above in his post describes, in general terms, the sorts of deliverables typically produced during each of the first two phases ... but, in the end, we are called upon to use our professional skill and experience to determine what each particular project requires

you can purchase (fairly economically) certain checklist and guidelines that help inexperienced architects better understand the range of documents and level of detail that may be required in each phase ... one good example is the Architectural Office Practices and Standards Manual ... check it out ... our firm has found it very useful as a guide

Jan 27, 06 12:50 pm

A contract is in place, but it's not one of the AIA's greatest hits. Those quotes in my last email,"preliminary structural design and layout by structural engineer" (schematic design phase) and "detailed study of all major design, structural and mechanical elements" (design development phase) are in the contract. I don't have those items. But the architect is saying that those phases are complete and we need to move to CDs.

I have expressed my disappointment/disagreement, but I'm trying to figure out a constructive course of action. I suggested to the architect that we develop a list of deliverables to clarify expectations going forward, and he ignored that request. So at this point checking out the AOPS would be for my edification alone.

Let me clarify a previous statement: when I said that the architect "is not the guy with 20 years experience..." I meant that he doesn't have that much experience building residences from scratch (didn't know that until recently). He's an experienced architect in an urban market.

What am I missing? How do I resolve a dispute like this?

Jan 27, 06 3:06 pm

Yeah, if you don't have a contract with specific deliverables for each design phase you might be out of luck...

Jan 31, 06 1:25 am

Block this user

Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

  • ×Search in: