750 Franklin – 8 Unit Multifamily 3D Perspective

The Architectural Design Process: From Concept to Construction

Architectural design is more than just grabbing a piece of sketch paper and laying out an idea or asking an artificial intelligence app to create an ultra-modern investment property with a resort-style infinity pool and tennis courts. The architectural design process is creative and technical, from aesthetic and structural decisions to permits and contractor bidding. This concept is essential to figuring out as many logistics as possible before breaking ground so there are fewer surprises down the road during construction.

At Robertson Architecture, our primary goal is transforming our clients’ ambitions into realities. Collaboration is a pillar of our business—nothing gets done unless all teams are on the same page, and the architectural design process is crucial to getting a construction project off on the right foot. Below, we’ll discuss each step in detail.

Step 1: Pre-Design

The first step of the architectural design process is pre-design. Bringing on an architect sooner rather than later can help you avoid problems during the construction phase, and this starts with pre-design meetings. At Robertson Architecture, our team is often involved as early as the site selection phase so we can help developers and investors find a piece of land that will support the project they want to build. We help our clients analyze each site for the highest and best use. If a site seems like a good fit for the project, we provide a hand sketch of the test fit so our client can picture how the site and structure will work together.

In the pre-design phase, the architect will speak in depth with their client about the scope of the project and their vision for the property. Based on this conversation about the client’s goals, the architect uses the pre-design phase to research the desired location’s zoning laws and building codes. During this stage, the architect also introduces budget discussions to understand the client’s pro forma. These initial conversations help guide the rest of the architectural design process.

Step 2: Schematic Design

Before choosing design materials and aesthetic finishes for your custom build, your architect must determine the project’s technical specifications. During the schematic design phase, the architect will incorporate the items discussed in the pre-design meeting into the site plan, floor plan, and building elevations.

750 Franklin – 8 Unit Multifamily 3D Perspective
750 Franklin – 8 Unit Multifamily 3D Perspective
750 Franklin Site Plan
750 Franklin Site Plan
750 Franklin Proposed Floor Plans
750 Franklin Proposed Floor Plans
750 Franklin Proposed Elevations
750 Franklin Proposed Elevations

Below are items included in the schematic design phase:

  • Floor Plan Drawings
  • Building Elevation Drawings
  • Site Planning
  • Zoning Analysis
  • Proposed Design and Building Code Analysis

Once completed, the architect presents the drawings to the client for review. It’s much easier to make changes during this part of the architectural design process rather than later when construction has begun.

Step 3: Design Development

Using the approved schematic design as a base, materials and finishes are selected in the design development phase with consideration of the client’s budget and development goals. By layering these items onto the schematic plans, the client will start to understand what their project will look like aesthetically and functionally. This step is where architects may present their clients with a 3D project rendering.

At this point, a structural engineer may join the team to review the plans. Structural engineers are often part of the material selection process to ensure that the elements selected can support the desired structure based on the plans, from load-bearing walls to environmental concerns.

Structural framing foundation plan – Ladd St Duplex

Pricing is a significant part of design development since the design is becoming tangible in this phase. A general contractor will review the design development plans and price out the roughly estimated cost of the project based on the design.

At this point, the price is still an estimate, as material costs may shift by the time supplies are ordered.

Step 4: Construction Documents

Once the architect and client agree on the project’s design and cost estimate, it’s time to complete the construction documents for bidding and permitting. This phase is when the drawings are finalized for construction and sent to the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ).

Construction Document Floor Plans – Ladd St Duplex
Electrical Plans – Ladd St Duplex

These documents are the reference point for the construction team throughout the building process. Upon issuance of the permits, the general contractor agrees to build the set of drawings approved by the AHJ. Since these documents are so important, an architect will spend a lot of time ensuring proper compliance for delivery at this stage.

Step 5: Bidding

In the bidding phase, general contractors submit their estimates for the scope of work based on the construction plans. The architect is a liaison between the contractors and the client, offering advice based on the quality and price of the work quoted. As architects, we have connections with contractors we’ve worked with before who have delivered quality work and competitive bids.

The client may have already decided on a builder or construction company for their project. However, this company will typically still deliver a bid to ensure they can build according to the architect’s plans and within the client’s budget.

Step 6: Building Permits

When the construction documents and bidding are complete, the architect will send the documents by traditional mail or submit them online to the AHJ, typically the city or county where the project will be built. The AHJ reviews the plans to ensure they follow local zoning laws, are structurally sound, and meet local building codes. The building process can’t start until the permits are issued.

This step is the wildcard. Depending on the AHJ’s workload, waiting on permits can make it feel like the project is stalled, but it’s an integral part of the process. Nothing can happen until the AHJ approves the plans. The design and build teams can use this time to prepare for the next phase: construction administration.

Step 7: Construction Administration

In the final stage of the design and build process, once the plans are finalized, permits are approved, and the construction team is selected, building will commence. The architect should be available throughout construction for contractors to consult on the plans and be ready if any changes arise. Your architect will be your advocate if something isn’t being built to the agreed-upon plans. At Robertson Architecture, we believe communication is vital to a successful project. We want to work on a team with your contractors to accomplish your vision.

The Architectural Design Process Saves You Time and Money

The architectural design process is a concept formulated to limit the number of mistakes that can occur in the building phase. By investing time in the planning stage, you’re setting your project up for success during construction.

Our team of professionals has this process down to a science. We are our clients’ advocates every step of the way. Surpassing your ambitions and goals for a project is what drives us.

Are you ready to start a new project? Contact us today to set up a consultation and learn more about our architectural design process!

Author:  David Robertson is an Atlanta based architect and founder of Robertson Architecture.  Robertson Architecture on the premise of helping entrepreneurs and like-minded individuals exceed their goals.

In 2018, Robertson Architecture was formed with the single focus of helping homeowners and entrepreneurs exceed their goals. The firm works with custom residential homes, townhouses, restaurants, and hotels all across the Southeast. David has a passion for helping entrepreneurs and homeowners realize their dreams.

With over 10 years of experience, David spent the beginning part of his career working on small to medium sized commercial projects across the U.S., including hospitality projects, office buildings, multi-family, and custom homes.