The design process is iterative; each phase builds on the one before to guide a project’s outcome. While very specific activities occur during each phase of design, we think of design as a series of communication exercises using various methods, tools, and media to describe the possibilities and details of a project. While VIA customizes its process for every project, the descriptions below are typical for the phases of design.
VIA and our consultant team work with clients and stakeholders to define the needs of and overall vision for the project. Together we identify overarching goals that guide decision making throughout the project. We begin by gathering existing conditions information, program/space needs data, sustainability and building energy performance history and targets, and code and regulatory requirements. We work with our clients to outline a preliminary project schedule and budget. For projects with multiple stakeholders, the community outreach effort often begins in this phase.
Information gathering in Preliminary Design leads to design concepts that explore the potential project vision, needs, and goals. Sketches, hard-line drawings, 3-D models, or collages help us and our clients visualize various possibilities.
In Schematic Design, we incorporate client feedback from conceptual design ideas into one cohesive option that best meets the project vision and goals. A schematic design usually includes a site plan, floor plans, elevations, a key detail or two, 3-dimensional sketches and/or massing models, and a narrative description of materials and other qualitative aspects of the project. Schematic design also includes input from engineers and other consultants (environmental, civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, fire protection, historic preservation, independent cost estimator, energy modeler) as applicable. We strongly recommend bringing a construction partner onto the team at this time, if possible. At the end of this phase, we outline the Total Project Budget using a detailed construction cost estimate and construction schedule.
In Design Development we are beginning the translation of our client’s vision into something buildable by a third party. Our documents (drawings and specifications) become more technical and detailed and we coordinate extensively with our consultants and builders. We do cost-benefit and life-cycle cost analyses to assist our clients in making good-value decisions about materials and systems that align with the project’s sustainability and energy performance objectives. We communicate with code officials to ensure the project meets, or exceeds, requisites. With more detailed information, we update the construction cost estimate, schedule, and Total Project Budget.
As we begin Construction Documentation, our clients have confirmed the alignment between project design and budget. We coordinate with our consultants to develop detailed documentation for bidding (pricing), permitting, and constructing the project. At this point, we define our material specifications for project components, taking into consideration carbon impact, recycled content, amount of processing, and overall healthfulness. Often, another budget check happens mid-way through this phase.
Depending on the chosen method of construction procurement (bid, construction management, design/build), the selection of a construction partner can occur at various points during the design process. VIA staff have extensive experience with construction methodologies and understand the advantages of each. We not only help our clients determine which method is best for their projects but also assist as needed with pre-qualifying construction partners, preparing and issuing Requests for Proposals or Bids, answering questions during the proposal/bid process, evaluating the relative cost of constructors, and making a selection.
We do encourage clients to bring the project constructor on board as early as possible in the design process. With a constructor’s input, we are able to more effectively consider sustainability options, constructability, materials sourcing, logistics planning, and pricing information.
Construction and Construction Administration are when the leadership of the project transfers from the design team to the entity that will manage the construction of the project. The architect and consulting engineers remain involved to ensure the project is constructed as designed and to support the construction effort by addressing any unforeseen opportunities or concerns as they arise.
Construction Administration services include: responding to requests for information, reviewing material submittals, performing regular site inspections, reviewing contractor applications for payment, processing change requests, facilitating tours, assisting in the final punchlist prior to occupancy of the buildings, and certifying substantial completion of the project. Once the project is complete and a building is occupied, we remain available to address questions and concerns and to assist with operational and architectural adjustments. We are committed to making sure our clients’ buildings are functioning efficiently and effectively as expected.