The process of design is a mystery to many people and they don’t understand that this is the process. The former Dean of the UVA Architecture School William McDonough has been quoted as saying “Design is the first sign of human intention.” So this is our first step, if we skip it there is no telling what we are about to step in. “Design is that area of human experience, skill, and knowledge which is concerned with man’s ability to mould his environment to suit his material and spiritual needs.” according to the book The Need for Design Education. The design process, or the problem solving process is a required step as it identifies the goals, establishes the criteria by which to make decisions, and it tests the solutions before they are put into place. In other words, DESIGN MATTERS.
For an architectural design project the first step is to develop a budget, program, and schedule. With these parameters, you then move into site analysis including zoning and code reviews. These are the first steps and the backbone of any good design. You often are asked to develop schematic design to help the owner visualize the project. This could be a series of napkin sketches or a preliminary computer model that gets at the big picture and ignores the details. Through many conversations you are able find a design that meets the owners goals and you can create construction documents. Most builders want you to jump right to the last step and our industry has done little to educate people of the value of the many previous steps. In 28 years our firm has never sold a set of plans. We provide experience, advice, guidance, and knowledge that is seen in plans used to build projects, but also in specifications that spell out standards of care and product selections. While the mystery of each job is part of the fun of being an architect, the steps for success does not have to be a mystery for the client. Good conversation skills is the key to a successful project.
I certainly appreciate the need to keep a budget tight in this economy. However, I know on many jobs you are cash ahead by having good planning in place before you start ordering materials and pushing dirt.