All of us at Prime Architects wish you a very Happy Holiday season and a peaceful and prosperous New Year!
In addition to “how much is it going to cost?”, another common question we get from new clients is “how does the process work?”. We’re hoping to help you with that today. Below we attempt to delineate just exactly how architects can be a beneficial partner in getting your project designed and built.
The design process of a project typically goes in sequential phases, with each phase dependent on the previous. Getting a project to the finish line is a process that takes time. Decisions are made throughout the course of a project, and throughout all phases. Usually, for the project to move forward, the prior phase’s expectations must have been met, with decisions from that phase dictating future decisions in the subsequent phase. Parties involved in the design process typically include the owner, architect, and contractor, with certain phases focused on compiling information and decisions for the sequential phase and involved parties. Architects are typically involved in all phases listed below:
Phase 1: Conceptual Design
Understanding the Owner's Criteria and Project Requirements
Conceptual-design services usually include such research activities as programming, budget analysis, zoning review, code analysis, schedule development, as-built drawings, and conceptual development. Programming is very integral to determining the project’s requirements as design objective, space layout/room sizes, and relationships between the spaces are explored. Both hard and soft costs should be considered when budgeting. Hard costs include construction related costs such as material, labor, and contractor’s overhead and profit. Soft costs include such fees for consultants, city, and the bank, as well as insurance.
Phase 2: Schematic Design (Owner)
Explore Design Options
Two to three design options are usually created from the information gathered in the previous stage as well as through field surveys. These options will generally be presented in the form of sketches or 3D renderings to easy visualize the different routes the project could take. An estimate of probable cost is usually given to clients to aid them in selecting a design that meets both aesthetic preferences and budget requirements. Once our client has selected a design option that best suits their needs, the design will be further refined during the Design Development phase.
Phase 3: Design Development (Architect)
Refine and Develop the Design
Once a design option from the prior phase is approved, the design will be further refined in this phase. Cost estimates will be updated to reflect any changes since the schematic design phase. This phase may require negotiating and coordinating with the Owner and design team to finalize the details of the design before moving into the next phase. Plan arrangements, specific space accommodations, equipment and furnishings, material selection, and determination of systems serving the project are developed. All design decisions are completed during this phase in order to prepare the subsequent construction documents.
Phase 4: Construction Documents (Contractor)
Preparation of Technical Documents
In this stage, the final design that has been settled on and further refined is now in the process of preparation of drawings, notes, and technical specifications necessary for bidding, construction, and permit application. Contractors will use these detailed drawings and specifications as the “contract documents” to build the project as designed. The construction documents describe the quality, configuration, size, and relationship of all components to be incorporated into the project. They must be consistent with the project program, budget, and the project schedule.
Phase 5: Bidding/Negotiations
Obtain Pricing from Contractors
Contractor selection can be a daunting process. Typically, pre-qualified contractors are asked to submit bids. The contractor would then put together an overall project bid and owner/architect could then negotiate terms and conditions of the contract. At bidding, using an architect is a great advantage. At a minimum, architects can aid in the development of a list of qualified contractors and submitting bid packages to bidders. But they can also review submitted bids and help analyze and compare the cost figures received from bidders.
Phase 6: Construction Administration
Observe Construction for Consistency
Finally, once a contractor has been selected and construction is under way, the last stage of the design process concludes with construction administration. In this phase, the architect will observe the construction of the project for adherence to the plans and specifications. This phase is just as important as all the other phases as there much information the contractor and subcontractors will process throughout construction of a project. An architect will regularly visit the site during construction and address any field conditions as they arise. Architects will also review contractor submittals, supply additional documentation, and administer potential requests for changes from the parties involved.
Did this blog post help you better understand what you can expect during the architectural design process? We understand this process can be overwhelming, whether you've been through the process before, or if this is your first time. For this reason, in every project we have a hand in, we strive to eliminate this feeling for our clients - we focus on continuous collaboration and establishing open lines of communication from the very beginning.
If you are looking for an architect to design a project for you, or if you simply have more questions about what to expect, we would love to hear from you! Either comment, or contact me at the information, below.
Today, we pause, reflect and remember the pride and sacrifice shown on this fateful day in 1941. #HonorThem #PearlHarbor76
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Check out our firm's featured article in the Journal Record's 2017 How-To Guide for Small Businesses!
When asked how he got into Government Contracting, Gene responded, "Getting into contracting has helped a lot, but I would suggest taking a few years to figure out the process and make sure your business is up and going... Do your research, start small and be smart".
Tell us a little about yourself. What are some of your hobbies, etc.?
My name is Indigo Hobson-Lowther and my hobbies include running, playing fetch with my dog Cinnamon, going to baseball games, watercolor painting, and watching my favorite television shows. I am a pretty down to earth person and I love to be outside, spend time with my family, and hang out with friends!
When did you first start at Prime?
I started at Prime Architects towards the end of August. I started a new job and my graduate program all in one week!
How did you originally become interested int his field/industry?
I love to organize and make spaces aesthetically pleasing, and I have a knack for detail. Because of these traits, I have always thought I would enjoy a job as an Administrative Assistant. When I saw the job offer and met the funny, talented staff, I knew Prime Architects would be an excellent fit for me.
How has Prime helped you in your career/leadership development?
Gene has established early on that he trusts me to take on projects on my own. He often gives me the ability to express creativity in the projects I work on, which engages me in my job even though it is not a field I expected to find myself in. Byron and Allison also include me in parts of their projects. The staff at Prime Architects is helping my leadership and career development by having faith in my ability to handle more responsibility and always being open to new ideas.
What do you find the most challenging about your job/position?
It has been a challenge for me to understand Architecture and Marketing jargon, but I love to learn new things and I expect I will accumulate quite a bit of random knowledge in the architecture field throughout this position.
What has been your favorite project to work on?
It’s hard to pick! One of my favorite projects was working with Gene to establish Employee Onboarding procedures that we use whenever we have someone newly hired. I was able to use my creativity to make restaurant lists, tutorials, and questionnaires that help us get to know new employees and make sure they feel welcomed when they join the team.
Another project I enjoy is working with Allison on proposals for potential jobs. I am so out of my element so I learn hundreds of new things each time I work with her, such as how to operate InDesign software and all the hard work that goes into obtaining new contracts.
What has been your proudest moment at Prime?
My proudest moment at Prime was when Gene asked me to help with a project that involved a lot of spreadsheets, going through data with a fine toothed comb, and strong organization. I had never done anything like that before and it took a lot of hard work. The next day, Gene told me that my work was excellent and that it really helped him when it came to doing his part. I felt proud because I was able to take complicated, messy information and make it coherent.
Tell us 1-3 things that most people don't know about you. And/or random facts.
1. I enjoy going to Dodger’s baseball games (even though I know almost nothing about sports).
2. My brother’s name is Teal, as my parents both wanted us to have color names. :)
3. I write and perform spoken word poetry.
Top 3 life highlights.
1. The day I brought home my Australian Shepherd, Cinnamon, and finally felt I was “adult” enough to be able to take care of a living creature! :)
2. Completing three summers working as a camp counselor at Ramapo for Children, an organization that serves children with social, emotional and learning challenges.
3. Getting accepted at the University of Oklahoma's graduate program in Professional Counseling.
If you are wondering why you can't seem to find an industry standard for establishing an architect's fee, it's because there isn't one (you're not crazy!). In fact, almost 30 years ago, because of a consent decree with the US Justice Department, the American Institute of Architects agreed not to adopt policies of offering fee recommendations to architecture firms. This means architects must act on their own, or consult with other firms, while deciding a project's fee. Calculating fees can then be a bit of a guessing game with such factors as: the project, the client relationship, the competition, the firm's overhead, and the overall economy. Therefore, compensation methods for architectural services take varied forms.
However, there are some industry standard fee structures that can help when deciding how to hire and pay an architect for a design project.
This method is pretty straightforward - clients are billed for the amount of hours the architect works on the project. Prices will differ depending on the project and the project's locale, but can come in around $150 per hour, or higher, to work with a firm's principal architect.
This structure can be problematic when the amount of work that goes into architecture projects is not communicated in advance (i.e. a situation where the architect and the client are not on the same page as to the value of project). Sometimes, architects will have to reduce their fees when a client doesn't understand and/or disagrees with how much time it takes to complete a project. Most clients will then prefer to add a "not to exceed" clause.
We feel that hourly fees are best suited for consultation services or for certain parts of the design process, such as the preliminary stages of the project, with the intention to move forward to a more permanent fee structure for the remainder of the project's duration. At Prime Architects, we have kicked off a project by charging hourly, as clients are not completely clear on what they want and the scope of the project is not clearly defined. Once we are able to get a better understanding of our client's wants, needs and desires, we can then come up with a conceptual design that will give both parties a better ideas of the scope of work ahead.
Small and moderate-sized architecture firms tend to be more flexible in working with different fee structures with clients, whereas larger firms may have established protocols that can't be modified/customized.
A fixed-fee contract with your architect will state a set amount that will be charged for services, and specifies that a predetermined scope of service will be furnished. This method serves to eliminate concerns for both parties. The client does not have to worry about being overcharged, and the architect eliminates the ambiguity surrounding the client's perception of the work/value and how that affects the hourly fee that is charges.
As an architect, it is challenging to settle on a fixed-price contract until we know exactly what the project entails. Thus, the need to charge hourly for work in the preliminary stages. Additionally, fixed-fee structures can be ideal for small projects as the scope of work is more cut and dry.
In a fixed-fee structure, the amount remains fixed unless there is a change in the scope of services. A fixed fee agreement should include a specified time limit for the performance of the services. For time delays not caused by the architect and/or client changes after document have been approved, a provision should be included for additional compensation to the architect. Should the project be expanded or reduced in scope, provisions should also be made for equitable adjustment in compensation.
Percentage of Construction Costs
A contract that is based on a percentage of construction costs specifies that payment to the architect for a predetermined scope of services will be determined by multiplying a specified percentage times the construction cost of the project. This can be done using the awarded, estimated, or final total construction cost. "Percentage of construction cost" is a method which is used extensively for establishing compensation for professional services. However, in his article “Compensation Methods for Architectural Services”, Thomas R. Gossen, AIA, PE, points out that “Compensation based on this method is not necessarily best suited to professional encouragement and reward, since it penalizes rather than rewards the architect for reducing construction costs through economical design”. While I would agree with Mr. Gossen, Prime Architects will typically choose the method that is of convenience of the client and has completed many projects under this type of fee arrangement.
Local construction markets can also affect the “percentage of construction cost” fee structure as varying construction costs can create inequities in charges for professional services either to the client or to the architect. Again, this method for establishing compensation has been used for many years and is fairly common in our industry. In fact, for most large projects, there’s a good chance the architect’s fee will be calculated as a percentage of the construction costs. As for the percentage charged by the architect? It’s usually a sliding scale affected by how big the firm is and the size of the project…but typically ranging anywhere from 9 to 10 percent for new construction and 10 to 12 percent for renovations, while commercial project fees can be as low as 5 to 7 percent. Renovation projects get higher fees because architects must investigate and document existing conditions that will be preserved, worked around, modified, or added on to.
We recommend bringing on a trusted contractor early in the process, as the enhanced communication between the architect, contractor, and client can benefit all parties. With expectations and budgets addressed upfront, and routinely as the design is being developed, the project has a better chance of getting to the finish line on-time, and on-budget.
At Prime Architects, we work diligently with clients to identify and manage the expectation of their projects, which helps everyone’s understanding of the value of each project.
At Prime Architects, we work diligently with clients to identify and manage the expectations of their projects, which helps everyone's understanding of the value of each project.
Gossen, Thomas R. "Compensation Methods for Architectural Services" (n.d.).
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