Understanding the design process

When you’re considering new construction or re-envisioning your existing space, it’s important to understand what’s included in the design and construction process when you start talking to architects and building professionals. In this post, we break down what’s delivered throughout each phase of design and how long it takes to get from concept to construction. Take a look at what goes into designing your space so you know what to expect and can ask the right questions when you meet with design professionals.

DESIGN PHASE I – Feasibility Study & Concept Design
DURATION: 1-3 weeks

VISION  Our first step is to understand how you live, what the priorities are for your home and your aesthetic preferences.
Deliverable: Written summary of the vision and a collection of precedent images (either on Pinterest Board or as a PDF).

PROGRAM  This is a summary of the spaces you’d like in the home including the number of bedrooms, bathrooms and the target size of those spaces.  We also try to understand priorities, ie. what’s on the wish list, versus, hat is required. This allows us to establish a range for the overall area of the home.  
Deliverable: Spread-sheet outlining the program and target areas.

BUDGET  It’s critical to establish a working budget before any design occurs.  Based on your vision and aesthetics we establish a cost per square foot (Cost/SF) range.  This, combined with the target area established in the program, gives us a working budget on which to base the design.
Deliverable: Spread-sheet outlining working budget based on Cost/SF and range of building areas.  

FEASIBILITY   We will look into your local municipalities zoning requirements and any NYS regulations to determine any regulatory hurdles the project could face.  Zoning requirements include complying with lot coverage and setback requirements. County & State regulate stormwater control and septic systems.
Deliverable:  Written summary of code and zoning requirements.

CONCEPT DESIGN  Based on the information collected above, we’ll put together one or two rough designs.  These designs primarily focus on siting the home and establishing floor plans. We also do rough exterior designs showing basic materials and window-door locations.
Deliverable:  Computer rendered site plan, floor plans and three or four rendered exterior perspectives. 11X17 PDF drawings.

*Note:  We can also provide a brief stand-alone feasibility study, looking at only sitting and regulatory requirements to determine if your desired project is feasible.  This is applicable to clients looking at buying land or adding units to an existing piece of property. This can be done in a few days and as a precursor to the scope above.

DESIGN PHASE II – Schematic Drawings
DURATION: 2-4 Weeks

BUDGET CHECK  Once the desired concept is selected, we outline a more detailed project budget indicating expected costs for major portions of the building including foundations, framing, siding, roofing, electrical, plumbing, HVAC (heating/ventilation/cooling), finishing and site & excavation costs.
Deliverable:  Spread-sheet outlining projected costs for major building scope.

CONCEPT REVISIONS  At this point, we’ll revise the concept design based on our more detailed budget, adding or removing square footage and adjusting material and finish quality as required.  
Deliverable:  Revised site plans, floor plans & rendered perspectives.  11X17 PDF Drawing.

BUILDING SYSTEM & COMPONENT SELECTION:  Preliminary selection of building systems including foundation strategy, floor, wall and roof systems and selection of major mechanical systems including heating, cooling, domestic hot water, energy recovery, and the sanitary system. We also like to choose preliminary window and door manufacturer on which to base our design.
Deliverable:  Detailed drawing of building systems shown in cross-section.  11X17 PDF Drawing. A written summary of mechanical systems.

DETAILED CODE REVIEW  We do a detailed New York State Building Code review to make sure the current design is in full compliance.
Deliverable:  Written summary of code and zoning requirements.

DESIGN AND DRAWING DEVELOPMENT  The majority of work in this phase will be development of the overall design. This will involve several iterations of the floor plan and exterior design based on interaction with and feedback from you.  At this point, we will also begin laying out technical drawings.
Deliverable: Dimensioned floor plans for all levels, roof plan, exterior elevations, key wall sections, and any critical interior elevations.  We will also continue to update and add additional 3D perspectives as the primary means of communicating the design to you. 11X17 PDF Drawings.

DESIGN PHASE III – Permit & Construction Drawings
DURATION: 4-8 weeks

BUDGET CHECK  We begin this phase by further refining our project budget.  We will update the budget based on any changes that occurred during the schematic phase.  We also begin reaching out to material suppliers and subcontractors for rough quotes.
Deliverable:  Spread-sheet outlining projected costs for major building scope.

STRUCTURAL REVIEW & DESIGN  We subcontract detailed structural engineering.  We review the overall design and determine final foundation sizing, floor & roof framing requirements, header sizing, shear wall requirements and any hardware required for lateral load and uplift resistance.
Deliverable:  Foundation Plans, Floor Framing Plans, Roof Framing Plans, Header Schedule & Hardware Schedule (included in final permit drawings). 11X17 PDF Drawing.

MECHANICAL SYSTEM DESIGN:  Specification of primary heating and cooling equipment along with make-up air systems, zoning, and main and branch ducting strategy (if applicable).  Identification of major plumbing equipment including water heaters, water purification, any necessary holding tanks, expansion tanks, pumps, and softeners. Outlining of major sanitary, supply and vent line locations.  Sizing of electrical service and panel, outlet locations, switch locations, generic light types, locations, and switch strategy. Coordination between systems and utility connections.
Deliverable:  Sub Slab Mechanical Drawing, Floor Plan Mechanical Drawings, and Ceiling Mechanical Drawings. (included in final permit drawings).  11X17 PDF Drawing.

CRITICAL MATERIAL SELECTIONS  Some materials are critical to receiving a building permit and must be submitted as part of the permit set.   These include siding, roofing, sheathing & air barrier, insulation, wall, and floor finish materials, doors and windows.

FINAL CODE REVIEW  We do a detailed New York State Building Code review to make sure the current design is in full compliance.
Deliverable:  Updated summary of code and zoning requirements.

DESIGN AND DRAWING DEVELOPMENT  Design development in this phase will involve solidifying the exterior envelope details and outlining overall interior design of any custom elements.  
Deliverable:  The final permit set will include the drawings listed above, along with a site plan, code compliance plans, building system details, detailed floor plans, roof plans, door & window schedules, exterior elevations, wall sections, unique exterior details, interior elevations, and ceiling plans. 11X17 PDF Drawings.

RESCHECK  Rescheck is a web-based energy code compliance tool that municipalities require for issuance of a building permit. It reviews envelope design & mechanical system selection to ensure energy code compliance.
Deliverable:  Rescheck Report

FINAL BUDGET  Detailed construction budget with accurate material quotes, subcontractor quotes, and allowances for any finishes & equipment not yet specified.

DESIGN PHASE IV – Material, Finish Selections & Equipment Selections
DURATION: 1-2 weeks

This phase can be done in tandem with permit drawings, after permit drawings as a pre-construction phase or done during construction.  We recommend doing this work before construction begins to ensure a simpler construction process and help identify true costs early on in the process  While some clients take this task on themselves, this is not recommended. The breadth of options available can be overwhelming and clients often struggle to make decisions in a timely manner.

  • SURFACE FINISHES  Choose floor finishes, including hardwood & finish, concrete stains, carpets, tiles & grout, laminates, and other options.  Specify paint colors & sheen for each room, including walls, ceilings, and trim. Specify any custom wall & ceiling coverings including wood paneling, wallpapers, wall tile & grout.
  • BUILT-IN CABINETRY Specify cabinet styles, wood species, paint colors, door style, cabinet door hardware, and countertop materials.  We have a custom cabinet shop and enjoy designing and building custom kitchens and built-ins for our clients. It will be critical to specify all kitchen equipment including the sink, faucets, range, refrigerator, microwave, and dishwasher.
  • BATHROOM FIXTURES  Outline vanities & faucets, toilets, shower basins, shower surrounds, shower hardware, bathtubs & hardware, any glass walls, curtain rods, toilet paper holders, towel racks, and tile & grout if applicable.
  • DOORS & HARDWARE Identify door style, wood species or paint color, hinge style, pull style, lock requirements and hardware finish.  
  • LIGHTING & ELECTRICAL FIXTURES  Select all can lights and decorative lights including pendants, wall sconces, exterior lights, track lighting, under-cabinet & accent lighting.  Identify outlet & switch color & style. Pick any additional equipment including built-in speakers, wifi hub, security cameras & devices.
  • MISCELLANEOUS ADDITIONAL ITEMS  Identify floor, wall & ceiling diffusers if applicable.  Pick out window coverings if applicable.
    Deliverable: Spreadsheet style finish & equipment schedule along with samples, pictures & cut sheets where appropriate.

DURATION: 2-4 weeks

At the close of the design phase, you will have a complete set of permit and construction drawings that a builder can use to create your space. As a design-build firm, we pride ourselves on delivering a seamless process from concept design through construction and providing a single point of contact. Our team at Trade Design Build can take these drawings and move right into the construction of your space.

We also understand that our clients may want the option to bid the project out to other construction companies to vet pricing upon completion of the design phases.  We structure the process so that the design phase ends with a biddable drawing set and product spec to offer our clients control over the construction process.

The construction process with a detailed outline, project phases and timeline will be outlined step-by-step in our next blog post. Stay tuned!

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