in May 2006
Architectural Design Process
By Tony Warner, CTS-D
Being on the same ‘page’ helps expedite
design of a building is one completed in methodical stages.
Understanding the evolution that most designs experience
is critical for all members of the design team. As more
AV firms decide to make an entrance into the design side
of the industry, it is important for them to fully understand
and appreciate the processes their clients commonly use.
Perhaps one of the most striking
differences between the design industry and the installation
industry is timeline. When a project reaches the point at
which it is ready to be constructed, many of the complex
financial and political issues have already been addressed.
For instance, budgets and funding are key issues that have
to be considered throughout the design process. At other
times, working through local legal issues and ordinances
pertaining to the land use, neighborhood requirements or
building codes may have to be addressed. Any one of these
issues might halt or delay the project for long periods
It can sometimes take years to
get through some of the political issues of a design. On
occasion, a design team could spend several years working
on a project only to have it canceled or shelved indefinitely
due to financial constraints or other non-design-related
issues. Although it is indeed important to promote early
involvement in the process, the AV designer must be prepared
both mentally and financially for these frequent disruptions
to a project’s design cycle. In many ways, it is the
collective experience of these project peaks and valleys
among team members that fosters camaraderie, so they should
not be avoided.
Traditionally, the design process
is comprised of multiple stages. At each stage, the design
team issues a formal submission to the client for official
feedback and approval. A normal project often will include
four or five major submissions. The most frequent stages
are broken down into Programming and Concepts (10%), Schematic
Design (35%), Design Development (65%) and Construction
Documents (100%). There are often additional submissions
or variations of these, but generally speaking, these are
the most common.
When a project commences, it usually
begins with what is referred to as a Programming phase.
It is in this phase that the design team holds its initial
meetings with the client to assess its needs, preferences,
preliminary budget, etc. The goals for the project, and
the building, are discussed and documented.
The Programming phase often results
in a detailed Programming Report or a Basis of Design document.
Directly following, but sometimes simultaneous to, the Programming
phase is the Concepts stage. Here, several options for the
building’s overall shape and layout are presented
for review. This may include engineering studies that would
impact the core building design as well. Often the Programming
and Concepts stages are called a 10% stage.
When these two stages are completed
and approved by the client, the design team begins work
on the first major milestone: Schematic Design, which is
the stage in which the shell of the building is modified
more based on feedback from the Concepts stage. Additionally,
primary spaces are allocated and laid out internally. It
is a stage characterized by significant architectural modifications.
During this phase, the various engineering trades work at
laying out the building structure and service entrances
for utilities. The Schematic Design phase decides much of
what the final building will look like from a structural
perspective. It is typically referred to as the 35% stage
in the design process.
Following the completion, review
and approval of the Schematic Design submission, the design
team will move into the Design Development project stage.
Here, pieces of the building begin to come together. Many
of the engineering and technical systems are developed during
this phase. Following this stage, the primary work that
should remain is detailing and minor system changes. Any
major systems or building considerations should get resolved
during Design Development. This phase is often called 65%.
Following the approval of the Design
Development documents, the design team will proceed to the
final design stage: Construction Documents. This phase,
when all of the intricate detailing of the project typically
occurs, is considered by many to be the most labor-intensive
stage of the project design. Significant coordination between
trades is a critical aspect of this stage.
Although some projects may include
a draft specification submission in one or both of the previous
submissions, it is primarily during this phase that the
project specifications are developed. The Construction Documents
phase is called 100%. At times, it may be called 95%, with
client comments then getting incorporated into 100% documents.
For the most part, however, the Construction Documents are
those documents that will guide the contractors during construction.
The purpose of the methodical design
process built around periodic submissions is to continually
protect the client and designer from wasting time and resources
on a design that does not meet the client’s needs.
The AV designer, however, must
understand that the architect has different needs than the
AV designer from each of those submissions. The whole model
of the staged submissions is one that starts out at a very
high, conceptual level and then gradually gains more focus
and definition with each submission.
For instance, the AV designer may
use the Concepts stage to define the concepts of the AV
systems while also supporting the architect with any AV
issues that could impact the building’s concept. It’s
often only at the very end of the design that those two
paths fully converge, but it’s important for the AV
designer to understand the importance of both throughout
the entire process.
Warner, CTS-D, is director of the Audio-Visual Design group
for RTKL, a 60-year-old worldwide planning, architecture,
design and creative services organization. He has worked
on projects for such clients as the US State Department,
the US House of Representatives, the National Institutes
of Health and the US Naval Academy. Send comments to him