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At Element Residential Design Studio, we make it our mission to layout the process of working with us as clearly and simply as possible. We want our clients to gain an understanding of how we operate from the initial consultation all the way through construction administration.


Ideally, we would prefer to work with you through every phase we describe below to ensure the smooth completion of your project — we carry out each phase with the intention of keeping your project on track.


Schematic Design Phase

The schematic design phase establishes the conceptual design of the project and illustrates the scales and relationships between project components. The primary objective of Schematic Design Phase is to arrive at a clearly defined, feasible concept and to present it in a form that achieves Client understanding and acceptance.


This phase produces a final schematic design, to which the owner agrees after consultation and discussions with the architect. Costs may be estimated based on overall project volume. The design then moves forward to the design development phase.


Design Development Phase

The objectives of the Design Development Phase are different from those of Schematic Design Phase. The primary purpose is to define and describe all important aspects of the project so that all that remains is the formal documentation step of construction contract documents.

During the Design Development phase, the Architect establishes the building’s relationships, forms, size and overall appearance through further development of the floor plans, sections, elevations, typical construction details, and equipment layouts. Preliminary specifications, which identify major building materials and systems, and establish quality standards, are also introduced during this phase.

The Design Development Phase focuses more on the technical aspects of materials and building systems. Although this phase allows the Designer to finalize space and function to a great degree, the primary achievement is to enable the Client to understand how the project will function as well as give more detail about what it will look like. Building design is enriched with input from engineers and contractors. The structural system is selected and developed further, as are other building systems such as electrical sources, and heating and cooling strategies.

We strongly recommend hiring a contractor at this time (or earlier, if possible). Your contractor can provide valuable “Pre-Construction” services such as establishing a schedule, cost estimating/budget management, and generally allowing you to make educated decisions about quality of materials and products.


Construction Documentation Phase

The Construction Documentation phase completes in detail the requirements for permitting and construction of the project. Drawings have been refined to further establish the types of materials and systems required for the project. In larger buildings, communication with the system designers and engineers is expanded to insure a comfortable fit within the building, or request an equipment layout revision, or modify the building design if necessary.


A completed set of Construction Documents is the proper tool for the solicitation of construction bids. It is possible for the architect to assist with the bidding and contractor selection processes if the owner has not already selected a contractor.


Plan Submittal / Review Phase

Upon completion of the Construction Documentation phase, the drawing package, including specifications, engineering drawings, and structural calculations, along with permit application fees, should be submitted to the Building Department for Plan review.


After review, the Building Official will respond with either notification of project approval or a request for plan revisions. In the latter case, revised drawings are resubmitted for review, or a letter explaining why the plans are code compliant may be written by the architect. Often your architect has not made any mistakes, but code officials must justify the reason for their existence, so they list something.


Occasionally, this process will repeat, but more often, the Building Official will approve the plans and make a building permit available for pickup by the Building Owner or the Contractor.

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