Architectural Services

Programming and budgeting
The program describes the scope (how much of what) and quality (the levels of performance and amenity) to be accommodated. Scope and quality, as well as the site and the schedule, are key factors in establishing cost. Thus, programming and budgeting should be seen as both simultaneous - occurring at the same time - and reciprocal - each working to inform the other.

Building Surveys / ADA / Existing facilities surveys
Increasingly, design and building projects involve existing structures - structures that may be razed, or more likely renovated, to meet the program requirements.

The decision to tear down or reuse an existing structure starts with the facility itself: What kind of shape is it in? Is it compatible with the intended use? What will it take to modify the structure to house the program? Can this be done within the project's cost constraints? To answer these questions, it may be necessary to undertake a careful survey and evaluation of existing facilities - including their spatial possibilities and their structural, mechanical, and electrical systems - as part of the pre-design work. Architects may also be asked to provide these services as part of real estate resale decisions; as an example, many home buyers are now including, as a contingency item in a purchase proposal, a requirement for inspection by a licensed design professional.

Often major decisions and many dollars hang in the balance. The architect will require complete and perhaps prolonged access to the facilities themselves, and if significant problems are uncovered, it may be necessary to add specialist consultants to the survey team. If the survey also calls for estimates of construction cost to rectify problems or to make suitable modifications, a contractor or cost consultant may be required as well.

Measured Drawings / Documentation of Existing Conditions
Since many building design problems must work with or include existing structures in the solution, it is essential to establish clear, accurate documentation of existing conditions either by converting existing drawings into base sheets for use in design or by creating new measured base drawings. In addition to providing basic dimensional data for design, this step typically identifies existing physical and code problems.

Almost every project has a unique set of factors that combine to make each problem different. For their part, individual architects approach design in different ways and with different values and attitudes. While design has a certain linear quality (it involves analysis, synthesis, and evaluation), it is widely acknowledged to have nonlinear qualities as well. The latter are sometimes described as "flashes of insight" and "creative leaps."

Increasingly we recognize that the design process works with information and ideas simultaneously on many levels. Thus the architect can be thinking about the overall geometry of the building, the ways in which a wheelchair-bound person might experience the spaces in the building, and the materials of which the building will be constructed all at the same time.

At the same time, we view designing as reciprocal action and reflection. Architects process requirements, issues, and variables and produce tentative design proposals. Examination and criticism of these proposals lead to new proposals. Each proposal reveals more about the problem and suggests an appropriate solution.

Construction Documents
Once a design has been developed and approved, the architect prepares the drawings and specifications that set forth the requirements for construction of the project and assists the owner in preparing the necessary bidding and contractual information for construction. The construction documents are an extension of the design process. Decisions on design details, materials, products, finishes, and the many fine points of bidding and construction contracts all serve to reinforce the design-and begin the process of translating it into reality.

The construction documents are the written and graphic documentation prepared or assembled by the architect for communicating the design and administering the project. Their organization and content reflect the needs of the project. Typically, the construction documents include:

  • Drawings, documenting the architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical, civil, landscape, and interior design of the project
  • Specifications, outlining the levels of quality and the standards to be met in the construction of the project
  • Contract forms and conditions, including the form of agreement to be used between owner and contractor; forms for any bonds and certificates; and general conditions outlining the rights, responsibilities, and duties of owner and contractor as well as others involved in the construction process (including the architect)
  • Bidding requirements, including the information and forms for bidding

During the bidding or negotiation process, the architect may issue addenda to any of these documents. Once the owner-contractor agreement is signed, there may be contract modifications in the form of construction change directives and change orders. These, too, become part of the contract documents.

CAD Productions
Effective use of computer-aided design (CAD) in architecture, engineering, and facility management depends on sharing graphic information. Floor plan drawings developed by architects need to be available as backgrounds for mechanical and electrical plans. Symbols and details developed for one project need to be reusable for future projects. Increasingly, architects must respond to client requests for copies of drawings in electronic form for ongoing facility management.

Almost all CAD systems support the concept of layers, a method for grouping graphic information for display, editing, and plotting purposes. By accommodating the reuse of information, layers reduce drafting time and improve project coordination.

The specifications present written requirements for materials, equipment, and construction systems as well as standards for products, workmanship, and the construction services required to produce the work. The specifications are often presented in the project manual, along with the bidding requirements, contract forms, and conditions of the contract.

Bidding and Negotiation
The bidding and negotiation phase is usually a shot but very important part of the project delivery process. To this point, the project team has invested an enormous amount of time, talent, and energy in designing and documenting a project that meets the owner's requirements. During bidding and negotiation, the building industry provides its response - its statement of what it can do, how much time it will take to do it, and what price it will charge.

The "moment-of-truth" character of bidding and negotiation is well known. At this point, some projects are sent back to the drawing board; a few are terminated entirely. Just as important, though, bidding and negotiation bring the builder or builders to the project team. A new set of formal and informal relationships must be forged and these relationships will have much to do with the success of the project.

The services provided by the architect during bidding and negotiation are very important. They play an essential part in attracting the best possible builders to the project, obtaining reasonable prices, and starting the construction process off on the best possible foot.

Permit Procurement / Services During the Permitting Process
As communities become more assertive in planning and controlling development and design, the process of gaining the necessary approvals to build - often called permitting because of the multiple permits involved - has become much more complex.

Owners and developers find they must initiate and define their projects "in partnership" with multiple public agencies. Increasingly, this partnership includes the public, as represented by neighborhood associations, advocacy groups, and other organizations interested in development in general or a specific issue (perhaps the environment, or schools, or "good government"). If the project is large or captures attention in other ways, ad hoc groups may organize to stop or at least "redesign" it. The media, of course, are happy to join the fray.

For architects, there are opportunities for involvement in the project definition process:

  • Architects may help the owner design the most appropriate path thorough the permitting process, a path that advances the project and avoids regulatory cul-de-sac (where Board A won't review the project until Board B approves it).
  • Architects may offer services to support the permitting process, including site selection and analysis, environmental studies and reports, site development studies, on- and off-site utility studies, and zoning and planning processing assistance.
  • Architects may provide site planning and conceptual design services. Design is often necessary to address the questions and concerns raised by the community and its regulatory boards and commissions. In some cases (e.g., landmarks conservation), the design may need to be well-advanced before approvals are forthcoming.
  • Architects may help the community analyze and understand the implications of proposed projects, sometimes guiding all involved to a consensus solution.

Involvement in the project definition process may be long and tortuous, with many twists and turns, submissions and resubmission. One set of approvals may be gained only to be the project must be redesigned to meet the needs of a subsequent set of approvals. Some projects become "footballs" as special interests are played out through the permitting process.

Value Engineering
Value engineering is a disciplined method of identifying areas for potential cost optimization, considering alternatives, analyzing them, and assisting in the selection of preferred options. While terms like value analysis and value management may have shades of meaning, we consider them synonymous to value engineering in this discussion.

There is, of course, a lot of emphasis on "value," and the value engineering process is helpful in defining just what this term means for the project under consideration. It helps identify where the conflicting criteria of minimum cost, maximum quality and performance, largest possible scope, and minimum time for delivery can be addressed and balanced.

Sometimes, value engineering appears later in the project, particularly when the contractor or construction manager (CM) is brought on board. Some owners have value engineering programs that encourage builders to propose more economical approaches to achieving the specified performance and then to share in the "savings" that result. Or a construction organization may market its ability to squeeze costs out of already-designed projects as they head into construction.

Value engineering at this stage usually produces limited advantages for the owner. Value engineering proposals may have substantial impacts on design and may unintentionally affect other areas of building performance. Because savings in one area may increase costs in another, it is important that the architect be engaged to evaluate these proposals carefully.

Construction Contract Administration
The construction phase brings all the predesign, design, documentation, bidding, and negotiation services to realization. While one or more building contractors assume responsibility for the construction work, architects remain involved to:

  • Observe the construction work for conformance to drawings and specifications
  • Process the contractor's shop drawings, product data, and samples
  • Review the results of construction tests and inspections
  • Evaluate contractor requests for payment
  • Handle requests for changes during construction
  • Address and resolve claims brought by the owner or contractor
  • Administer the completion and closeout process for the owner

Some owners undervalue or even eliminate the architect's role in administering construction contracts. Owners, however, are advised not to skimp on these services. While an architect cannot foresee or forestall every problem in construction, the architect looks out for the owner's interests, answers questions, resolves ambiguities, and is an important factor in the success of the project. Some state registration laws or building codes mandate the architect's involvement during the construction phase.

Record Documents
The basic objective is to record changes to the original construction contract documents so they can be used for building operation, maintenance, and changes in the future. In large projects, detailed record drawings of all systems might be developed. In small projects, including residential facilities, record drawings will probably show only significant changes, especially the location of outside utilities.

To improve the usefulness of record drawings, the owner may contract with the architect to review them as they are submitted. When there are many field changes and when the owner expects to make significant continuing modifications to the facility, it may make sense to engage the architect to incorporate construction changes into a comprehensive set of record documents


Gordon Johnson Architecture - 654 Hay Street, Fayetteville, North Carolina 28301 - Ph. 910-223-2186