Top 6 Things to Know About an Architect-Led Design Process ($1.0m-plus Modern Residential)

TOPICS - What you need to know about the design process

So you are eagerly prepared to design and build your new modern dream home. You have a special interest in excellent modern architecture, and have decided on the right Architect to help make those dreams a reality.

You have a pretty good idea on the overall size and feel you are going for, and may have land under contract. You have had some good dialogue with your Architect about the process, timing and budget expectations, and you each feel there is a good fit. You’ve been contemplating this dream for some time, and are ready to get started!

However, exactly how clear is your understanding of the design + construction process? How is that process tailored to your specific circumstances? And, how best do you convey your goals not just at project design inception, but ensure that construction meets the core vision in the end?

#1 – Your Architect will lead you through the entire process beginning-to-end.

Ultimately, your expert Architect will lead you through the entire process from beginning-to-end (including interior design + construction). Here below we illustrate the recommended phases-of-design to achieve design excellence while simultaneously balancing budget goals (Architect-led, Streamlined Approach to Project Delivery).


Programming/PreDesign Phase

The Programming or PreDesign phase may involve a deep dive into goals, site location specifics, zoning issues, budget, initial project scope understandings, and any other relevant kick-off information. Client questionnaires may help initiate the right conversations and help the team think outside-the-box beyond basic spaces and sizes, and delve into experiences/routines/feel.

TOPICS - Will you get your money out of a major renovation project?

#2 – The most effective Architects will establish a simple, clear, CORE-VISION to guide all subsequent design decisions.

Schematic Design Phase

After establishing the general big-picture project requirements and goals, client and architect may begin the initial design brainstorming and options review. 

The HAUS process is designed to include a special kick-off experience that we share during the engagement process. An experienced design team will most-effectively find the most efficient approach to pursuing your design concepts.

By the end of the Schematic Design Phase, client and architect will have established the scope of the project (design concept, size, layout, material concepts, budget).

Parti Diagram (Design Concept) - Lakeside Modern Cottage (H-LODGE) - Unionville, Indiana, Lake Lemon - HAUS Architecture
Side Exterior Elevation - Modern Lakeside Retreat - Grandview Lake - Columbus, Indiana - HAUS | Architecture

#3 – Your Architect will design a solution that most effectively balances creativity with construction cost.

Design Development Phase

By the end of Schematic Design, client and architect are excited about the design concept, and the Architect’s opinion-of-probable-cost for this design solution is in-line with client and architect budget expectations.

Client signs-off on SD and the team pushes forward to develop basic pricing documents (Design Development) to solicit real Contractor pricing and ensure things are on-track.

If client is interested in excellent design with thoughtful, expert construction budget alignment, then the best model is most-likely Architect-led Design-Build (see WERK | Building Modern).

Next, Architect will lead the pricing of the Design Development package.

Design Development Drawings (Foundation Plan)

Primary Bedroom infuses geometric color and natural light - Industrial Farm Modern - Back40House - Pendleton, IN

#4 – Architectural design does not stop at the front door. Your Architect will also lead the interior design.

Interior Design Phase

Interiors are where you spend most of your time, so it’s very important that the Architect lead the interior design process.

The Architect will ensure that the exterior/interior relationships are consistent and true to the ‘core vision‘. If design excellence is important, then it’s critical that all aspects of the design are coordinated by a singular individual/entity to maintain cohesion.

Architect will work with client to design all aspects of the inside-space.  This will include shaping the interior architecture, lighting design, built-ins, finishes, special details, and more.

It’s not uncommon (and actually recommended for efficiency) that the Interior Design process is underway while Contractors are pricing the Design Development package.

Bunk Beds Diagram, all parts modeled in 3D prior to construction - Classic Irvington Tudor Remodel - Indianapolis, Indiana
Construction Documents Drawings (Wall Sections) - Fishers, IN - HAUS | Architecture For Modern Lifestyles

#5 – Since your design will be unique, your Architect will design and coordinate all construction details.

Construction Documents Phase

After confirming budget estimates against real pricing, Architect will make any needed design scope adjustments, and with Client approval, proceed with Construction Documents.

Ideally, these documents will include interior design/finish/fixture selections also. The more questions that the team can answer up-front, the less they’ll rely on Change Orders and Clarifications during the construction process.

The Construction Documents will be used for building permits, final pricing, and construction. Sophisticated, unique modern architecture projects require more detailed, comprehensive Construction Documents.

View from Entry Porch reveals Corten steel screenwall and path to workshop - Industrial Farm Modern - Back40House - Pendleton, IN


Bidding Phase

It is always important that the Architect be available during the Bidding Phase to answer Contractor questions that will come-up during the pricing stage. In a traditional Client-Architect arrangement where Architect is not the CM-Construction Manager, the Client retains the Architect for these design services.

If Architect is leading the actual CM-Construction Management/pricing effort, then the Architect eschews the Bidding Phase design fee, and Architect services are covered under CM-Construction Management PreConstruction Services (included in construction costs).

It isn’t likely that anyone knows the project scopes and details better than the Architect. This is why the right Architect is absolutely the best person/entity to also build the project. If any reductions or adjustments are needed, the Architect understands the best ways to go about those reduction while also preserving the ‘core vision’.

This streamlined approach to project delivery reduces miscommunications while protecting the client’s investment in design.

Classic Irvington Tudor Remodel - Bridge View - Christopher Short, Architect, Indianapolis, HAUS Architecture
Construction Administration Phase

Would you like the construction of your project to turn-out as you designed it?  Who wouldn’t?

If so, then make sure your architect is available during construction either in the traditional role of Architect, or possibly as the actual builder or Construction Manager.  When Architect is not involved during the construction phase, things usually deviate from design intent/contract documents. If the originator if the ‘core vision’ isn’t present, then the ‘core vision’ may be diluted or lost completely.

Traditionally, the Architect provides Bidding + Construction Administration (CA) Services during the bidding/construction phases.  It is important that the Architect be available during the course of construction to ensure that the construction meets the intent expressed in the Construction Documents (ie, protecting the interests of the Owner).  Some Architect CA-Construction Administration tasks may include the following:

  1. Answering bidding and construction-phase questions.
  2. Making periodic construction site visits.
  3. Providing supplementary details and clarifications as needed.
  4. Reviewing shop drawings and material samples.
  5. Acting as client advocate and sounding-board.

West Exterior Elevation (dawn) - Large Aluminum-clad black-frame wood windows, white EIFS, black metal corrugated galvalume siding, Guilford Avenue + 64th Street - G BLOC LIVE + WORK Development, 841 E 64th ST #201, Indianapolis, IN 46220 - Broad Ripple North Village

All of these tasks above are basically, COMMUNICATION.  It’s the most important aspect of any design + build project.

Here on our site, we are continuing to share project stories about the design + construction processes.  Some are success stories.  Some didn’t go quite as planned.  Most certainly, all are lessons learned.  These experiences reinforce our opinions and help illustrate why we recommend certain processes to facilitate excellent team communication.

We want to emphasize how important architect involvement is during the construction phase.  Over the years, we have had many experiences that we want to share about the construction process.  In fact, we’d love for our clients and collaborators to benefit from these lessons learned.  So stay-tuned, as we’ll continue to share anecdotes in ‘PROJECTS’ and ‘TOPICS’ here on our site.

South facade highlights layered materials and volumes - Industrial Farm Modern - Back40House - Pendleton, IN

#6 – Nobody understands the design better than the Architect; this is why the Architect is the best to lead the construction phase.

Construction Management

As a means to prevent some recurring construction-phase coordination issues, we began managing the construction of our projects via WERK | Building Modern, our sister construction management company.

It has now been 18 years since we started building for our clients.  In that time, we have been able to design + build many creative projects, from major renovations to new construction, residential and commercial.   Without a doubt, this Architect-led design + construction process streamlines communication and most effectively ensures that the built results most closely meet the client and architect design-intent or ‘core vision’.

If you are interested in learning more about construction management, please check-out the WERK site and call us to begin a dialogue.  Also, this video by GLUCK+ touches on the construction process and touches on the benefits of one point of contact for design + construction (Architect-Led Design-Build).

Client Advocates

We have several stories available on this site and more to share.  So please take some time to peruse our gallery, and know that we’ll continue to add more about past projects and new ones as they happen!

Overall, we most successfully advocate for our clients from beginning-to-end (Architecture, Interiors, and Construction Management).

Please check back, as we’ll be designing and building more on this page about process!!!


Here are some other related links you may be interested in:

What to Expect When Working With an Architect

Most certainly, we would love to answer any questions you have about the design process, so please be sure to contact us with any questions that you have!