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How do you communicate your ideas?

contemporary house
hand sketching structure
angular yellow building

Contemporary and sophisticated.

Modern colonial.


Those are all lovely words used to describe projects, but the minds-eye reaction and subjective interpretation will differ from one person to another.  Even with the same interpretation of a given vernacular, there are infinite ways that vernacular could be implemented.  

blue paint brush stroke

A picture is a highly effective means of conveying an idea.  The Architect is a professional trained not only in devising novel concepts and in creating drawings but also in helping you bring YOUR ideas into the light and give them physical form.

The team can then through open discussion add to those ideas and develop them, making them more rich and full of detail.  In every project, architectural design is a process and follows the sequence summarized below.

Below is a description of the general design sequence that nearly every architect uses.  However, I developed a special process unique to designing ultra high-performance homes, which I call the SAPPHR Strategy.  If you'd like to learn more about my process, click HERE to be taken to the overview page.


The Functional Program -- also known as a Design Brief -- is necessary before the first stage of actual design can happen.  It identifies your space needs, requirements for adjacencies, and intended flow.  Your spatial needs include what rooms or other spaces are required, how big they are, and any other important, fundamental characteristics of them.  Adjacencies stipulate which rooms must be directly connected to other rooms.  Flow describes your experience as you walk through the building.

Don't want to wade through all this explanation?
Get my super-simple summary instead!

Rooms and Spaces

Home architectural functional program sample


design process REDUCED.png
example of modern vintage bathroom


example of modern vintage dining room
example of modern vintage living room
example of modern vintage coffee table
example of modern vintage wall art
example of modern vintage house
example of modern vintage house
example of modern vintage bedroom

If you feel that you've really thought through the project enough, you may certainly prepare your own Functional Program.  Alternatively, you can hire your Architect to provide this additional service.  In either case, your Architect will spend a lot of time asking questions and listening to what you have to say, to understands your programmatic needs.

If you think you've got a handle on your Functional Program, check out my free Design Process Guide for working with an architect.

The Schematic Design phase is the most loose stage at which you and your Architect explore different design concepts.  This is also the time when your Architect reviews the basic aspects of your project site such as zoning regulations, basic building code restrictions, and order-of-magnitude budgeting.

This is the first phase during which your architect will begin to create design solutions and will present several general layout options.  While this stage introduces the design skill of your Architect, you are still invited to be a fully-involved participant.  A good Architect will want to hear ideas you have for design solutions because they help him/her understand what you like and what's important to you.

Each of these schematic layouts incorporates the same spaces but provides a fundamentally different layout.

Schematic Design Option 1 for main floor
Home main floor
Schematic Design
Option 1
Home main floor
Schematic Design
Option 2
Schematic Design Option 3 for main floor
Home main floor
Schematic Design
Option 3

A decision is made on the approximate shapes and sizes of the rooms or spaces and more importantly their general arrangement.  The drawings are simplistic and generally not intended for presentation purposes or visualization.

Schematic Design for house - simple outlines
Home main floor
Schematic Design
Option 1 Layout
Schematic Design for house - façade study
Schematic Design for house - functional program check
Home main floor
Schematic Design
Schematic Design for house - massing study
Home main floor
Schematic Design
Schematic Design for house - massing and form developed
Schematic Design for house - façade composition study
Home Schematic Design
Massing and Form Development

In addition to establishing the horizontal layout, this first phase studies and sets up a basic massing for the building.  The general composition of each elevation is also studied and developed in tandem with the floor plan.  Your architect may create solely hand drawings or may provide simple 3D models to help you visualize the shape of the building.  Daniel Clarke Architect leverages modern software to create walkthroughs and models online that you can explore to get a feel for the space.

The outcome of this phase is a collection of drawings that appear rudimentary and rough.  However, they capture the fundamental characteristics of your project and document the most important decisions that will drive all design moving forward.

Design process sample 1.png
Design process sample 2.png
Design process sample 3 REDUCED.png

While the Schematic phase provides the soul of the building, Design Development gives it a personality -- imbues the building with character.  Details are added, materials and finishes -- both interior and exterior -- are selected.  Building systems -- structure, ventilation, heating -- are first considered here.  This additional detail provides the basis for a preliminary cost estimate.

DCA01 House massing study sketch
DCA01 House massing study sketch
DCA01 House massing study sketch
DCA01 House floor plan
DCA01 House floor plan
DCA01 longitudinal section sketch
DCA01 design development floor plan
DCA01 lateral building section sketch
DCA01 design development floor plan
DCA01 render early front angle REDUCED.J
DCA01 render final front angle REDUCED.J
DCA01 interior3 REDUCED.JPG
DCA01 interior1 REDUCED.JPG

Drawings prepared at this stage may look like completed work, but they are only illustrative works to convey what the final result will look like.  They provide almost no technical information necessary for construction, but they do form the basis of agreement for your architect then to fill in the missing, required information. 

At the conclusion of the Design Development Phase, you should know the look and feel of the final design.  You will have drawings that illustrate the size, shape, and character of the building.

If you find this summary of the architectural design process interesting, download the full
Design Process Guide

The Construction Document phase is the one in which all the technical documentation -- drawings and specifications -- required to construct the building are prepared.  These drawings go far beyond just floor plans and include construction details at various scales.

While this phase focuses on documenting the design established in the previous two phases, construction documentation is itself a design phase.  Technical decisions made and solutions chosen can either reinforce or nearly destroy a design established earlier in the project.

DCA01 front door elevation sketch
DCA01 sketched wall section

A healthy knowledge of all relevant building codes and of building science is needed at this stage to ensure that the completed design is compliant and will perform as necessary.  Therefore, input from consultants in several fields is generally necessary; this usually means engaging structural, mechanical, and electrical engineers at a minimum.  

DCA01 stairplan.png
DCA01 stairsect2.png
DCA01 stairsect1.png
Keep all the information and images on this page, plus many more not shown here!  You'll find it all in my Design Process Guide.
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