Phases of Architectural Services

Architectural projects involve several steps, or phases of service. Typically, full-service projects go through the following five phases. In some cases, these phases overlap and occasionally there may be additional ones. The following descriptions should provide you with a general understanding of what you might expect.

SCHEMATIC DESIGN PHASE (normally 15% of fee)

The owner and architect discuss the requirements for the project (identify required spaces, their function, etc.), testing the fit between the owner’s needs, wants, and the budget. The architect will need your site survey and consult with governing authorities with respect to the building and zoning codes, as they apply. In collaboration with the owner, the architect prepares a series of rough sketches. These schematic design sketches show the general arrangement of rooms and the positioning of the building on the site. These sketches evolve over multiple meetings. The owner approves the general concepts presented in the sketches before proceeding to the next phase.

DESIGN DEVELOPMENT PHASE (normally 15% of fee)

The architect prepares more detailed drawings to illustrate other aspects of the proposed design. Floor plans show all the spaces in the correct size, shape, and relationship. The architect may supplement the sketches with computer generated models that aid in visualization. Decisions are made regarding the major systems, materials, and finishes. A budget is developed by the architect based on his experience and cost estimating guides. A timeline for the project is also established. The architect will make a good faith effort to align the project and the budget. The true cost of the project remains uncertain until the project is bid or negotiated.


Once the owner has approved the design and budget, the architect prepares detailed documents, which the contractor will use to establish the actual construction cost and to build the project. These documents include the construction drawings and the project manual, including specifications. The documents may include landscape architecture, civil, structural, plumbing, fire protection, mechanical, and electrical documents. Occasionally they may include deliverables by the owner’s or architect’s specialized consultants. These construction documents become part of the contract between the owner and the contractor, and are also used by the contractor to obtain a building permit.

PROCUREMENT PHASE (normally 5% of fee)

The owner selects and hires the contractor. The architect will assist the owner and make recommendations as appropriate. In many cases, the owner chooses from among several contractors asked to submit bids, based on the construction documents. In other cases, the owner may choose to negotiate with a specific contractor. In either case, the architect will prepare the bid documents, which may include invitations to bid, instructions to bidders, and the like. After the contractor is selected, the architect will prepare the agreement (contract) between the owner and the contractor.

CONSTRUCTION PHASE (normally 25% of fee)

While the contractor will physically build the project, the architect will assist the owner in making sure that the project is built according to the construction documents. The architect will make site visits to observe construction, help the owner review and approve the contractor’s applications for payment, and generally keep the owner informed of the project’s progress. The architect follows the project through completion, prepares punch lists, and determines when the project is substantially complete. The contractor is responsible for construction methods, techniques, schedules and procedures, as well as obtaining the signoffs from inspectors. The owner is responsible for project financing and timely payments. This is the classic triangular structure of responsibility that has the checks and balances necessary for the successful completion of the project.

Since each of clients are unique, each phase of every project yields unique results. Our creativity and experience allow Arcspace Studio to literally shape space, resulting in projects which exceed our client’s high expectations!

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