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!

the Tagline

The Tagline is the third and final post in our behind-the-scenes trilogy of our firm’s rebranding efforts. The more I learned about branding during this process, the more I appreciated the advantages of having a good tagline. The blogger Lindsay Kolowich had a great explanation of the tagline (which she referred to the slogan): “While logos are visual representations of a brand, slogans are audible representations of a brand.” In the case of ARCSPACE STUDIO, I wanted our tagline to represent, in the simplest terms possible, just what our firm does.

As opposed to the mental challenge of coming up with a new firm name, and the significant effort involved in designing the logo, the tagline came to me rather easily. I had already burned a lot of brain cells thinking about the brand before confronting the tagline. In particular, I spent a lot of time thinking about two types of space.

One of these types of space might be called “architectural space”. On a basic level, all architects design buildings that contain space; however, I would contend that truly creative architects design buildings that go further, and they actually shape space. That is what the architects and designers at ARCSPACE STUDIOS do…we shape space.


The other type of space is “the final frontier” kind of space. The space program, and the industries it spurs, underpin the region in which we practice. So in a very literal way, when we shape space, we are shaping our community.

A wall mural in Big Springs Park welcomes visitor and reminds them that Huntsville is The Rocket City!

Now…Switching gears back to graphic design, by adding the Tagline to the Logo and the Name, we had successfully completed the branding identity trilogy. Now, it was just a matter of putting it all together, followed shortly thereafter by putting it on everything! Similar to Portlandia’s “put a bird on it”, we put our brand identity on letterheads, title blocks, project manuals, and even stuff like tumblers, shirts, and hardhats. In fact, if you’d like a free ARCSPACE STUDIO sticker, let me know and I’ll put it in and envelope and send it to you via snail mail.


In future posts I will use some of our design projects to demonstrate just how ARCSPACE STUDIO shapes space. The services architects offer involve several phases of design. An overview of this is presented in the aptly named Phases of Architectural Sevices post. I hope you’ll subscribe and join me in this exploration!

the Name

I was recently interviewed by a prospective client. His first question had nothing at all to do with our work, our approach, or our qualifications. His first question was “How did you come up with the name Arcspace Studio?” I answered forthrightly with various reasons that popped into my head, but that moment was a bit of an epiphany – a name is not just important, it’s really important!

Traditionally, architecture firms are named after the partners, frequently in alphabetical order. In 1998, when Greg Kamback and I founded our firm, it was natural to land on the name Bird & Kamback Architects. When we decided to rebrand in 2019, the naming (or renaming) of the firm proved to be much more difficult. For me, it was the most difficult part of the rebranding process.

After exploring and discIMG_0608arding innumerable names, I noted that there were some words I was really drawn to. We are an architecture firm, so it seemed to me that this was a word that should be used. This word unfortunately has the drawback of being really long, especially when combined with other words. Space was a another word that I really wanted to use. At first I seriously considered the name Space Architects; however, this seemed to conjure up images of space stations rather than of buildings. Space has a double meaning for me. Obviously it is the primary medium of the art of architecture, but space also nods to my adopted hometown. If you know anything about Huntsville, you know that we are steeped in the space program. It began with Werner VonBraun and the space race, and its influence is still with us. Evidence is visible through the Space & Rocket Center, NASA, Redstone Arsenal, and numerous other space related eventures.

IMG_0605At some point it occurred to me to fuse the two words into one. I flirted with simply naming the firm ….. Arcspace. I also considered naming the firm Arcspace Architecture (although the redundancy sounded redundant). In both cases the names, and the domain names, were taken. I then considered Arcspace Atelier, Arcspace Firm, and Arcspace Studio. I really liked the alliteration of Arcspace Studio. Like some of my previous name ideas, I test drove the name past my wife, Greg, and a couple of friends. They all claimed to like it, and this time, without a pause. I finally had it!

Another benefit of the name Arcspace Studio is that it shows up at or near the beginning of lists arranged in alphabetical order. Being a “Bird”, I know the benefits of being at the front of the line.  Arcspace Studio also sounds a lot better than A1 Architects. (Believe it or not that name is taken as well.)

Finally, I engaged my talented office manager/graphics guru, Jennifer, to help me advance the graphic identity of our name and marry it with our logo. After considerable effort we landed on the appropriate font, stroke thicknesses, and colors coordinating with the logo. We tweaked it even more through lining and kerning until we had a pairing of name and logo at a professional level.


Now, back to my interview story. After my wordy but seemingly insufficient explanation of my firm’s name, my prospective client thought and said, “Well, I like it. It’s memorable.” Nice. That’s what I needed to hear!

So, that is the story of our firm’s name and its integration into our brand’s identity. While I was pleased to have designed the firm’s logo and determined firm’s name, there was one other part of our brand’s identity still looming. I needed a tagline. That too has a story….

the Logo

Since the day our firm “rebranded” in January, those of us at ARCSPACE STUDIO have heard numerous questions and comments regarding this change. Most first noticed the change in the new logo, name, and tagline. For those clients, colleagues, as well as the merely curious, I thought I’d provide some insight. At the same time, this gives me a good way to launch the we shape space blog. Let’s start with the Logo.

BK logo - boxTwenty years ago ARCSPACE STUDIO opened its doors as Bird & Kamback Architects. One of my early tasks was designing a logo. I pulled together a simple logo, using stylized versions of our initials placed in a red box. I then placed the logo beside our name and printed stationary and business cards. And that was that. At the time, I did not fully appreciate what a brand really was nor how difficult it would be to change.

The firm’s twenty year milestone provided us with an opportunity to rebrand. This time I researched the process with appropriate seriousness. I read books and blogs and watched numerous videos. I learned that the most effective logos were very much like good architecture – they are simple in form but convey a depth of meaning.

Although architects design buildings, I began to notice that many architecture firms relied on logos that played off of their initials (like the old Bird & Kamback logo), were inspired by the T-square or drafting compass (which few architects still use), or contained an ancient building component (of which the column reigned supreme). In my case I was determined to design a logo that recalled a building. I did not want it to be too literal or an actual building that we had designed. I also did not want it to read as either a house or a commercial building, since our firm does both. Figuring out how to represent something as simple as a building proved to be more challenging than I could have imagined.


Some of my early sketches show this effort. In retrospect, it appears that I was still having trouble breaking out of the [red] box!

A building stripped down to its essence is comprised of walls, apertures, and a roof. I began with that and sketcched numerous variations. Once I came up with the name, ARCSPACE STUDIO, it occured to me that the ARC could play a role and I manipulated the roof form to reflect a subtle arc.


I felt the logo was somewhat confined so I started playing with negative space. The roof was bisecting the compostion so I omitted the projection on the back side…And on and on. I continued to refine the logo until I was satisified with it and then brought in my multi-disciplined office manager to help take it to the next level. Jennifer is a really good graphic designer who is equally good with color. I presented my logo and together we continued refining it.

the logo before Jennifer

Jennifer had the idea of making the apertures a seperate color and then began to explore several possible color combinations. I agreed with her preferred choice and we made that selection official. There is a level of hidden meaning stemming from these colors. The dark blue background can be seen as the night sky which sets off the stylized profile of the building. The golden color of the apertures reveal light within. Those who know about the profession of architecture can appreciate this representation of the studio, with the lights burning late into the night while the architects inside are busy shaping space!

the logo after Jennifer

During this process I came to understand that, although a critical component, the logo is not the brand. Other necessary components include the name and the tagline. There are stories behind those as well. That’s where we’ll head next!