Exploring Ideas on Paper Through Drawing

Sample plan sketch drawing.

After the project is defined as thoroughly as possible in Programming, various options can be generated and explored.  This is typically done through rough sketch drawings and then preliminary measured drawings called schematic design drawings.  For most projects, more than one option will be available and pursued with you in order to determine the merits and challenges posed by each.  And in most cases, after review and continued dialogue, aspects of each option will be melded into a new one that balances trade-offs presented with each design option.

The schematic drawings can include plan drawings, elevation drawings and three-dimensional sketch studies(either drawings or model) that show site relationships, spatial/functional relationships, form/light relationships, and the overall design intent for your review and response.  In this Phase, there is typically two meetings required:  one for a preliminary review and discussion, and then another to review the revised final scheme with discussion on more details.  It’s important to understand that this process is most efficient when it work from the general and towards the specific.  Big moves and changes should be determined early on, as changes further along the design process tend to impact a larger number of details.

As a part of the review and analysis of the schematic drawings, a preliminary analysis of probable costs will be developed.  The probable cost can initially be very general and based on gross areas of new work and/or remodeled areas.  However, as soon as possible, it’s best to have the contractor(s) review the schematic drawings for preliminary pricing after a drawing “walk-through” meeting.  With the preliminary pricing information in hand, adjustments can(and in most cases will) be made to the project drawings while they are still not fully detailed.  It’s also always a good idea to include a contingency line item in the pricing.  A contingency sets aside a certain percentage of the project cost to cover changes made further along in the process as a result of any change made- ranging from changing a sub-contractor, to changing a tile selection, to uncovering an unknown layer of floor tile that must be removed during construction, etc.

Sample measured schematic plan – in progress.

It’s worth repeating, if there are large-scale changes to be made, the Schematic Design Phase is the time to do it.  The architect and the owner must make every effort to assure that the schematic drawings capture the design intent of the project.  It is much easier to change lines on a preliminary drawing than it is to change a detailed drawing or a poured concrete foundation.  That said, real life happens, and changes will and can occur throughout the design process.  However, it is much more cost efficient to minimize changes late in the design and construction process.

At the end of the Schematic Design Phase, we should have measured and scalable drawings that capture the scope of the project and reflect real world pricing that fits the project budget.  Now it’s time to get down to “brass tacks”.

For a collection of video interviews that provide another take on this phase and the design process as a whole, check out the American Institute of Architects(AIA) page on How Design Works for You.