Defining the project’s facts, needs, wants, and wishes.

The first phase is primarily a task of information gathering, list making, and schedule sketching, all sprinkled with a little “soul searching”.  The biggest opportunity this phase presents is to have your needs and dreams explored.  Accordingly, it is critical that you communicate as much as you can about your preferences, dislikes, tastes, wishes and vitally important design concepts as they relate to your project.

This task can be approached in various ways.  One method is to gather images from magazines and books describing the character envisioned for the project.  Other methods include: making lists, writing a “daily diary” for a week noting positives and negatives about current spaces you live in or have seen, writing an honest assessment of your current space use, writing a list of specific daily activities noting where your current surroundings may or may not meet your needs, and describing an ideal image of your desired home/space.  As the saying goes, “an image is worth a thousand words”, and any collection of images that help you communicate what you would like to see in your project is priceless.

The more you can tell your architect about what you must have or need, what you’d really like and what you would classify as a wish, the better your architect can translate these to a successful solution(that meet’s your budget).  Beyond listing spaces, features, schedule, budget, energy efficiency or other goals, it’s important to gain an understanding of why these aspects and details have been listed.  We can help you in this process with questions, but primarily we will focus on listening to you and returning a summary to be sure “we’re on the same page”.

Working in parallel to the above, we will also be reviewing and determining the following(each with respect given to the other):  the suitability of the site/site constraints, a local building code review, the project schedule, and the project budget.

Additional tasks may be required of you(the owner) and others in this phase depending on the scope of your project(ie. room addition or new home).  These tasks may include the generation of a site/topographical plat of survey with legal description and a soils report, each as they may be required.  Your architect can help you determine what will be required and help you engage a surveying company or engineer.  A soils report will provide the specific data required to design any proposed new foundation as well as note the presence of unknown underground water conditions.

Finally, if your project is an addition or remodel, your architect will need to document your existing home to the extent required by the project.  Documentation includes taking photographs and measurements as required for generating measured drawings of existing construction from which to work from in the following design phases.

So by now your probably thinking to yourself “Wow – sounds like a lot of work – do we really need to do all that?!”  For most residential projects, the Programming process typically occurs quickly as most clients have been thinking about a project for quite some time and have often settled into some preliminary inclinations on needs, wants, wishes.  With that said, it’s important not to diminish the weight of this opportunity to set your project on the right trajectory.

A little time spent upfront planning and communicating always pays off down the road when the project is set in stone, concrete, and wood.  Next step in the process – exploring options on paper.

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.