Design Services Process

The process of design is complex and Rick is experienced in simplifying the process by guiding clients through all phases, from the initial meeting to discuss your design wishes and needs, through the actual completion of construction.  Whether the project is large or small, the following are typical phases in the design process.

Initial Meeting

This typically takes place at the project location.  Rick will walk around with you, discuss your dreams and the project you have been considering, and look at the spaces and/or site to define the scope of your wishlist.  This usually includes Rick’s thoughts on how best to accomplish your design ideas, while providing input that might make the process simpler. He will also provide information on what the local jurisdiction(s) might require.  From the notes taken during the meeting, Rick develops a preliminary design budget and sends a proposal.  When the proposal is accepted, signed by the client and returned, we move forward with the three (3) stages of the pre-design phase.

Pre-Design-  Review of Zoning and Building Codes

Although Rick briefly reviews the local zoning requirements to verify property and parcel conditions prior to sending the proposal, he reviews the local zoning ordinances and building codes further to determine their impact on the proposed project as well as the approval process(es) that may be required.  This also alerts him to any existing conditions that should be checked when the site measurements are taken.

Pre-Design-  Measurement of Existing Conditions

During this pre-design phase, Rick comes out to the house to document the areas of work, sketching the floor plans, the site and significant site elements, and exterior elevations.  Then, using those sketches, he proceeds to take measurements of the rooms, heights of windows and doors, electrical fixtures and switches, mechanical equipment such as furnaces and water heaters, trims and finish materials.  Photos are also taken to aid in this documentation.

Pre-Design-  Measured / As-Built Drawings

Following the site measure, Rick returns to the office and develops floor plans, a site plan and exterior elevations of the existing as-built conditions that will become the base drawings for the project as he works through the design.

Schematic Design

During this phase, Rick develops sketches of design ideas using the as-built drawings as a base. This process involves quick studies and rough sketches that are then refined and presented to you for your input and comments.  If necessary, following the meeting, the sketches are refined to help define the design direction and scope of work.  Rick continues to meet with you until the scope of the project is illustrated in sketches.

Preliminary Construction Cost Estimate

Although Rick has many years of experience that have helped in determining what the ‘ballpark’ cost of a project might be, at this point in the design process, it is strongly recommended that you get a preliminary construction cost estimate from a contractor.  To do this, notes are added to the drawings that have been developed up to this point.  If necessary details are sketched that can clarify design intent, and a preliminary outline specification of materials is put together based on what we have discussed during our meetings reviewing the schematic designs.  The intent of this is to provide you with a more accurate idea of what the cost of construction will be.

If it turns out the project costs are higher than you wish to undertake at this point in time, Rick can advise you of ways to phase parts of the work by creating a master plan to define work that can be postponed for the future and identify work that you choose to undertake at this time.

Design Development

At this point in the process, the design is developed further by drafting the proposed plans and elevations.  After saving the base as-built drawings for future inclusion in the drawing set, the proposed changes are made utilizing copies of the as-built drawings to illustrate the design and scope of the project.  These become the basis for the construction drawings that will eventually be used for the building permit and ultimately, construction.

If your project requires a separate planning department approval or design review, the design development drawings are noted and used for the submittal, and application materials are prepared.  Each jurisdiction has their own requirements and processes, and we will let you know what is specifically required for your project, which may include a site survey, tree survey, addressing green building requirements, notification of neighbors, or presentations to planning commissions.  Rick helps navigate through the process.

Construction Documents

Once planning and zoning approval is assured, recommendations are presented for consultants that you may need to hire for structural engineering, surveying, civil engineering, Title 24 energy compliance, or green building compliance if required by the local jurisdiction.  Rick will work with these consultants, coordinating their work with the architectural design as progress is made on the drawings and documentation.  The consultants become essential participants as members of the ‘team’ for your project.

During this phase, progress continues to build upon drawings and specifications from the previous phases in order to clarify details and guide the decisions needed before construction starts.  Interior elevations, trims, cabinetry, material selection, plumbing, mechanical heating and cooling, and electrical layout are all addressed where needed.  If required, building sections are developed and details are designed to ensure the various parts of the project will work as they come together during construction.

At the end of this phase, you will have drawings and documents to use in order to apply for the building permit and start the bidding process by contractors.


During bidding, whether competitively bid by contractors, typically three, or negotiating a bid with a single previously selected contractor, Rick is available to answer questions to clarify any questions that may arise.  Once bids are received, he will help you decipher the details of the contractors’ pricing.

While bidding is taking place, the construction documents can be submitted for the building permit.  Rick has experience submitting for permits in many of the local jurisdictions and can either submit the documents for you or explain the process so you can do it.

Construction Administration

Once the contractor is selected, they become part of the project team.  When the building permit is issued, the real fun begins and your project will soon start to take shape.  However, as the contractor begins the demolition for the area of work, ‘discoveries’ may be made when the finishes are removed.  What was hidden might not be what was anticipated.  These unexpected anomalies may require some details to be revised; after all, we can’t see what is hidden.  The contractor may also need help interpreting the drawings.  A site visit is usually made when the framing is exposed to verify assumptions and review any changes that may be required.  Rick strives to answer questions quickly and takes pride in being able to come up with solutions that keep the project moving smoothly, bringing in the other members of the project team if required. 

Construction can be a stressful time due to the disruption of your living space and normal life routines.  Rick endeavors to help his clients cope with the disruption by working with them and the contractor to set up schedules for the work in order to manage expectations and minimize the disruptions as much as possible.  After all, this is when your hopes and dreams outlined in those first meetings start to take shape, and Rick wants you to be excited as you see the project come to life and, most importantly, happy with the finished product.