UA-74193310-2My Architectural Services | Michael Smith Architect - San Luis Obispo, California - Home Remodeling & New Constructio

My Architectural Services

Home Remodel, What Do I Do First?
December 26, 2017
Home Remodeling – What To Expect
January 13, 2018

My Architectural Services

Architect meets with his client to discuss design options and architectural services

My Architectural Services

Architect's Services

I spend quite a bit of time educating my clients on what an architect does. I don’t mean this as a bad thing. But I get some people who think all an architect does is produce working drawings so the contractor can build their house. While ultimately that is true - what I do is so much more.

Please check out my post on the Many Roles of an Architect. But there are many parts to an architect’s services. We call them phases. Let me give you a summary of all the phases you may encounter with your home remodel project

Phases of Architect’s Services

There are many phases of an architect’s scope of work. Each phase represents a step in your project. While small remodeling projects require 3 to 4 phases; large custom homes need 5 to 6 phases sometimes more. Here is a quick summary of the phases of an architect’s services. You can read a detailed description of each phase of my services on my website Michael Smith, Architect.

  • Pre-Design
  • Schematic Design
  • Design Development
  • Working Drawings - Contract Documents
  • Permit/Bidding
  • Construction Observation

Let's look at two architectural projects - one a home remodeling project and the other a new custom home and these different projects affect the number of phases in my architectural services.

Scope of Work - New Custom Home

You want to build a new custom home, about 2,500sf. A project this size would require all six phases: Pre-Design, Schematic Design, Design Development, Working Drawings, Permit/Bidding, & Construction Observation.

Scope of Work - Home Remodeling

You want to add on to your single story home. Your current home is 1,500 square feet, and you want to enlarge the master bedroom creating enough space for a new master bedroom suite; about 500sf. A project this size would have three phases: Schematic Design, Working Drawing, & Construction Observation. The Pre-Design, Design Development, & Permit/Bidding phases are done, but I roll them up into the other phases. Their length and scope don’t justify having a separate phase for a small addition.

Let us go through each phase (or step) of an architect's services

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Pre-Design (PD)

Pre-Design is where all the information is gathered for your project. I listen to all your hopes and dreams. How you want to transform your home. This phase is also called programming. I start to list all the spaces to be remodeled or added and the general size of the spaces. I will even do some research. Are there any restrictions on the project or property? Is there any planning or design restrictions? A trip down to the local planning department can settle these issues. At the end of this phase, we know the complete scope of the project, priorities you have for your home and what restrictions the local jurisdiction apply to your project.

Schematic Design (SD)

Now the designing begins. I will sit down with the information I have gathered from the Pre-Design Phase and start sketching your dream home. I will usually start with a pen and trace overlaying design after design. Once I think I have an idea or two - I switch to 3D modeling. I will present two or three different ideas for your home. Just floor plans at first. I want to focus on the spaces. We will have plenty of time to review the elevations and other aspects of the design.

Some parts of the design you will hate and others you will love. Our design review meetings are a collaborative effort. We all throwing in ideas and I will alter the design accordingly. After we have a good handle on the floor plan - then I will present the exterior elevations and 3D views of your home. The elevations will spark more ideas and more changes. But that's alright; that is what the schematic design phase is all about. Testing, tweaking and changing the design. Changes are natural in this phase. Why you ask; because we are still dealing with the design at a high level - really surface ideas. In later phases, we will dive deeper into the design and add details and consultants. In those later stages, it gets harder and more expensive to make changes.

At the end of the Schematic Design phase, you will have a complete design: Site plan, floor plan(s) and exterior elevations. You are ready to move on to the Design Development Phase.

Design Development (DD)

In a large project, the schematic design will be broad strokes. The size and shape of the proposed project is established. The exterior elevations and site plan are set. Design Development is the phase where all the little & big design details are threshed out. Interior elevations are designed. On smaller projects, this part of the architect's service is eliminated and rolled into the schematic design (working out details) and working drawings phase (interior elevations if needed).

Design Development (DD) is the time when & how systems for the project come together. The structural system, mechanical system, electrical system, & plumbing system. Consultants on the project will be engaged and consulted on these various systems. Materials will be selected (at least preliminarily) and factored into the design. How different elements fit and work together. Where are the materials and patterns used in the home? At the end of the DD phase, you will have locked down the design - both inside and out selected finishes for the house and worked out most if not all of the systems to be used in the home. You are ready to move on to the working drawing phase

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Working Drawings (WD)

Working drawings, construction documents, or contract documents - they are referring to the same thing - how you want your home to look. These are the technical drawings used by the contractor to construct your home. Working drawings (WD) consist of architectural plans that describe the site plan, floor plans, exterior elevations, building sections, to show relationships of various elements in the home, electrical plan and interior elevations (if necessary).

WD also include outside consultants like the structural engineer. This consultant will provide all the structural drawings to establish and confirm how the building will stand up. The structural drawings will show how the house is supported, how the house will resist earthquakes (very important in California) or other local environmental requirements (wind, snow, hurricanes, etc.. in other areas). The structural engineer provides structural drawings, foundation plan, framing plans and details and structural calculations.

WD may have other consultants based on a small size of the project. On a small project I will only use a Title 24 energy consultant. Title 24 is an energy report required by California that demonstrates the new residence or remodeled home will reduce energy consumption. The consultant models the home project and produces a report that shows the projected energy consumption and the heat gain and loss of the remodeled home. This is compared to state averages and requirements.

On larger projects, I may use mechanical or electrical engineers. However, that is reserved for large projects. The subcontractors will do most of these services for a smaller project. My drawings will show the conceptual plan, and the sub-contractor will fill in the details.

Permit/Bidding (PB)

The Permit/Bidding phase will only be a separate phase in my contract for very large projects. I frequently just have the permit submittal and bidding absorbed into the working drawing phase. It does require time - but most clients don’t want to pay for it. They, my clients, seem to think that I should be perfect. Unfortunately, I’m not. Every plan checker is different. They all have their focus; some plan checkers are focused more on structural details, while others are focused on Cal Green requirements. It seems the more notes and details I provide - the more comments I get back.

Bidding will be a matter of contacting contractors that have the team approach as I do. Getting plans and specification to the contractor. I will coordinate their questions and request for information. This phase takes a little time - but I factor it into WD or Construction Observation phase.

Construction Observation (CO)

Construction Observation is my services during the construction process. This is the part of my fee that sometimes gets cut but is the most crucial part. Unless you have been through the construction process, you don’t know what you will be facing. Please take a look at my post about the Many Roles of An Architect and see all that I can and should do for you during the construction process. I am your advocate during construction. I will help answer any questions you have, or the contractor may have. I am there to mediate during those times you and the contractor don’t see eye-to-eye, and I am there to see that the vision we started the project with is the end product of the construction.

Don’t shortchange your vision by cutting this vital phase of the process. I will roll it into the working drawing phase on small projects - but it still needs to be part of your home remodel

So there you have it - all the phases of an architect’s services. I genuinely hope this was helpful on your journey to your dream home. If you have a question about home remodeling or a custom home - leave me a comment or send me an email - I would love to hear about your project and how I can help you. Until next time.


  1. Mona says:

    This is truly helpful! Remodeling is definitely in my future!
    It is good to know what to expect.

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