Starting your new design project is an exciting endeavor. There are more questions that await your decisions than you’ve probably considered. Fortunately for you, the decision to work with an architect will greatly help in answering all the remaining questions more manageable.
Throughout my practice, I’ve found that the best way to move a project ahead efficiently during the design phases is to address the many issues in the following order:
- Resolve Upfront DecisionsResolving decisions that others need from you will help them understand the scope of your project, begin the work on time, and keep to your project’s schedule. Ask your architect for all the information that they will need from you. Your program (the area, function, and number of rooms needed) and other design objectives, a current survey and soil test of the property, anticipated construction budget, and a desired completion date are a few of the things you’ll need upfront to get the project moving.
- Identify and Resolve UnknownsIdentifying and resolving unknowns is critical to avoiding costly changes or re-design. It may seem like your time and investment could be better-spent designing what you’ve been dreaming of, but it’s not. You will waste more time and money accommodating the unidentified unknowns later in the project than it takes to resolve them up front.
- Take on the Important Stuff EarlyTake on the important design decisions early so you aren't overwhelmed as your deadlines get closer. The important stuff includes ‘big picture’ issues that will determine whether your project ends up being the best possible design solution or a costly example of missed opportunities. The important stuff is often the intangible, or more usually, the unseen decisions when your project is finally complete. Careful site planning and orientation, program layout, structural integrity, efficient mechanical and electrical systems, indoor air quality, daylighting strategies, and sound attenuation are just some of the important stuff that will determine the quality of your project. Good design isn’t fast, so take your time and think things through with your architect. Your future self will be glad you did.
- Leave the Not-So-Important Stuff for LaterLeave the not-so-important stuff for last because nothing else depends on it and it depends on all the important stuff. So, what’s the not-so-important stuff? Often clients begin preparing for their design project by collecting images of beautifully furnished interiors and finely crafted exteriors. This is great, and I highly recommend doing this to communicate your design goals. However, things like paint colors and stains, accessories, decorative fixtures, window treatments, and other finish level decisions generally don’t impact the important stuff. Like everything, there are exceptions. Ask your architect if something you have your heart set on should be taken into consideration earlier on in the process.
Implementing these tips will help you engage your project during the design process on a deeper level than just what people will see in the finished result. I will also give you valuable information as a custodian of architecture in the maintenance and life cycle of your building project.
I’ve found that it helps organize the decisions you’ll need to make under these four headings. If you’re not sure about something, ask your architect. It’s a great feeling to see a simple, and even fun, list of stuff between you and your project’s finish line. To get more helpful tips on preparing for you design project, you can download your free guide here, Preparing For Your Design Project.