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What to expect from the design/bid/build process.


Not everyone is a seasoned builder.  For many, building is a once in a lifetime undertaking which can be intimidating for the bravest among us.  That's why we've broken the process down, explaining what you can expect from us, and the process.  We like the plain english approach.  No 'lawyerese' here! 


The design/bid/build process is a time honored building delivery method where you hire the architect to act as your agent, not only in design but in your relationship with your contractor.  You work directly with them to conceive, develop and document countless design decisions so a third party contractor can follow the plans and specifications faithfully to erect the vision.  


see also Architect Led Design+Build.  

Step 1. Deciding what to build.  (Pre-Design & Programming) 


This first stage is probably the most valuable time you will spend with your architect, where you discuss what you hope to accomplish with your building.  How many rooms will it have?  How will they relate to each other as they serve your family and lifestyle?  It is also the time when you begin to test the fit between what you want, what you need, and what you can spend.


Be prepared to explore new and creative ideas.  Be very frank about your budget, and how you want the end result to feel and work.  We will ask you lots of questions to get a better sense of your goals and needs, and to determine if your expectations match your budget.  We may suggest changes based upon our knowledge, and experience, keeping your end goals in mind.  


Deliverables:  After thoroughly discussing your functional requirements, we will prepare a statement of understanding and a presentation of expected fees.  These documents will outline the scope of your project, as well as your stated budget and schedule desires. 

Step 2.  Rough Sketches - (Schematic Design)


Once we have defined what is to be built, we will then produce a series of rough sketches or schematic designs. These sketches will convey ideas for arrangement and relationships of rooms and building siting.  Depending on the project, we may also incorporate 3D models of the schematic design to help better visualize the concept.  These sketches or 3D visualizations are not “finished” construction documents.  They are meant to show possibilities.


As a team we will refine and revise the sketches until a solution is developed that you agree meets your needs.  At this point, we will also give you a rough estimate of construction cost.  Remember, there are still many details left to be developed and this cost estimate is intended to be very general.  It is typical to hold a healthy contingency to cover cost changes that arise as the design develops.


Don’t panic if these first sketches seem different from what you first envisioned. Ask us how these designs satisfy the requirements you discussed in the first stage. It is vital that you and your architect are clear about what you want. It is much easier to make changes now when your project is on paper, then later on when foundations have been poured and walls erected. Before proceeding to the next phase, we will ask for a formal approval of these sketches to signify the beginning of Design Development.

Deliverables:  Schematic design often produces a site plan, floor plan(s), primary exterior elevation, and or other illustrative materials.  

Step 3.  Refining The Design - (Design Development)


This step is when we begin the production of drawings that will lay the foundation of the contract documents and develop preliminary construction details which will ultimately give the building its character.  Floor plans will develop from the outline documents produced in schematic design to detailed plans where each square foot is thought through. 


When looking at these drawings, try to imagine yourself actually using the spaces. Ask yourself: Do the traffic patterns flow well? Does each space serve the intended purpose? Do I have a good sense of what it will look like?  Review every element with us to make sure you are getting the most out of your construction dollar.  There is still a level of design flexibility through this phase.  As time goes on however, and the drawings become more deeply integrated, changes may accrue additional costs. 


If you are negotiating a price with a Builder instead of a competitive bid, this is usually a good time to introduce them to the project.  Builders can provide very helpful feedback if they know they will ultimately get the job.  They can often confirm cost per square foot assumptions made in the schematic phases.  

Deliverables:  Design development produces refined and dimensioned floor plans, sections, and all building elevations.  These drawings typically include preliminary details and outline material specifications.  Estimates will be revised based on any changes to the gross square footage and/or contractor feedback.   

Step 4.  Contract Documentation - (Construction Documents)


Often after Design Development the owner is ready to build, but this is the point where the design, agreed to in previous phases, begins to be communicated to those individuals that will be responsible for constructing the design.   Construction documents are not only the foundation for builder generated cost proposals, they form the contractual relationship with your builder.  The more detailed the construction drawings, the fewer ambiguities will exist during the construction process, and the less chance for costly change orders if design clarifications are needed.  While some of the documents created in Design Development will make up the final drawing package, many additional drawings including foundation plans, roof plans, framing plans, details, schedule sheets, and general notes sheets are produced.  When construction documents are finished, you are ready to hire your general contractor or builder.

Deliverable:  The construction document phase produces a complete set of drawings that include all pertinent information required for the contractor to price and build the project.  It is at this time that documents are considered final, and sealed for construction permitting.    

Step 5.  Hiring the Contractor - (Bidding & Negotiation)


There are a number of ways to select a contractor.  We can make recommendations, or if you already have someone you want to work with, you might directly negotiate fees and costs. You also may wish to choose between several contractors through competitive bidding. We will help you prepare the bidding documents, which consist of drawings and specifications as well as invitations to bid and instruction to bidders. The bidding documents are then sent to several contractors, who within a given period of time, reply with bids which breakdown the costs for building your project. The lowest bidder is often selected to do the work, but not always. We can help you make the contractor selection based on the best value.


While we can advise in the selection of contractors, the final choice is up to you.  Some people prefer to act as their own general contractor or to do part or all of the construction themselves. These methods can save you money but can also add problems and costs later on.  Discuss the pros and cons of these methods to help you decide what will work best.

Deliverable:  The final deliverable is a construction contract. Once this document is signed, project construction can begin.  

Step 6.  Building the House - (Construction Administration)


This final step is often the most anxiety-ridden of the whole process.  Up until now, your project has been confined to intense discussion, planning, and two-dimensions. When construction begins, your project moves from an abstraction to a physical reality.  During this phase we provide a seasoned set of eyes, observing the progress and checking that what is built is indeed what was agreed to.  Contractors can often have helpful ways of saving money on a project, but we make sure you are the recipient of that money saved. 


Your contractor is solely responsible for construction methods, techniques, schedules, and procedures, but we can be a helpful partner as they supervise and direct the construction of the house of your dreams.  This path to a completed building project is paved with lots of challenges.  Our goal is to ease the way by helping you avoid wrong turns, and direct you to solutions you never considered. The result is a unique building project created to meet your needs, responding to your family culture, and providing enjoyment and satisfaction for years to come.

Deliverable:  Your new home!

Jason Golden Architect is an architectural design firm located in Cashiers, N.C.  serving Highlands, Cashiers, Franklin and all of western North Carolina with exquisitely detailed custom homes, restaurant designs, and commercial architecture.  Contact us at, or  (828) 200-1261

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