Before you start
When a new project comes into the office you want to begin ‘design work’ as quickly as possible. The client, now that he has made his commitment to build will be anxious to see some ‘schematic design ideas’ right away. The desire to get started right away is intense from both sides. This is where many architects get projects off on the wrong foot. Why? Because, they begin the design process with out attending to the necessary housekeeping items, that will serve them throughout the project. Here is a list of tasks to complete before you start any design work on a given project – if you do these first, the work throughout the project will go much more smoothly.
1. Complete a signed agreement with your client. A verbal agreement is easily and often misunderstood, misconstrued or forgotten once the project is underway. A signed written agreement will be a reference point for both client and you to review throughout the project.
2. Meet with your client to discuss the design process in detail and tell them the reasons why the process will ensure success. This will help prevent divergent ideas from developing, as your client doesn’t understand the design process.
3. Define your client role in the process. Both architect and client have a job to do. Your client’s job at the start is to give you all the parameters impacting the design - critical deadlines, design program, finances, details on the land, etc. Beginning design work without all the correct information will lead to problems.
4. Complete a design program in consultation with the client - a written list of all details pertinent to the design. This could take numerous meetings between you and your client. You will lead this process by questioning your client to fully understand all elements, requirements and details that you client desires. Your client will acknowledge the completeness of items on this document by signing the final version.
These housekeeping items may feel like obstacles delaying the opportunity ‘show your stuff’ in design ideas and development. The client may even impatiently badger you to move forward with the design and for a date when he can see the first sketches and graphic ideas. It is your responsibility, as architect, to take the client through these steps to avoid later aggravation.
So, why put yourself through all of these housekeeping hassles? Simply put, these basic parameters, if put into place, will minimize chances of conflict and misunderstandings This process will help you prevent
- items missed that are important to the design
- misunderstandings in responsibilities in the design process
- false expectations by the client unless it is outlined to start with.
- misunderstanding lead to conflict
- forgotten comments unless they are carefully recorded
- missed details unless comments are thoroughly discussed
- oversights – different interpretations on subjects
- differing ideas of the process – schedule is a must and keeping it up to date if changed
- disagreement of the ground rules – unless there is a written record to refer to
- lack of reference point – the agreement along with meeting notes and design program
- lack of agreement on budget and finances – to be addressed often throughout process