Designing Solutions and Building Dreams

Architecture is a process of developing and refining ideas and dreams into real buildable plans that a contractor can turn into a finished structure. Depending on project size this will be a set of architectural drawings, including engineering and written specifications ranging from 25 to 100+ 24"x36" pages filled with plans, material callouts, and details of how a structure is to be built. The same set will be used to get your planning and building permits from the City. The more detail that is added to these plans the clearer the job is to the contractor. The clearer the job is to contractor before construction begins the better the outcome of the job will be in terms of timing, cost and quality. Architects provide on-site services and advice during construction as well, but it is this key set of construction documents that is the core service of an architect.

Architecture should work on several levels. It should be a great visual design, just as important is the functional beauty of the design - how well it meets the clients needs and program, does the kitchen work for you, does the office layout improve your work flow. In order for these goals to be met the architect must provide a set of construction documents that convey the plan in a clear and buildable fashion for the contractor. It is the combination of visual and functional beauty along with understanding the economics of building that makes great architecture. In order to do this we need to gather and understand a wide range of information.

Steps in the Architectural Process

  • Initial consultation
    • meet client and determine desires and needs of client
    • review project and site
    • project possibilities
  • Define scope of project, Project Program
    • document needs and tastes of client
    • spaces and uses to be included
    • preliminary overview of budget
  • Schematic design
    • initial project design using 3-D architectural software
    • series of meetings and design refinements based on client input
  • Design Development
    • once a basic scheme is chosen we begin to work on finer details (all being shown with plans and 3d illustrations)
    • consult with contractors on basic project costs
    • reconfirm overall plan and approach
  • Construction document phase
    • architectural and engineering drawings
    • written specifications
    • material call-outs
  • Building Permit
    • we submit for permit work with the building department until it is approved
    • contractor picks up permit and construction can begin
  • Construction Phase
    • Serve as your advocate ensuring your project is completed to your requirements

The first stage of architecture is where we set out to understand the scope of a project and the functions it needs to accommodate along with on overview of budgeting. We start by gathering information, what the client needs, what they like, what the planning department will allow and putting that together into a written program that will describe the building. This program will be a starting point for the building design. To create this program we will begin by meeting with you listening to your ideas and dreams, looking at pictures of places you like and looking over your building or building site. We will review the code issues that may effect your building project along with the costs that will be involved with your project. After a program is developed we will go back to the office and develop a schematic plan of your project, a first design idea. This plan will be developed with 3-D architectural software that will allow you to see the design in three dimensions when we meet again.

The second phase is schematic design where we bring to you the plans that we have developed from the program. It will include plans and a 3d computer model of our concept for your project. The point of this presentation is for you to have a first look at how your ideas can be represented in building form. Some of our ideas will work as they are and others will bring out new ideas and challenges. This phase of design is about possibilities. It is easy and recommended to look at a wide range of design ideas because it is in fact cost effective at this stage. There is relatively little cost in looking at a wide range of options as no hammer has been put to nail and there is not a big set of drawings that will have to be changed if you decide to add or move a room. We have found that once clients start to see their project come to life in drawings they have a new round of ideas and ways to improve the project. After this meeting we will take your ideas back to the office and work on a second iteration of the project. We have found depending on the size of the project this will take a number of design rounds, a few for a small project and more for a larger one. With each round more items are defined and the project becomes more real. As the design progresses it turns into the design development phase. In the era of hand drafting this was the phase that hand sketches turned into hard lined drafted drawings but this is not really the case anymore as the computer provides these "drafted plans" from day one. Now it is the phase where the design is developed enough that planning approval can be sought from the City and base line cost estimates can be obtained from a variety of contractors.

The next phase is the construction document phase. The design process is cycles of refinement and choices starting with the big questions of building layout and form and working one's way to details and materials. Once the basic design development is done we move on to construction documents. This will include the engineering drawings done by a structural engineer, the architectural details and specifications along with written specifications as required. This phase takes a lot of patience and care as it is when all the disparate parts of the project are brought into a whole set of instructions for the contractor to build from. We will meet to discuss progress and finalize material choices. It is a good time to have a contractor on board so that the cost implications of material choices can be reviewed. The approved construction drawing set becomes a part of your contract with the contractor and should be listed as such in your contract with them. It is their job to build the project as shown on the drawings. As soon as the construction set is finished it will be turned in the City for building permit approval assuming that the design development drawings have already gone in for zoning approval. We shepherd the drawings through the building department until the project is approved. Once approved your contractor will pick up the permit and be ready to begin.

During construction, Catamount Design will be your advocate. Our goal is to see your project built to your desires. As architect we are your agent meaning that we represent and advocate for your interests during whole process. Our goal is for you to have a great project and a good experience from design through construction. During construction we can be on-site to meet with you and your contractor to answer questions about the plans or consult on issues that may come up during construction. With our experience in working with contractors we can help with ensuring everything is done to your requirements.

Architecture is about testing out designs and solutions before hammer meets nail so that the most efficient and best design is worked out before the project is built. We will use the latest technology to help you understand the process as it goes along and make clear choices as the design and construction are completed. We use BIM (Building Information Modeling) technology so that in the end we have a 3d computer model of your entire project. This can be used for future planning of additions to your home or Tenant improvements and building management for your commercial property. Seeing a project become reality should be a thrill for client and architect.