Architects refer to the second phase of a building program as the schematic design phase. It comes after the pre-design phase, during which an architect and owner develop a written description of a construction project. In the pre-design phase, architects obtain necessary permits, determine estimated construction costs and develop construction time lines.

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Architects develop schematic designs to give clients a general idea of how a building will be structured.

Schematic design phase

The purpose of the schematic design phase is to develop a plan of action regarding how a building will look based on the client's budget and specific design requests. The architect prepares rough plans, or schematics, that show a general model of where rooms will be located, the placement of doors and windows and how the building will be structured overall.

According to Locus Architecture, "schematic design is perhaps the most important time we spend interacting with clients. At this stage, we have frequent meetings in order to keep clients abreast of our work and direction. During these meetings, we present drawings that describe design ideas with respect to budget."

In addition to drawings, models may also be prepared to help visualize the project. Once the owner approves the schematic design the project moves on to the next phase, design development.

Design development phase

During the design development phase, the architect expands the schematic designs by making them more detailed. Floor plans show rooms in the correct size and shape. A listing of major materials, room finishes and special equipment is developed. The architect verifies that the design complies with building codes and works with engineers to design the structure, mechanical and electrical systems.

Once the design is developed thoroughly and approved by the owner, the next phase begins.

Development of construction documents

Charles Levin Architects say this about the construction documents phase, "Once the owner has approved the design development phase, the architect prepares detailed working drawings (formerly known as blueprints) and specifications, which the contractor will use to establish actual construction costs and build the project."

Bidding and negotiation

After construction documents are finalized, the owner can hire a contractor, if desired, and begin to gather bids on building the project.

Many architects will assist the owner in preparing bidding documents and invitations to bid. They will also answer any questions the construction firms that are bidding for the work may have.