Definition of Project Phases

The definition of the various phases of development for a particular project from initial studies through postconstruction should be understood by the client and outlined thoroughly in the client-A/E agreement. The most-often-used phases of development include the following:

Feasibility Studies.

To assist the client in determining the scope of the project and the extent of services to be performed by various parties, the architect may enter into an interim agreement for services relating to feasibility studies, environmental impact studies or reports, master planning, site selection, site analysis, code and zoning review, programming, and other predesign services.

Environmental Impact Studies.

Determination of environmental studies and reports required for a project and preparation of such reports, special drawings, or other documents that may be required for governmental approvals are normally performed under separate agreements. Attention should be given to zoning, soils, and the potential of hazardous materials in any form. If any impermissible hazardous materials are encountered, clients should be advised so that they can obtain the services of a specialty consultant to determine what course of action to take.


If the architect is required to prepare the program of space requirements for a project, the program should be developed in consultation with the client to help the client recognize particular needs. Space requirements, interrelationships of spaces and project components, organization subdivision of usage, special provision and systems, flexibility, constraints, future expansion, phasing, site requirements, budgetary and scheduling limitations, and other pertinent data should all be addressed.

Conceptual Design.

During this phase of development, the architect evaluates the client’s program requirements and develops alternatives for design of the project and overall site development. A master plan may also be developed during this phase. The plan serves as the guide and philosophy for the remainder of the development of the project or for phasing, should the project be constructed in various phases or of different components.

Schematic Design.

During this phase the project team, including all specialty consultants, prepares schematic design documents based on the conceptual design alternative selected by the client. Included are schematic drawings, a written description of the project, and other documents that can establish the general extent and scope of the project and the interrelationships of the various project components, sufficient for a preliminary estimate of probable construction costs to be prepared. Renderings and finished scale models may also be prepared at this time for promotional and marketing purposes.

Design Development.

After client approval of the schematic design, the architect and the specialty consultants prepare design development documents to define further the size and character of the project. Included are applicable architectural, civil, structural, mechanical, and electrical systems, materials, specialty systems, interior development, and other such project components that can be used as a basis for working drawing development.

Construction Documents.

After approval of the design development documents, the architectural-engineering team, together with the applicable specialty consultants, prepares construction documents, consisting of working drawings and technical specifications for the project components. These include architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, and civil work, together with general and supplementary conditions of the construction contract for use in preparing a final detailed estimate of construction costs and for bidding purposes.

Construction Phase Services.

Diligent construction phase services are essential to translate design into a finished project. The A/E team continues with the development process by issuing clarifications of the bid documents and assisting in contractor selection (Art. 2.20). Also, during the construction period, the team reviews shop drawings, contractor payment requests, change-order requests, and visits the construction site to observe the overall progress and quality of the work. Architect and engineer personnel involved in the design of the project should be available during construction to provide continuity in the design thought process until project completion and occupancy.

Postconstruction Services.

Follow-up with the client after construction completion is essential to good client relations. Periodic visits to the project by the architect through the contractor’s warranty period is considered good business.

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