Understanding the Design Development Phase in Architectural Projects -lceted LCETED INSTITUTE FOR CIVIL ENGINEERS

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May 26, 2024

Understanding the Design Development Phase in Architectural Projects

Understanding the Design Development Phase in Architectural Projects

The design development phase is a pivotal step in any architectural project. Once the schematic design is approved, the design team moves forward to refine and detail the project. This phase involves close collaboration between the design team, engineering consultants, and the client to ensure that all aspects of the project are meticulously planned and coordinated. Let’s dive into what happens during this phase and what is required from both the design team and the client.

What Happens During the Design Development Phase?

1. Final Stakeholder Engagement Workshop:

  • The design team completes final engagement sessions with all stakeholders to address any remaining needs and concerns.

2. Design Development Phase Report:

  • Updated General Arrangement Floor Plans: The report includes the final layouts with business team blocking and stacking, work point strategy, meeting room strategy, and staff break spaces.
  • 1:100 Scale Drawings: These drawings cover general arrangement floor plans, furniture layouts, elevations, sections, and feature details.
  • Color Presentation Drawings: The design team prepares color boards and finishes schedules to present the project's visual and aesthetic aspects.
  • Conceptual Sketches: Simple black and white SketchUp renders of key elements are created to visualize the design.
  • Initial Finishes Layout: The initial look and feel of the project are presented through 3D conceptual color renders and environmental graphics, along with wayfinding signage design concepts.
  • Updated Loose Furniture Schedule and Selections: The design team updates the furniture schedule and makes selections accordingly.
  • Preliminary Specifications: Presentation-style finishes boxes for look and feel are prepared.
  • Plans for Private Certifier Approvals: Necessary plans are issued to obtain approvals from private certifiers.
  • Progressive Value and Risk Management: Continuous assessment of value and risks is conducted at the end of the phase.

3. Coordination with Engineering Consultants:

  • The design team develops detailed architectural and interior design layouts and sends them to engineering consultants for further development of their respective plans.
  • Ongoing clash detection and resolution among architectural, interior, and engineering plans ensure seamless integration.

4. Material Take-Offs and Budgetary Cost Estimates:

  • The design team provides material take-offs to the Quantity Surveyor (QS) for developing budgetary cost estimates.

Key Inputs Needed from the Client:

1. Approved Layout, Scope of Work, and Probable Construction Cost:

  • Confirmation of these details from the schematic design phase is crucial for proceeding to design development.

2. Feedback on Design Presentations:

  • The client needs to review and approve architectural and interior design plans, proposed details, finishing materials, and specifications.

3. Documentation of Comments and Decisions:

  • The client’s comments and approvals must be documented to guide the design development.

Process and Coordination:

1. Initial Development:

  • The design team first develops architectural elements (walls, doors, windows) followed by interior design elements (furniture layout). This process may involve several iterations, discovering the need to redevelop architectural elements as interior design progresses.

2. Consultant Coordination:

  • Engineering consultants are engaged early to integrate engineering systems with the design plans. Regular updates and meetings ensure alignment on deliverables and timelines.

3. Clash Detection and Reconciliation:

  • The design team uses tools like Building Information Modeling (BIM) for ongoing clash detection and resolution among different design plans. Effective clash detection and reconciliation require the design team to anticipate the layout of engineering systems and to perceive the design in 3D.


Simpler Projects:

  • Development of floor plans: 1 day to less than a week.
  • Development of details: About a week for typical details.

Complex Projects:

  • Development of floor plans: Up to 2 weeks.
  • Development of details: Up to 3 weeks or more, depending on complexity.

Role of the Project Director:

Monitoring Progress:

  • Regular updates from the design team regarding the development of design and coordination with consultants.
  • Ensuring timely completion of deliverables and adherence to project timelines.

Facilitating Communication:

  • Serving as the main point of contact between the client and the design team, ensuring client feedback is documented and incorporated.

Overseeing Approval Processes:

  • Managing client presentations and obtaining approvals for key design elements and materials.


Clash Detection:

  • Ensuring integrated design and engineering plans without conflicts. The design team’s knowledge of engineering systems is crucial for effective clash reconciliation.

Client Approvals:

  • Timely and clear feedback from the client is essential to avoid delays in the design development process.

Additional Activities:

Validation of On-Site Conditions:

  • For newly engaged engineering consultants, validation of on-site conditions might be necessary. The design team can assist in this process.

Sample Material Approvals:

  • The design team assembles and presents sample materials such as tiles, fabrics, and paint swatches for client approval.

Finalizing Construction Documents:

Internal Review:

  • The design team conducts an internal review of all documents before endorsing them for construction and tendering.

Coordination with Consultants:

  • Any changes to the layout after endorsement are coordinated with consultants. The design team ensures all plans, details, and specifications are finalized and ready for QS to develop the final budgetary cost estimate.


The design development phase transforms the approved schematic design into detailed plans ready for construction. Through close collaboration, meticulous planning, and continuous communication, the design team ensures that all project aspects are harmonized and aligned with the client’s vision and requirements. As a Project Director, staying informed and engaged throughout this phase is key to a successful project outcome.

The design development phase is crucial as it sets the stage for the construction phase, ensuring that every detail is accounted for and all potential issues are resolved before building begins. Effective management and clear communication between all parties involved will lead to a successful and smooth project execution.


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