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The ultimate guide to the architectural design process

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Updated on:
April 27, 2023
April 27, 2023
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Knowing the design process matters if you plan to improve your architecture skills. It’s necessary for businesses that want to scale their firms and advance in the industry. Architectural designs require a step-by-step method, and your knowledge about them will impact your professional competence.

Missing out on any of the steps impacts the outcome of the designs. As a result, architects who want to improve their designs should focus on the process. Because understanding the entire process can be tough for inexperienced designers, we’ll split it down into sections. We will also focus on the most important features of these process phases and what they include.

The architectural design process

source: BC Architects

1. Pre-design phase

Generally speaking, the pre-design phase starts with defining the project scope of work, and what you are trying to achieve. Next, it’s time to gather site information such as the soil type, area available for the project, climate conditions, etc.

Once that’s done, professionals move on to conducting a feasibility study, requiring different tests to determine the project’s difficulty level. During this step, you can identify the budget and timeline for the project and manage sources accordingly.

2. Schematic design phase

The schematic design phase is a bit more technical than the pre-design phase as it requires developing and following conceptual designs throughout the process. You will also need to create floor plans and re-assess the designs whenever required.

The better your schematics, the easier to complete the project problem-free. We also evaluate design options, so you can find one that’s the most cost and labor effective.

You can move on to refining the architectural designs after the first few phases of the project are complete. This way, you’ll get a better view of what your final design will look like. It’s also a great option for designers that don’t want to start from scratch in the later phases of business operations.

3. Design development phase

The design development process requires refining the selected design and developing detailed drawings, specifications, and a design brief. Once you have this, move on to planning building systems and materials required for the project.

It will help estimate project costs projects and address them from time to time. You can also create a better project budget and maximize the cost-effectiveness of the complete architectural design.

4. Construction documentation phase

Once the design development is complete—focus on creating construction drawings and specifying materials. You will need to coordinate with engineers and other consultants to prepare project bids and contracts. With the entire paperwork ready, your project is ready for bidding.

5. Bidding and negotiation phase

The bidding and negotiation start by selecting a contractor and reviewing bids and proposals. Once you have done that, move on to negotiating contract terms and securing necessary permits and approvals. This step may take some time, but it’s not something to worry about.

6. Construction phase

The next step is the construction phase which starts with preparing the site and laying the foundation of the design. It’s important to lay the foundation, or your whole project could be at risk of tumbling down.

Now, it’s time to frame the building and create a basic “skeleton” for it. Always ensure your construction phase is solid before Installing building systems and finishes. This way, you won’t have to tear down and re-do what you’ve built.

7. Post-construction phase

The post-conduction phase includes the final inspections of the building and addressing punch list items that might still be left. Lastly, you can move on to closing the project only after conducting a post-occupancy evaluation.

Sustainability and energy efficiency in architectural design

Incorporating sustainable design principles has now become common industry practice. Professionals in architecture are greatly stressing the use of green energy. However, you need to understand the green building certifications for designing for energy efficiency

Technology and innovation in architectural design

Incorporating technology in design is another important aspect of modern architecture. Professionals are relying on more sophisticated options such as Utilizing Building Information Modeling (BIM, Exploring new materials and construction techniques, and optimizing the overall construction process.

The role of the architect in the design process

The architect plays a vital role in the design process, and understanding an architect’s responsibilities is important. Apart from supervising the project, these architects are responsible for working with clients and professionals. They also have to focus on managing the design process, requiring training and experience.

The role of the architect may vary based on the type of company they are working in. For instance, if an architectural firm only deals with commercial complexes, their job description will differ. Similarly, the architects will be doing something different if they have a different task at hand.

Collaborative design process

The approach in architecture has changed in the past few decades and now emphasizes teamwork and collaboration. If we look at past projects, the architects weren’t playing well with others.

But that’s not the case anymore, thanks to the benefits of a collaborative design process. It provides better communication, easier deadline completion, and higher efficiency. It also facilitates communication among stakeholders streamlining the entire process.

Legal and regulatory considerations in architectural design

While the practice and phases in architecture are necessary—Understanding building codes and regulations also makes a massive difference. A single legal violation can put a question on your architectural firm. Therefore, we recommend meeting the accessibility requirements set by the government. These requirements may change from state to state but protecting intellectual property is the same everywhere.

Business process in architectural design

There’s a business aspect of architectural design as well. In this aspect, the professionals are responsible for developing proposals and responding to RFPs as required.

They also contract negotiation and management in different ways, such as invoicing and billing clients, controlling most of the remaining process. Managing project budgets and timelines becomes easier by incorporating business processes in architecture.

Career opportunities in architectural design

With the consistent growth in the architecture industry, we now have more Career paths. It’s more than just designing and drawing, as there’s a variety of different approaches to adopt. Some common career choices for architecture enthusiasts include:

  • Town planner
  • Structural engineer
  • Production designer
  • An interior and spatial designer
  • Historic buildings inspector
  • Building surveyor
  • Architectural technologist
  • Architect

The Education and training requirements vary for each of these roles, which is why the professionals should educate themselves about it accordingly. However, the architects need a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture and Design from an accredited institution. While the salary range may vary for other professionals, architects earn an average of $74,000 in the U.S.


The architectural design process plays a vital role in the final results of designs. Professionals in the industry can improve the results of their projects by understanding the process better. You need to assess everything from the pre-design phase to the completion.

Remember, your architectural process should be as simple and streamlined as possible. We also recommend carefully checking for sustainable and technology-based designs as they are the trend in the industry. If you’re looking for recommendations, professionals at Bonsai can help you find the best software and tools for your needs.


What is the role of an architect in the design process?

The architect is responsible for creating designs for new projects, complexes, alterations, and re-developments. They are one of

The most important parts of any architectural firm determine the overall efficiency of existing architectural designs. These professionals need to have the knowledge and high-level drawing skills to create designs that stand out.

What are the phases of the architectural design process?

Following are the phases of the architectural design process that you should know about:

  • Pre-Design Phase
  • Schematic Design Phase
  • Design Development Phase
  • Construction Documentation Phase
  • Bidding and Negotiation Phase
  • Construction Phase
  • Post-Construction Phase

Each of these phases has its specific instructions, requirements, and steps. Missing out on any of these steps will impact your architectural design in the long run.

What is sustainable design, and why is it important in architecture?

Sustainability design includes creating greener designs (designs that rely on clean energy). It’s because architectural construction is becoming more common for residential, commercial, and recreational projects. The designers are responsible for creating designs that last longer and take up less energy. However, greener architectural designs may be slightly costlier in the beginning due to solar unit installations.

What is the job outlook for architects?

Architects are in charge of designing various structures. They can assist with the completion of multi-story constructions, residential apartments, or commercial buildings. They are responsible for managing the designs, removing possible errors, and optimizing the current designs. Architects can also handle re-modeling projects, depending on the client’s requirements.

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