Design Development and Construction Documents weighing the values

Design Development and Construction Documents: weighing the values

My Outline of Architectural Services describes the different phases of professional services that I offer. For context, please review the Design Development and Construction Document sections.

Some of my clients decline the Design Development (DD) phase, primarily as a way to reduce fees. In the long-run, that usually doesn’t actually save money since the preplanning and coordination in the DD phase allows the Construction Document (CD) phase to progress more efficiently.


Based on the Schematic Design, the DD phase organizes and cross-coordinates the building’s fundamental systems (structure; HVAC; plumbing and electrical) and takes the Schematic Design to a higher level of detail. That organization will streamline the CD drawings and help prevent potentially expensive and time-consuming conflicts during drawing production and building construction. Avoiding the DD phase has the potential to actually create a net increase in soft and hard project costs.



The Construction Documents can range in approach and related scope from the minimum required (to meet Code and construction permitting), to more highly detailed drawings and specifications which, essentially, build the project on paper (or screen). Since the CD’s become an integral part of the Owner/Contractor contract, the latter approach ensures that what we’ve worked so hard to design actually gets built instead of creating room for misunderstandings and resulting compromises.


And with proper CD’s, the Builder will be able to move from rough estimates to specific numbers. The Builder’s final estimate, combined with the CD’s become the foundation for your Owner-Contractor agreement as well as the base documents for the building permit. The old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words applies well to these Architectural drawings.


This is what I know to be best-practice. But people do sometimes build projects with minimal Architectural/Structural input and varying degrees of success. For projects of limited scope and complexity with no structural work or historic review, permitting requirements can be fairly light. However, in that scenario, there is a much greater chance of misunderstandings which can result in a completed project that does not meet your vision or your budget and the attendant hard feelings.


Obviously, professional fees affect project budget and considering both short and long-term costs can be complex. I’m glad to discuss this with you in detail so that I can shape the scope of my work for these phases that best suits you and the project.