MARK L MORTIER
SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO
Listed below is a discussion of typical architectural services I offer. These are generalizations, as every project is different; but they give an overview of what is possible. These services are applicable to houses as well as other building types, new construction, and alterations.
The PRE-DESIGN phase includes helping the client determine and focus their ideas and desires, and getting it down on paper. It includes developing the program, which defines things like square footage, budget and schedule; as well as talking about more esoteric things such as style and function, how the building will be lived in and used. In this phase construction strategies are discussed, as well as how to handle bidding and/or negotiation with contractors.
During SCHEMATIC DESIGN, I begin to develop and explore the basic design ideas of the project. Typically, I look at the overall form and style of the building, figure out how to fit it in the site, and work with the exteriors and the general layout of the plan. I may make some initial hand drawn sketches but do most of my drawing on the computer, working with 2D drawing and 3D modeling programs. I may even build study models out of clay, cardboard, or other materials. This phase sets the overall tone of the project, and gives a good idea of what the complete building will be. It also results in an outline specification, which gives a general idea of how the building will be constructed and finished.
DESIGN DEVELOPMENT, is where I take the schematic design, and really flesh it out. I explore the form, style, structure, the layout of the plan, the interiors, the finishes and materials. The tools are the same as for schematic design, but the scale is enlarged to see more detail. At the end of this phase the building is pretty well thought out and defined.
CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENTS are then competed to translate the design documents into drawings and specifications that can be used to accurately price the project, as well as to build it. These documents need to be complete and thorough enough to define the materials and methods to be used without ambiguity.
Typically, BIDDING/NEGOTIATION is the next phase. Depending on how the project is structured, this can be a formal bid process, where a few invited builders deliver sealed bids, and the bid that is the most advantageous to the client is selected. However, often the process of bidding and negotiation is initiated with a contractor during the pre-design or design phase, which allows the design to be coordinated to keep the actual cost within the budget. There are many variations depending on the needs of the client. Some clients already have a builder in mind, some look to me for guidance.
Often, no matter how careful everybody is, at some point in the process, the cost of the project exceeds the budget. This is when “value engineering” can be used to assess the importance of certain design features and look at the costs, as well as alternatives, in an effort to determine what changes might be made to the design to bring it back into budget, or to justify why the costs are over the budget. Sometimes this process results in ending negotiations with one contractor and moving on to another. This can be a stressful process, and requires steady nerves and determination, as well as looking ahead to the desired result.
Assuming all these issues can be worked out, I assist with drafting and signing the Owner/Contractor Agreement (the contract).
Once a contract is signed, CONSTRUCTION ADMINISTRATION begins. This phase is important because it is what ensures that the building gets completed according to the design. During this phase I am available to act as the Owner’s agent, as well as to be a neutral administrator of the contract. Services in this phase include observing the construction to make sure it is being done in accordance with the contract documents, clarifying or interpreting the drawings and specs, reviewing submittals, working with contractors and craftspeople to get the results we are expecting, negotiating changes, resolving conflicts and disputes, and reviewing and approving payments to the contractor. Depending on the needs and abilities of the client, these services can be kept to a minimum or can be very intensive. It is always a struggle between spending enough time to ensure that the project is being built right, and keeping the costs at a reasonable level. Obviously, the more time I spend on construction administration, the less likely there will be ill-conceived changes or surprises.
Finally, once the building is done, I am available for POST-CONSTRUCTION services. These can include helping complete aspects of the project that were not included in the construction, and assisting with warranty inspections and remedial work.
All of this means that working with an architect is a long-term, involved process. It requires spending a lot of time together, and getting to know each other, on a deep level. Sometimes we will spend several years working together, so it is important to go into the process with realistic expectations, the ability to communicate effectively, and most of all to be honest with each other.
The discussion above is directed towards new construction. I am also available for OTHER SERVICES, such as master planning, historic preservation, and designing additions and remodeling. The process for any of these other projects follows a similar structure, but there may be more emphasis in one phase and less in another, due to the requirements of the project.