creating sustainable relationships with people and place

The architectural Process


The outline below illustrates our typical workflow on a new residential or commercial construction project from start to finish. However, each project is as unique as the client, so we tailor our services as needed after an in-depth discussion with the client regarding their priorities and vision for the project. This may mean that some phases can be omitted while others may require more focused attention. In every case, Gehrung + Graham emphasizes regular communication throughout the process. In our experience, creating an open and collaborative team, first with our client and then the consultants and contractors we bring in, fosters a sense of creativity and engagement with the process and leads to greater satisfaction with the finished product.


1.         Pre-Design

This preliminary phase involves data collection to define existing conditions. We may gather information on zoning and code, take photographs and measurements, study the solar potential of the site, and engage in special case material research - anything to help us clearly define the scope of the project. This information-gathering effort will culminate in the creation of as-built drawings and/or a 3D model reflecting the particulars of the site and associated structures. At this time, we may visit to calculate preliminary shading factors. This phase is exploratory and no alterations of the area will take place at this time.

2.        Feasibility Study

In certain cases, a feasibility study may be advised to narrow the focus of a project. This can help to inform early decision-making when budgetary constraints or existing conditions are of special concern.   

3.         Master Planning

A master plan represents a long term vision for the site based on a synthesis of analysis and design. The goal is to promote responsible stewardship of both the local and regional site, realizing that our relationship with our surroundings extends beyond the property lines. Through analysis, we consider how broad systems such as hydrology, ecology, cultural patterns and zoning parameters inform design decisions at the site scale, and conversely how these decisions impact the region beyond. Planning the location of site elements for present and future development is an important exercise to ensure that immediate improvements fit within an overall framework. Depending on the complexity of the project and the needs of the client, a master plan may be an important prerequisite of the Schematic Design. 

4.         Schematic Design

Informed by data gathered during pre-design and developed as needed through feasibility studies and/or master planning exercises, it is during this stage that the project truly begins to take shape. In close communication with the client, the architect will incorporate programming information and explore basic spatial relationships in 2-3 conceptual designs. Once developed, Gehrung+Graham will present these design alternatives to the client for discussion and feedback in a face-to-face meeting. Deliverables often associated with this phase include a conceptual site plan, if appropriate, and preliminary building plans, sections and elevations to illustrate core ideas. At this point a scheme may be chosen to move forward with, or the client and architect may decide to subject the preliminary designs to further refinement as needed to arrive at the best possible design solution.

5.         Design Development

During this phase, the chosen Schematic Design is tested, explored, and refined. To achieve the highest energy efficiency possible, the creation of an energy model is critical at this stage to inform adjustments that may need to be made based on the climate and geometry of the site. Depending on the project needs and your interests, we may also integrate input from consultants and/or subcontractors for structural design, lighting design, landscape, and mechanical design at this stage. If a modular system is to be used, we will engage both manufacturers and the contractor at this time to ensure an integrated project. Once the project is fully outlined and sufficiently described, we will create drawing sets containing plans, elevations, sections, and details, as well as research on materials and finishes including window and door schedules for permitting and pricing. We often engage qualified contractors once Design Development documents have been prepared, as we feel that client satisfaction, cost-effectiveness, and finished result are best when the contractor and architect lay the foundation early on to work as a team towards a thorough and complete Construction Documentation set.

6.         Construction Documents

Based on the approved Schematic Design and Design Development drawings, Gehrung+Graham architects will prepare a set of Construction Documents during this phase to integrate structural and mechanical systems designs and incorporate any final adjustments in the scope and/or the budget for the project. The completed documents may be filed with the building department and used by the selected general contractor during construction. Construction Documents include elements such architectural floor plans, electrical plans, building elevations, section details, and finish plumbing fixture locations. Notes indicating finishes, materials and any other special conditions may also be included as needed to communicate important ideas to the construction team.

7.         Construction Administration

Although our role becomes less prominent as construction begins, we will continue to provide important services until the project is finished. These may include, but again are not limited to, meetings with contractors to clarify building documents and review of shop drawings provided by fabricators or suppliers. A Gehrung+Graham architect will also make regular visits to the site to monitor construction progress over the course of the project.