CONSIDER THE POSSIBILITIES
We have named ten threads to consider when developing an architectural project: Vision, Context, Function, Aesthetics, Construction, Details, Materials, Structure, Systems, Checklists. Designing an architectural process is largely about making good choices, collecting information and executing action plans. As a way to manage this flow, we have identified these ten primary categories.
Write a clear and concise description of what you hope to accomplish with the primary aspects that you feel are critical. Give the project a name. List and describe the primary elements. Write an article about the project, as if it were complete and you are walking through it explaining what you see and love about it. Select a single image that best tells the whole story.
Consider regional and climatic factors. If you haven't already secured a site, make a note of the qualities that will allow your project to fit: neighborhood, vegetation, sun, proximity to related places. When you have a site, spend time there. Study how your construction can contribute to what is already there by preserving the best parts and correcting the worst. Gather topographic, boundary, legal data and satellite photos, as a base map for the design.
List all of the activities that you expect to be accommodated by your project. Gather them in compatible groups that will happen in the same areas. Measure similar rooms and create a spread sheet to gather a subtotal of square footage and add 20% to account for halls, wall thickness and contingencies. Multiply your total by the expected cost per square foot and compare to your budget. Be firm and clear. Make the numbers add up before proceeding. Create a matrix that quantifies and qualifies the relationship between each room to every other room, including outdoor rooms, in terms of proximity to one another and to the site aspects.
Collect images. Describe what you see when you visualize the finished project. Try to be as detailed as possible. Look for buildings that you like. Go to the site with a color fan deck and match colors in the area that you like, to create the base pallette for your color scheme. Choose ceiling heights, roof pitch and roofing material. Choose window types, siding, trim, and doors. Consider whether you prefer to fit with your neighbors or make an original statement. Consider the way that the building masses are formed and related and the scale and proportions of openings.
Consider construction methods, conventional and alternatives, that best suit your project needs. Do your best to understand all the different components of a building: foundation, floor systems, wall construction, roof framing and building envelope. Ideally, each component in its' own way will contribute to multiple objectives: durability, sustainability, topographic concerns, affordability, solar aspects and aesthetics.
Begin to gather a list of specific aspects of the construction that require attention to detail. Generally speaking, the connections between different systems and materials require detailing. The edge of the roofline with overhang, fascia, soffit, gutters and trim is one of the more important ones, in terms of the ultimate feel of the project. Certainly, attend to the way the building connects to the earth.
Identify and study all of the materials that will go into the project. Note their characteristics, specifications and manufacturer's recommendations. Make choices about color, texture and quality options. Gather this information over the course of the design process and keep a comprehensive and concise list. You can keep options open, but always have a default choice that substantially meets your needs, so that you aren't forced to make a quick decision based on long lead times.
Integrate early a structural concept that becomes part of the design. Consider how the loads are transfered down through the building from the roof, through the walls and floors to the foundation. Make sure the structure addresses lateral forces, as well as gravitational ones. There might be a very stout column that supports all the weight, but if it falls over in the wind, it is not doing much good. Know your soil's conditions and how they will be met.
Map out the various support systems that contribute to your comfort and effectiveness. Develop mechanical, plumbing, electrical, solar and communication needs and desires. Consider multiple ways of addressing key needs like heating and lighting, including passive methods for solar heating and daylighting. Know availability, location and size of utilities: sewer, water, gas, electricity, telephone, data. All these things require space and integration into the whole building.
Generate a list of criteria and issues that need to be addressed in the course of designing and building your project. Ideally, these are stated as measurable objectives that can readily be verified. Certainly your project will meet locally defined codes. Use a sustainability checklist, from the Coconino County Sustainable Building Program or LEED to ensure best practices. Keep detailed estimates of costs for all the components to keep the overall project within your budget. Write a schedule and monitor critical path actions.