Helping our clients make informed decisions to meet their goals and ensure the project starts on the right track is the impetus behind our Architectural Master Plan service.
Starting a home renovation or commercial construction project can be daunting. It’s not uncommon for clients to be unsure where to begin or how much to budget for their project. A doctor would never prescribe treatment for a patient before first diagnosing the problem. Similarly, as architects, we must identify and study the issues that need solving before designing our projects. This ‘diagnosis’ and initial design phase is known as Architectural Master Planning – a project framework to help our clients make informed decisions and forge ahead confidently.
ARCHITECTURAL MASTER PLAN PROCESS
Every project begins with a conversation where we discuss the project scope, goals for the project, timelines, and budget and learn about the existing structure or building site history.
First, we look at existing conditions, including the site and the surrounding environment, to ensure the final design outcome responds to the site. Then we develop several creative design solutions and present them for review and approval. While each of our projects is unique and customized, our master planning projects follow the same process. The following outline provides an overview of what we work on during the Master Plan process:
1. CODE RESEARCH
Zoning has apparent ramifications on a building’s exterior and interior that can significantly impact the ‘program,’ which is architecture speak for the layout of a space. We perform a thorough zoning and building code analysis specific to the site to establish buildable footprint and site constraints during this exercise.
2. PROGRAM NARRATIVE
Architectural programming at the master planning level is strategic. It provides information for building owners to make decisions about current and projected space needs and adjacencies.
Based on our client’s needs, wishes, concerns, and importance level for each, we develop a written summary. Next, we analyze these goals to determine the approximate area or square footage for the project.
3. SITE ANALYSIS
Just as each project is unique, so is the site where the building sits. During the site analysis research activity, we focus on existing conditions on and around a project site. We consider the site location, shape, size, drainage, setbacks, and any significant on-site features like trees or other buildings.
To design a successful building that relates to the environment, we assess and discover all of the free elements the site offers and how to harness them, including the sun and shade paths, prevailing breezes, views, and additional surrounding environmental attributes. Taking the site into consideration does not increase the project cost. Instead, money is saved in the long run since it’s less expensive to operate, heat, and cool the building because we have researched all the free site elements.
Here’s an example of what a site analysis accomplishes. We determined the optimal solar path for our Logan Certified project (moss Design headquarters) and designed a second-floor addition with a south-facing sloped roof. We then mounted solar panels on the pitched surface towards the sun for optimal solar gain. This sustainable solar array is a mini-power house that produces enough energy to heat, cool, and light our studio and showroom.
4. FLOOR PLAN OPTIONS
Once we know the project goals, we gather as a team in a design charette. A design charette is a planning activity where several members of our design team collaborate and present a diverse array of design ideas for each project. Working together, we determine which are the best elements of each design and pare those options down to the ones we want to refine. From there, we prepare and present 2 – 4 site/floor plan variations and several interior concept sketches that we share with the client.
Based on our client’s feedback, we combine the chosen concepts into one final master plan layout. This is a comprehensive working document with a solid set of recommendations and an implementation strategy.
The conceptual floor plan sketches pictured below are from our Richmond House renovation project. Further down, you can see the progression from floor plans to the massing concepts.
5. CLIENT DESIGN REVIEW
Once we agree upon a final floor plan and overall concepts, we share observations and ideas with our clients, so they have a clear understanding of the comprehensive plan. It’s during this discussion that overlooked, or new ideas might surface that could affect the overall layout of the project. This is the perfect time to voice those ideas so we can incorporate them into the design and move towards refining and finalizing.
6. SOFT COSTS AND SCHEDULE
You can consider project budgets to have two main components, soft and hard costs. Hard costs are the portion of the budget spent on the physical building itself that becomes a permanent fixture; the brick and mortar. Soft costs are those involved in executing the project, expenses not directly related to construction costs or non-permanent items. These include our architecture fees.
Aside from the plans that most people associate with what architects do, our projects are very complex. There is a lot to take into account when designing a building or interior spaces. With our designs, we need to ensure the space planning makes sense, that everything flows correctly, and is structurally sound. We also need to meet the goals of our client, both economically and aesthetically. As architects, we balance all of this while adding creativity to design inspiring spaces – this is what good design accomplishes.
The soft costs cover our fees and the expenses for various professional engineers and technical consultants that we work with. These might include a Structural Engineer, Mechanical and Electrical Engineer, Geotechnical Engineer, Surveyor / Civil Engineer, Cost Estimator, and Permit Consultant, to name a few. During the Master Planning phase, we identify which consultants are necessary for your project, acquire proposals for their work, and prepare a schedule for the next design work stages.
ONWARD – NEXT STEPS
Your project will occupy the land permanently that we all share and demands the consideration of thoughtful architecture. Designing and constructing a project is an involved process. As your architect, we are here to create solution-oriented and excellent designs while guiding you through the tumult of construction.
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