What to Expect When You Work With An Architect; or, The Process of Design Here At Moss


We had a phone call yesterday from a homeowner considering some remodeling but unsure about the process – how they would work with an architect.  Nearly all of our clients are taking on their first design and construction process, so we understand this very natural concern.  Here’s an overview of how a project with moss can work.

How to Work with An Architect: Getting Started 

Every moss project begins with a conversation, often a phone call, where we discuss the scope with the owners, ask about their goals for budget and timeline, learn a little history of the building and make sure that our design philosophy seems to align with ours.

It is important that we share a vision of good design.   Our mission is pretty simple; we want to create great buildings that are sustainable, specific, adaptable, and made out of real materials.  If your vision differs from ours, we’ll advise you to find a more like-minded design team.  When we align well with clients, the outcome is universally satisfying!

If we both conclude that the fit is good, moss will make plans for an on site consultation where everyone can look at the space.  This gives us a chance to make informed guesses about the structural and technical needs, evaluate existing conditions and hear about the project in greater detail.  We generate a proposal and contract for the owners, laying out our expectations of the design timeline, the likely costs for each phase of design and other project expectations.


Since nearly every moss project begins with an existing building, our first step under contract is to make a detailed assessment of the space as it is.  We will take photographs, make sketches and record measurements to generate detailed floor plans and sections (record drawings) of the existing building. Read more about Field Measuring here.

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Digging into Design: SCHEMATIC DESIGN

Once we know both what we are working with and what your goals for the project are, we turn to the drawing board.  We will prepare several floor plan variations and a number of interior concept sketches and diagrams, as well as pulling inspirational source material from other projects into a Schematic Design package for our first meeting.

Some of the best ideas come out of this process.  Brainstorming among several designers pulls out ideas that none of us might have hit on our own.  And starting from the top is the best time to put sustainability into the project.  Read more here about how holistic thinking can be more important than gadgets in creating environmentally sensitive buildings.

Walking through the possibilities with our clients always shakes loose a few more specific program needs.  The final meeting of Schematic Design gives us some great insights into the project that we roll into the next phase.

Goal: achieve an approved design floor plan and concept that meets your wants and needs.

design development

Figuring out how it will work: DESIGN DEVELOPMENT

Once we have agreed on a general floor plan and some concepts for major design elements, moss brings the design into the computer.  We generate CAD floor plans, ceiling/lighting layouts, section cuts showing structure and interior and exterior elevations showing finishes.  We suggest materials and fixtures for your approval.  We depend on a combination of meetings and online exchanges to continue through this phase.  Read more about Moss communication methods in this post HOW WE OPERATE: COMMUNICATION TOOLS MAKE A MOSS PROJECT HAPPEN.

The end result of the Design Development phase is a partial drawing set which doesn’t lock down every detail but contains enough information that contractors can create accurate bids for the project.  If there are elements of the design that you wanted to include but weren’t sure fit your budget, we’ll include them here as add/alternates so that you can find out where the costs fall and make informed choices about the final design.

Goal: a design package with everything needed to secure several accurate contractor bids

floor plan construction documents

Getting the Details Right: CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENTS

At this point the work we do doesn’t need a lot of input from you, the client.  We are taking the ideas that we generated in Schematic Design and filled in during Design Developments and filling in all the details.  Drawings are prepared that will serve each sub contractor: plumber, electrician, built-in cabinet maker, etc.  To get a general idea of the full range of drawings and documents included in the Issue for Construction set, check out our post on Construction Documents.

Since this kind of technical drawing has a lot of unfamiliar elements to the layperson, we recommend reading our MOSS FIELD GUIDE TO ARCHITECTURAL DRAWINGS: IMPORTANT SIGNS AND SYMBOLS for a better understanding of what you may see there.

Goal: a detailed design which the Contractor can build quickly, effectively, and accurately

Putting It all Together: Construction Administration

After construction begins, our role continues as an expert and mediator to ensure that the contractor and subs are getting the job done as planned.  We answer questions and clarify the design and help you, the client, to understand the construction process and feel confident that all is going smoothly.

As always, we do this work on an hourly basis to ensure that you will get exactly the level of service from us that you want and need – ranging form detailed input and oversight to a few key on-site check ins.  During this phase we work closely with clients to make sure we are meeting their expectations for level of input.

We hope this post has given you a helpful overview of the moss process and you feel more confident about how you would work with an architect.  Please give the office a call; we’ll be happy to answer more questions about our process or your project.