Note: This is the fourth article in a 6 part series explaining the services of Bureau Xavier David. Previously a general overview of Construction Management, an explanation of the Xavier David Method™, and an introduction to Feasibility Analysis & Pre-Design Planning. Now today an overview the Design Process followed in upcoming weeks by two more articles on the various phases of a project:
- Feasibility Analysis & Pre-Design Planning
- Design Process
- Construction Process
- Post-Construction Maintenance and Management
Saint-Barthélemy April 2020 — For the architects, engineers and construction managers that design a building, the Design Process commences with a defined Building Program that meets the need of the client. As explained in our previous article, sometimes extensive Feasibility Analysis & Pre-Design Planning might be needed to determine a Building Program, particularly for a site that may include complicated legal and political considerations. Of course sometimes, a less complicated project (e.g., a one room bungalow or garage) might begin directly with a clear Building Program. Either way, the next steps of the Design Process are the same : Schematic Design, Design Development and finally preparation of Construction Documents.
Various ideas may meet the requirements of the owner’s Building Program and here is the moment in which the architects evaluate the many possibilities. Sometimes there is a single clear answer but more often than not the architect will present multiple options or schemes during the Schematic Design phase (often abbreviated as SD) for the owner to review. A schematic design can be thought of as a draft version as it is usually quite rough, sometimes even "quick & dirty". Many details are left for later in the process. For example, drawings or models may be presented that represent the large volumes of a building set in the landscape but without details such as doors and windows.
As a hypothetical situation, imagine a site with a steep slope and a Building Program for a two bedroom villa with swimming pool. In the Schematic Design phase, the architect might present one version with access from a road below with the Living, Kitchen and Pool Terrace directly above and then the Bedrooms further up the hillside. A second alternate version may show road access from above with Living, Kitchen, and Pool Terrace below and then an even lower level further down the hillside for the two Bedrooms. Neither version or scheme is necessarily better than the other, however, the architect will use the Schematic Design models and drawings to illustrates the various strengths and weakness of the different options. This allow the client the opportunity to properly evaluate the possibilities of their project and find a solution that is best for them with respect to their needs, desires and resources. And it can also be a very helpful way in which to understand potential tradeoffs in a project. Is an ocean view most important ? Or perhaps privacy from neighbors? The Schematic Design process is the time to find and answer those types of questions.
After exploring the various possibilities presented during the Schematic Design phase, the client and architect agree on a direction for further refinement and thus begins the Design Development (abbreviated DD) phase. At this point, the architects focus their efforts on a single proposal but spend more time fleshing out the various details such as window sizes and material selections. Once a design is fully drawn with all of the plans, elevations, sections and typically a few three-dimensional renderings then this would also be the time here in St Barts to prepare a Building Permit application and submit for approval to the planning department of the local government (the Collectivité de Saint-Barthélemy). Once submitted, a decision of either approval or rejection by the Collectivité will be returned, typically in about 90 days.
If the Collectivité rejects the Building Permit application, then it is back to the drawing board as the architect will attempt a redesign to satisfy the Collectivité’s objections to the project. In some circumstances, this process may repeat itself several times for a large or complicated project. Alternatively, if the Collectivité approves the Building Permit application then the design and construction may proceed. Approved Building Permits are valid for two years.
With Building Permit in hand, the Design Process now moves to the most detailed stage referred to as the Construction Documents (abbreviated CD) phase. Construction Documents comprise of both the detailed drawings or "blueprints" and the material and equipment specifications of the building project. These are very detailed and direct the contractors in the exact construction of the building. They are also legally binding documents that hold contractors to account on standards of quality.
Production of the Construction Documents signals the end of the Design Process while bridging into the Construction Process. The length of time necessary for the Design Process can vary considerably depending upon the size and complexity of a project. One can expect this phase to last at least a few weeks and possibly several months.
Advantage Xavier David Method™
Within the Design Process, Bureau Xavier David takes advantage of our Construction Management expertise to quickly coordinate and transition from Schematic Design & Building Permit to Construction Phase with minimal delay for production of Construction Documents (which can be a lengthy process). Rather than publishing of a single complete set of drawings for general bid, we can produce the necessary drawings for each trade thereby breaking down a large task into smaller sequences and efficiently speeding the project along within the unique context of St Barts. Unlike the distinct black & white boundary between Design and Construction that was normal in the old-fashioned Design/Bid/Build process, with the Xavier David Method™ the transition from Design Process to Construction Process is more of a gray color as the two processes blend together.