Design Activities

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Finalize Space Assessment

Before the design stage is fully under way, finalize your space assessment by updating your preliminary space needs assessment from the concept phase and site-selection. The process involves a final count of every room and space you want to include in your building project, along with the ideal dimensions. The sum total of these dimensions provides a net square footage.

How to Calculate Final Space Assessment

Your architect will use the net square footage and apply a multiplier to account for additional requirements that are not part of the space assessment, such as corridors, mechanical rooms, shafts for ductwork, and telephone closets. These totaled calculations give the gross square footage.

Depending on the building’s configuration, the gross square footage may be up to 30% higher than the net square footage. Numerous factors may increase the gross square footage. For example, a double-loaded corridor has rooms on the right and left sides. A single-loaded corridor may be less efficient because the rooms feed off from one side only, forcing the hallway to serve half as many rooms as double-loaded corridors. Once you have the gross square footage for your space assessment, your architect can begin the pre-schematic design by organizing the spaces so they make sense.

Pre-Schematic Design

The pre-schematic design phase combines basic concepts about the building’s space with its functional needs and translates them into a visual design. Using data gathered during the concept and site selection phases, your architect prepares rough drawings of the building’s interior and exterior. During subsequent stages, these sketches will be reworked into a final design that guides the building’s actual construction. Do not underestimate the importance of the preliminary drawings; they are useful down the road, serving as points of reference for progress made. Frequently, an idea that seems great in theory turns out to be quite different on paper.

Deliverables at this stage include large block (“bubble”) drawings that show the basic outlines of a floor plan, major service and/or activity areas, and space flow. These drawings are compared to the final space assessment to make sure all functional space requirements are included. At this early design stage, it is easy and inexpensive for your architect to make changes to the drawings, so confirm now that the project’s major components and requirements are addressed for later design refinement and preliminary cost estimates.

Schematic Design

The schematic design stage establishes the project’s scope and conceptual design. Rough pre-schematic sketches are refined into detailed drawings. These will show total space assessment and related dimensions, floor by floor and room by room, including common areas, hallways, entrances, and exits.

Your architect will begin detailed specifications about major project components such as quantity and quality of materials; proposed systems (e.g., electrical, plumbing, heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems [HVAC]); and other building features such as stairways, roofs, foundation, walls, and doors.

Deliverables might include preliminary building plans with elevations (what the exterior of the building looks like from all sides) and sections (views through the interior of the building as if it were sliced apart); perspective sketches or study models; electronic visualizations; and a statistical summary of the building area and other characteristics.

You may want to commission an artist to render the finished building, including exterior landscaping. These schematic design documents will be used to make presentations to key constituencies, solicit support from funding sources, and respond to third-party regulatory agencies. See section on “How to Obtain Entitlements.”

With schematic design deliverables, your development team can establish more accurate cost estimates based on the project’s specifications. Now is the time to evaluate design alternatives and options. As your project is further refined, design changes become costly.

Site selection is the process of examining multiple options and assessing their relative advantages and disadvantages. Site selection comes after the needs assessment is completed. If you select a site before the needs assessment, you may compromise on key design aspects due to site limitations. The site selection process involves the following interrelated tasks:

  • Assemble an experienced site selection team. It should be a sub-team with representation from the project development team.
  • Review site selection criteria, identify a site, and devise a plan for your project.
  • Initiate the loan process with a lender.

Related link in Essential Resources: How to Obtain Entitlements

Legal Disclaimer:

Nothing in this material should be construed as investment, financial, brokerage, or legal advice. Moreover, the facts and circumstances relating to your particular project may result in material changes in the processes, outcomes, and expenses described herein. Consult with your own professional advisors, including your financial advisors, accountants, and attorneys, before attempting to consummate any transaction described in this material.