Architectural Design Phases

What are the architectural design phases? SD - schematic design, DD - design development, and CD - construction documents.

Where Does Design Stop?
Did you notice that CD is the only phase that does not mention design? Design is completed during DD. CD is used to document the design. I am not naive. Of course design occurs during the CD phase. As details are developed, some design elements must change to be sure the project can be built and perform as intended.

The AIA Architect's Handbook of Professional Practice states: "While most design issues should be resolved by the end o f design development, some will continue to be refined, resolved, or modified during the construction documentation, bidding and negotiation, and construction phases of the project." This design is described as occurring during the implementation phases. (emphasis added)

A New Meaning for CD
However, CD has taken on a new meaning within the architectural community. CD, it seems, now means continue designing. I see early project design (SD and DD phases) attempting to set scope for pricing purposes. "Just be sure we have the cost covered" is the new mantra. Design decisions are not completed until later, after the project pricing is known. Then materials and sometimes complete systems may be discarded in favor of other design solutions.

So what is the problem?
Well, there would likely not be a problem, except that the entire design team is forced to produce biddable documents before the design is completed. Contractors are pricing projects and providing owners a GMP at 50% CD phase, at 100% DD phase, and sometimes at 50% DD. The result is potentially wasted effort - effort spent documenting decisions that are destined to substantial revision.

The difficulty lies in delaying significant design decisions until the CD phase. The later the decisions are made, the more challenging it becomes to coordinate the documents and ensure everything is working together. Finding every detail, every spec paragraph that may be affected by a changed decision late in the process is unrealistic. So the drawings and specifications when finished may not be as well coordinated as they should be.

A Lesson From Another Perspective
Otto Dacosta, an architect client, makes decisions when asked and stays true to his decisions. How is he able to do this? It's in the training. Otto played major league baseball, as a catcher, before becoming an architect. As he tells it, he had to know what he would do with the ball before the ball touched his mitt. He made the best decision he could with the information he had at the time. Then he moved on - moved on to the next decision rather than revisiting previous decisions.

What does CD phase mean to you? Can we strive to be like Otto?

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