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  • Writer's pictureJustine Rowbotham-Belot

A Successful Architecture Process

Carefully considered and meaningful architecture becomes an intrinsic part of its environment. It gives a portal to our past, evidence of our culture and technology used at the time. SO, what goes into architecture? What is the process and resulting challenges architects face when practicing their craft?

It starts with a bit of inspiration. Architects will gather as much information as possible from the project to evaluate opportunities for placing the building, assessing the existing architectural content to determine how the project may fit within that context through use of exterior finishes and form. The architect seeks to determine if the building needs special programmed space or serves a bigger purpose within the community. The architect is responsible for understanding these factors shaping the project while working with the municipality throughout all stages of design and construction.

This early part of the creative process includes problem solving exercises based on site constraints, formerly known as the schematic design stage. When the architect is confident the designs are ready, they are presented to the client. With approval, more detailed information is then provided, for example… where the front door will be located? the exits? elevators etc.

Throughout the entire process, the building code must always be referenced and followed. The code differs between provinces, onespace for example, has projects in both Ontario and Alberta which means both respective building codes must be followed.

The next phase of the project is design development which adds further detail and more accurately articulates the building design. This phase of work addresses questions both the client and designer may have with other members of the consultant team and the municipality. As always, the design is presented for the client’s approval. If planning approvals are required, those drawings must include specific requirements to become a complete application. Once complete, the drawings for a building permit application may begin. This involves coordination with many other team consultants including engineers, specialists, and landscape architects to name a few.

Once the municipality approves and processes the building permit application, the construction process may begin. The focus now shifts from the boardroom to the project site. During construction, the architect’s service becomes split between the site and the office. In the office several documents are administrated to clarify needs and process payment to the contractors and initiate any changes in design. The architect is responsible for attending site meetings to ensure that the project is being constructed in accordance with the drawings and provincial building code. This process occurs from the onset of construction until the project reaches completion or occupancy.

This process is not always smooth sailing as there are often many challenges to overcome. Firstly, planning applications can be unpredictable in terms of timing. The client, architect and consultant team often wait for the municipality’s formal response to various planning applications which arrive long after anticipated deadlines. This stall may place the project in limbo as it delays the onset of construction. If construction prices increase during this period, the economic viability of the project may become a concern. If the project is a residential condominium, this delay can force sales prices to increase. It is often speculated that this delay may be a contributor to Canada’s affordable housing crisis.

Construction documents prepared by the architect and consultant team demonstrate the intent of the construction and how the final building design shall be achieved. The documents are not “assembly instruction manuals” you might receive in the box containing your new BBQ! A properly executed construction project relies on the expertise and experience of several disciplines working together with focus. Any breakdown in communication towards this common goal may delay the process and create unnecessary conflicts during construction.

There is no shortcut to success.

In our experience, a successful project is empowered by an architect who carefully considers the context for the design, works with the client, consultant team and municipality to form a focused, unified team. When the team expands towards construction, it is essential for the architect to focus and lead all disciplines to anticipate, plan and actively participate and resolve the many challenges that may present themselves.

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May 10, 2023

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