11 Apr 2017

Change — The Document Evolution

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Allow me to take you on a journey. Sit back, feet on the floor, back pressed into the lumbar support on your chair, breathe deeply, close your eyes…wait, don’t close your eyes or you can’t read the rest of this article. Do everything up to the close your eyes part. Now that you’re comfortable, think back to elementary school science class. Maybe you had a teacher, like Ms. Kersey, who always kept a small fish tank, with a mossy rock, pond water and a few tadpoles she rescued from a pond, mud puddle or tire rut. Do you remember rushing into class every day to check the tank for the next stage in the metamorphosis? It starts as an egg, hatches into a head with a tail, develops legs, the tail shrinks, the mouth widens, the eyes bulge and the tadpole becomes a froglet that eventually grows lungs and transforms into a frog. The mature frog needed every stage from the initial birth through the transformation to become a viable frog. Construction documents experience a similar evolution. Documents begin as broadly-defined planning or scope documents, from which an architect creates detailed design documents and ultimately transforms them into construction documents.


A planning document is the least publicized document but is a critical first step.

PURPOSE: to test proof of concept and solicit a project decision

Planning documents are design preparation studies or programming documents and often include analyses, feasibility studies or presentations.


infrastructure/utility review to identify available utilities and on-site generation opportunity
building footprint analysis to evaluate how legal requirements affect building area, building type and number of stories
environmental exposure to evaluate how to integrate rain, wind and sun into the design
vehicle and pedestrian approach to identify parking, public transit, emergency lanes, commuter access and community access
site planning options to identify hardscape vs. softscape, phasing, future development and optional siting opportunities
site selection to evaluate several available building sites and select the most suitable


compare scope to budget to assess whether financial goals align with project goals
real estate market valuation study to confirm the project is a sustainable investment
needs assessment to enumerate project goals and confirm client’s project objectives


competition to present the architect’s design submission for a competitive selection committee
rendering to illustrate conceptual layouts in site context

  • Document Type: preliminary design
  • Prepared For: client, lender, investor, developer, designer
  • Usage: not for permitting or construction because it excludes pertinent bid and construction information. An architect or planner may not professionally seal planning documents and may include a disclaimer limiting the document’s use.
  • Cost: scope dependent; 3%-6% of total construction value
  • Services: Services that prepare planning documents include The Test, The Sketch, The Budget.

Planning documents define strategic design parameters used to develop detailed design documents.


Architects use planning document decisions to develop community, site and building design documents.

PURPOSE: to conceive and develop a design

Design documents are sketches, drawings, photographs and models to develop design solutions or coordinate designs with others.



explore design studies to determine the best design for all program, site and environmental conditions
brainstorm diagrams to quickly develop different solutions that satisfy the design problem
constructive critique to evaluate design merit, offer improvement suggestions and enhance the design
material selections to identify the materials, fixtures and products that define the project



solicit design feedback from design team and client to improve the design or modify to meet stakeholder intent
design review, code compliance, constructability review to confirm the design is correct, meets code and is buildable
file distribution to design team for related design work or design-build
budget refinement to check the budget against financial goals

  • Document Type: schematic design, detailed design
  • Prepared For: client, designer, consultant, contractor
  • Usage: not for construction because it excludes pertinent bid and construction information
    not for permitting because it is not professionally sealed and may include a disclaimer
  • Cost: scope dependent; 3%-5% of total construction value
  • Services: The Sketch, The Details, The Consultant, The Budget


Construction documents are the most common and publicized professional design service. Architects derive construction documents from planning and design document information.

PURPOSE: to publish the project and identify all site and building components

Construction documents are drawings, specifications and contracts that establish the project design, fit and finish



design sheets prepared and sealed by all professional trade disciplines (landscape, architect, engineers, interiors)
inventory schedules (plant, window, door, cabinet, hardware, fixture, finish) to identify all products and their respective locations in the design
construction details to illustrate construction technique, installation and forensic building components
3D illustrations to show all components working together as a building assembly
construction estimate to fund the construction cost and provide cost guidelines for bid evaluation


manufacturers 3-part specifications to identify the product composition and installation for all specified products
product cut sheets to explain product-specific criteria necessary to meet the design intent
working drawings obtained from manufacturers to illustrate warranty-compliant installation for building assemblies


owner-contractor agreement to clarify involved parties’ roles and responsibilities
supplemental legal documents such as construction schedule, draw schedule, submittal list, insurance certificates, etc. to provide necessary documents to administer an awarded contract
bid package to establish bid criteria and deliver comprehensive documents to prospective bidders
bid review to evaluate bids and select a qualified contractor

  • Document Type: final design; ready for construction
  • Prepared For: client, lender, developer, contractor
  • Usage: sealed documents are the only documents usable for permitting and construction
  • Cost: scope dependent; 3%-5% of total construction value
  • Services: The Docs, The Budget, The Advisor

Like a frog egg full of potential, the architect gave birth to planning documents to prove a concept, nurtured the concept through the design phase where design figuratively, shed it’s tail & grew legs becoming a tangible design solution that the architect expertly transformed into the viable construction documents — ribbet!

Architalks Credits

This is another entry in Bob Borson’s blogging brain-child titled, “ArchiTalks”.

The #ArchiTalks goal is to inspire blogging architects with similar educational and professional requirements to opine on the same topic and simulpost their response so other architects and a broader audience can enjoy the rampant thought-diversity within the architecture profession

Select the links in “Architalks Entries” below to read how architects responded to the “Architecture of Change” topic.

image credits:

Architalks Entries

Bob Borson – Life of An Architect (@bobborson)

Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
ArchiTalks : Architecture of Change

Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
architecture for change

Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Architect(ure) of Change

Collier Ward – One More Story (@BuildingContent)
Architecture of Change

Jeremiah Russell, AIA – ROGUE Architecture (@rogue_architect)
architecture of change: #architalks

Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Change — The Document Evolution

Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
architecture of change

brady ernst – Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
The Architecture of Change: R/UDAT

Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Architecture = Change

Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
My Architecture of Change / Hitting Pause to Redesign My Life

Brinn Miracle – Architangent (@architangent)
Architecture of Change: Building a Legacy

Jeffrey Pelletier – Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
Imagining the Future of Architecture

Samantha R. Markham – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
3 Things I Hope Change in Architecture

Nisha Kandiah – ArchiDragon (@ArchiDragon)
The art of Architecture of Change

Rusty Long – Rusty Long, Architect (@rustylong)
Architecture of Change

Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)

Mark Stephens – Mark Stephens Architects (@architectmark)
The Architecture of Change

About the Author

Your Architect is Eric Faulkner -- an architect licensed in Texas & Oklahoma with 32 years experience in design, construction observation and life.