How I approach design


Although every project is different the fundamentals remain the same:-


1 - Client brief

Some clients have a clear idea of what they would like to achieve and brief me accordingly. In which case I’ll prepare initial design proposals to fit the brief at the same time introducing recommendations that I consider will benefit the client.

Other clients prefer a more probing briefing process whereby I will establish their requirements through a series of question and answer sessions. Often I can introduce innovative ideas to help define the brief.


2 - Function

Whatever the building type or style it must function correctly for the user. By that I mean the layout has to work for them efficiently on a day to day basis and they need to be able to maintain the building and services in a reasonable manner.


3 - Practical means of construction and sequence of work

At design stage it is essential that the method of construction is thought through sufficiently and established in principle. Access and sequence of work is particularly important and can have a direct impact on the design. This can be critical when undertaking work on an existing building.


4 - Services integration

How the building will be serviced has to be considered sufficiently at design stage. It can have a huge impact on the overall design. Basements and indoor swimming pools for example, although often not particularly large structures, rely upon correct services integration. This has to be considered from the outset.


5 - Financial control

Items 1-4 above are the start of financial control. This is continued and expanded during the design stage by obtaining budget costs for key manufactured elements which will influence selection which in turn may impact the design. Financial control has to continue through the working drawing, tender and construction phases.


6 - Quality control

Controlling quality starts at design stage. If the design is not practical it becomes difficult to detail. If it’s difficult to detail then it’s difficult to build. If it becomes unreasonably difficult to build then even the best craftsmen are going to struggle to do a decent job. We then have poor quality as a direct consequence of design and not as a direct result of the workmanship or trade.


7 - Aesthetics

Items 1-6 above have already started to influence thinking and decision making about how the building should look. There will of course be a number of other factors such as client specific wishes, planning policy, local vernacular, site constraints and possibly more. Whether the project is large or small I want to achieve the best design I can by always having due regard to the brief; function; practical means of construction; services integration; financial control and quality control. If these are ignored at design stage problems are being stored up that we will have to be solved later on- usually with financial implications or a design compromise.

Planning Applications


The way I tackle these is not always the same as they are influenced by;


• The client’s brief

• The client’s view towards risk

• Planning policy

• Planning history

• Other interested parties



Sometimes I will consult with the planning authority prior to submission of the application, sometimes I will not.


My approach will be discussed and agreed with the client prior to submission

Working drawings/Construction detailing/Building Regulations


The bulk of my design work will be undertaken using AutoCAD Architecture software to create a 3D model of the building. The 3D model assists the practical design considerations referred to earlier. The 3D model is accurate as it is created 1:1. The model will provide the basis for developing working drawings.


Working drawings are required to enable the project to be accurately costed; to demonstrate compliance with Building Regulations and other legislation; and to allow the building to be constructed.


One of the key aspects of the working drawings is coordination. The 3D model created at design stage is developed so that all primary building elements and services are accurately modelled and coordinated.


From the developed model I can extract plan views; isometric views; camera views; cutaway views; sections and elevations


Sections and large scale construction details are worked up in a 2D format using the sections extracted from the model as a control. If a design change is incorporated within the model the extracted sections will update automatically as they are linked. The large scale construction details are then updated to coordinate with the extracted sections.


Extensive use of ‘XREF’ files is employed to develop the building model. This provides a very efficient workflow and assists overall coordination. It also assists the way in which I will set up information to brief specialist suppliers/sub contractors and coordinate what they need to do.


The ultimate content of the working drawings and any associated documentation such as trade scope of works and schedules is dictated by my brief. For example if I am working for a someone self-building a house they may only require the basic building envelope and services infrastructure to be detailed leaving them to finalise the fit out. Conversely if I am providing a full architectural service I will have everything specified and detailed.


Regardless of the working drawings scope I will ensure that adequate information is prepared and submitted for Building Regulations approval and I will obtain approval.


There will often be a requirement for input from a structural engineer, services consultant or other specialists. As part of the working drawing process I will coordinate the input of these consultants and integrate their design requirements within the coordinated working drawing package.



Tender Action


It is important to ensure that when obtaining costs for building work that everybody prices on a like for like basis. The working drawings and construction details go a long way to ensuring this but ultimately there should be a scope of work that defines what must be included within each trade section and if there are any special instructions to contractors. I am able to provide this scope of work as part of my service.


Where instructed I will obtain competitive tenders from contractors and check their return for errors and report accordingly to the client.

Construction Phase


Where instructed I will prepare contract documents for the client setting up a formal agreement with the contractor.


I will administer the terms of the contract in a fair and impartial manner.


As part of that I will undertake site inspections and chair and minute site meetings. I will check and comment upon the input required from specialist subcontractors and suppliers.


I will undertake regular valuations of the work executed and the value of materials on site and certify the amount to be paid by the client to the contractor.


At the end of the construction phase I will undertake site visits specifically to identify any areas of incomplete or unsatisfactory work and instruct rectification prior to handover.


Further inspections are undertaken at times stipulated within the contract to ensure the building is satisfactory prior to Final Certification.

CDM Regulations (Health & Safety)


I can undertake the role and responsibility of Principal Designer as defined within the CDM Regulations.

Bob Nicholls

Chartered Architectural Technologist