The Three Stages of the Architectural Design Process

Marc Sawyer
2 min readNov 16, 2022

So, you’ve decided that you want to build your dream home. Congratulations! This is a huge undertaking, but it’s one that will be very rewarding in the end. Before you can start construction, however, you need to go through the three stages of the architectural design process: schematic design, design development, and construction documents. Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Schematic Design

During the schematic design phase, the Architect will develop a concept for your home based on your wants and needs. This concept will be fleshed out through floor plans, sketches, and 3D models. It’s a very loose stage of multiple concepts and feasibilities. The goal is to get an idea of the scope and feel for the project. This stage can be long or short depending on the scope. Once you’ve approved of the concept, the Architect will begin working on the design development phase.

Design Development

During design development, the Architect will refine the concept that was developed during schematic design. This refinement process will result in a more detailed floor plan as well as additional elevations, sections and possibly 3D models. Design development is the point in the project where the design team will resolve many of the critical issues that remain from schematic design. These issues may include structural systems, life safety issues, and the overall layout of the building. This phase takes the budget into consideration. The focus during this phase is to maintain the overall vision for the project while making sure that it can be built within the confines of the budget. Once you’ve approved of the refined concept, the Architect will begin working on the construction documents phase.

Construction Documents

During construction documents, the Architect creates a set of drawings and specifications that will be used by contractors during construction. These drawings and specifications are very detailed and cover everything from structural elements to finish materials. The Architect’s goal is to create a set of construction documents that clearly communicate the vision for the project and provide enough detail so that the contractors can accurately price the project and build it to the Architect’s specifications. Once construction documents are completed, contractors can be brought on board and construction can begin!

The architectural design process is essential to ensuring that your dream home becomes a reality. By working with an experienced architect and following these three phases — schematic design, design development, and construction documents — you can rest assured knowing that your home will be everything you’ve ever wanted it to be as you participate in the development of it’s design.



Marc Sawyer

I’m an Architect. My favorite thing to do is create stories through architectural design. Founder of Whitewash Studio architecture firm in Atlanta, GA.