Architect's 6-Step Process for Designing a New House

No matter the size, style or type of home you wish to build, the process of designing it is essentially the same. These are the basic steps:

0. Selecting a Site for Your Future Home

While not technically part of the design process, selecting a site must occur before the house or site design can begin. There are many factors critical to consider when selecting a good site for your new home. We can help you decide which potential home site best suits your needs. A thoughtful house design is melded with the land, oriented toward the views, captures the prevailing breezes and sunlight, and fits into the context of the neighborhood with an appropriate scale and character. Unless the site is simple and relatively flat, a detailed site survey must be drawn before the design process begins. The survey will include topography, vegetation, drainage, utilities, easements and other elements that may affect the house design. See our house site selection checklist: An Architect’s Guide to Selecting the Perfect Site for Your New Home.

1. Programming the Spaces of the House

The first step is to gather and analyze all of the information necessary to design your custom home. During this time we formulate a detailed ‘program’ which defines your needs and objectives: function, size and relationship between spaces, character and image, and a host of other considerations that affect how you will live in your new home. We analyze your site and determine the best placement of the house on the site and the spaces within to capture views and sunlight. We also research and study the local building codes and zoning ordinances. Finally, we work with you to establish the construction scope, budget, and schedule.

2. Schematics - Conceptual House Design

Conceptual brainstorming and exploration define this portion of the home design process. It begins with the creation of concept diagrams and rough sketches. During this time we create the general layout, form and overall appearance of both the house and the site. Sketches, drawings and study models are prepared to help evaluate the house architecture ideas and concepts and set the final direction for refining the design. Once we know the general location of the house on the site, we test the soils and evaluate its bearing capacity, locate the underground water table, bedrock and obstructions to construction. This allows us to design an appropriate foundation and structural system.

3. Design Development - Refining the House Design

After the general size, layout and character of the home are established, we begin to refine the design. Plans and elevations are prepared with greater accuracy than those of the schematics. Design work commences for the building systems, including the structural frame and mechanical system. Ideas are explored for feature elements of the home such as stairs, cabinetry, fireplaces and built-in furniture. Drawings are prepared that describe some of the important technical details. Plans, elevations and sections through the house are developed. By the end of this phase, seventy to eighty percent of the design work will be complete.

4. Construction Documentation - Preparing the Drawings and Specifications

Construction Documentation is the phase where the home design is translated into the technical language of the contractor. Working Drawings (sometimes referred to as building plans, house plans or blueprints) and specifications are prepared which define in detail all of the materials that are to be incorporated into the house, where they are to be located and how they are to be installed. Although this phase is primarily intended for working out the technical aspects of the project, some design work also takes place. In addition, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures, and interior finish materials (tile, carpet, paint colors, etc.) are selected.

5. Bidding and Negotiation

During the Bidding and Negotiation phase we assist you in obtaining competitive bids or negotiated proposals from a selected list of home builders. We distribute the house plans and building specifications, answer contractor questions, interpret the documents, and prepare addenda (revisions to the original home plans or specifications). Once the bids are received, we analyze the results and prepare the contract between you and the selected contractor. After selecting the contractor / subcontactors, the construction drawings and specifications are submitted to the local building department for review. Once the building permit is obtained, construction may begin.

6. Home Construction

The final phase of the process is the home’s construction. In this phase we review the progress of the work and facilitate any changes that may be required. Our architects answer questions, review submittals and shop drawings (manufacturers’ and subcontractors’ drawings of specific elements to be incorporated within the house), and review certificates of payment (pay requests) that are submitted by the contractor. Final selections of finishes and fixtures are made here. Upon completion of this phase we thoroughly inspect your home to ensure that it is complete and ready for your use.


When does a building actually become a built?


3D Architectural Modeling and Visualization Of Your House

It’s nice to see what your new home design will look like before it’s built. In fact, it’s imperative. Otherwise, you may make a very costly mistake and find out too late that you don’t even like your new home. Unfortunately, looking at a house plan doesn’t show much except the relationship between rooms. It’s hard to get a sense of its size, much less the three-dimensional character, design and detail. That’s why we create a virtual 3d architectural model for all of our homes. 

Conceptual Modern Bathroom Design 3d Architectural Model by Bjella Architects
Bathroom Vanity - Architectural Design Model
Tiny Round Wood Cylinder Bathroom Vanity by Tim Bjella of Bjella Architects
Bathroom Vanity - Finished

(952) 548-9800


2115 Morton Road, Wayzata, MN 55391