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The Process: an overview


To start, we listen, get to know you, and learn about your goals and acquire a feel for the opportunities and limitations of the site. Listening quickly becomes a conversation which leads to questions, then research. Ideas start to bubble up. Fast iteration begins. At this stage, ideas are not good or bad, right or wrong but a way to understand the problem. Design is tool, a means to an end, not an end in itself. The design process is like a funnel. At first, options are limitless. As each decision is made, the range of options narrow and the design becomes more focused. Eventually, from a limitless range of possibilities, one totally unique project is built. Our job is to make it easy for you to make good decisions about the essential elements all along the way. To do that, we distill ideas and solutions and put them in context with your goals and an overall design vision.

Throughout the process, the touchstone questions are always rooted in "what is essential?" What essential building blocks will make a qualitative difference in attaining your goals for the project? What essential building blocks will maximize its functional use, beauty and enjoyment?  What essential limitations cannot be ignored? These basic questions may seem obvious, but it is very easy to be distracted from them. Being aware of this, we make the question "is it essential?" a litmus test at every stage and scale of the process.


︎Predesign / Concept Phase

︎Basic Architectural Services

︎Integration of Interior & Landscape Design


Getting Started: Predesign / Concept Phase



All RYA projects begin with the Predesign / Concept Phase. The Predesign / Concept Phase is in some ways the most important phase because it establishes the intentions, and sometimes even the feasibility of the entire project. In the Predesign / Concept Phase phase we will confirm and make explicit your objectives, priorities and specific requirements for the project and in the process to confirm the basic feasibility of meeting those requirements in the context of the site. Every project starts with some uncertainty about what is possible. Not only are the opportunities and restrictions yet to be thoroughly explored creatively, but oftentimes latent opportunities discovered in this process redefine the assignment, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Thus, there is always a healthy ambiguity about the exact requirements at the very beginning of a design project. We see this ambiguity as not just inevitable, but as the heart of the the design process at all levels.
In the Predesign / Concept Phase, we will research and document local zoning, building codes, environmental and other restrictions relevant to your requirements. Existing conditions of the site and any existing improvements will be documented or compiled. The site conditions will be considered, such as views, sun, wind, light topography, etc.  Conceptual design often occurs simultaneously with this research. Early stage design ideas are fodder, quick three dimensional "what ifs" with the primary purpose of exploring potential. A vision or conceptual approach for the project will emerge rapidly. A concrete, viable potential design scheme, even if it is not the final one, serves to illustrate the basic scope and scale of the project, uncover opportunities, and form the basis for initial assumptions of probable cost.

The Predesign / Concept Phase is offered as a stand alone service or as the first phase of full architectural services. By itself, this phase is often useful to provide our clients with a basic understanding of a project's viability before committing resources to moving ahead. When a project does move ahead, this phase forms a crucial foundation for all that follows. A full service proposal may be prepared upon your request.


The following are elements of a typical Predesign / Concept Phase:


Approval Process: Meetings, preparations, presentations for Town Board, ZBA, Landmarks, Community Board, etc.

Conceptual Architectural Design / Documents: Conceptual Design Documents illustrate the Architect's conceptual proposal in response to the Project Brief, typically expressed through a combination of visual imagery, drawings and text.

Conceptual Site Plan: The Conceptual Site Plan design demonstrates a potential solution for the site, working from of an understanding of the opportunities and limitations learned from the Feasibility Study and Site Analysis. The site plan solution will indicate the building(s)’s location, scale and orientation, considered integrally with site elements such as entry drive, parking areas, patios, terraces and lawn and garden areas, swimming pool, accessory buildings, site walls, stairs, fencing and areas of existing and proposed vegetation.

Conceptual Architectural Design: The Conceptual Architectural Design demonstrates a potential solution for approximate size, proportions and forms of the building(s), considered in concert with the Conceptual Site Plan, and including the approximate size, arrangement and flow of the interior rooms and functional areas and indoor/outdoor spaces. Drawings to illustrate the Conceptual Design of the building(s) will include sketch plans and 3D views.

Conceptual Landscape Design / Documents: The Conceptual Landscape Design Site Plan demonstrates a potential solution for the existing and proposed planting areas, land forms and hardscape elements in concert with the Architectural Design.

Conceptual Interior Design / Documents: Conceptual Interior Design demonstrates a proposal for the “look and feel” of interior areas in terms of finishes, palette and general direction for furnishings in concert with the Architectural Design.  Preliminary furniture plans aid the Owner and the project team envision how each space will be used by the Owner and assess the appropriate size, scale and spacial relationships.  

Detailed Programming: A document to quantify in detail the Owner’s needs, by room or area, including approximate size, adjacencies and other features.  

Entitlements Research: Entitlement Research identifies the opportunities and limitations of the project site according to regulations established by authorities with jurisdiction. Research will be relevant to the Owner’s stated goals and not necessarily comprehensive. The Architect may collaborate with outside Consultants, such as a Land Planning Consultant and/or the Owner’s Land Use Attorney to verify the most current regulations and, if needed, to evaluate the probability of approval for variances or special permits. The Architect will prepare a summary of the Entitlements Research to clearly illustrate the opportunities and limitations of the project site. The summary typically takes the form of a color coded annotated site plan and may include supplementary documents.

Existing Conditions Documentation: Measured architectural survey of the “as built” condition and creation of measured drawings of existing conditions.

Master Planning / Phasing Study: A Master Plan comprises a site design for the entire subject property, including current, near and long term projects, to guide the Owner's phased development of the property over time.

Preliminary Budget Analysis: A preliminary analysis of probable cost of the project using average per square foot costs for similar projects, based on the Architect’s experience and available data.

Project Brief: Summary of the Owner’s basic program and objectives for the project in terms of function, aesthetics, budget, context, sustainability, and any other Owner criteria.

Property Search:  Internet research, site visits, and discussions/meetings with real estate agents to assist the Owner identify a property that meet's their needs.

Scale Models: Physical, presentation quality models.

Site Analysis: A study of the specific features of the site with the objective to better understand how the site may serve the Owner’s objectives in light of the opportunities and limitations established in the Feasibility Study. For example, simple diagrams illustrate how views, sun, prevailing winds, topography, utilities, etc relate to the Owner’s objectives in the context of known regulatory restrictions such as setbacks, bulk and use limitations, among others.

Site Information Compilation: Compilation and review of existing project related documentation that are readily available, including legacy Construction Documents, “As-Built” Drawings, property surveys, governmental records and other relevant information. In the event that additional documentation is needed in order to study feasibility, the Architect may assist the Owner solicit proposals to produce the required documentation (for example, an updated property survey).

Test Fit: A floor plan showing furniture and functional areas for the purpose of confirming that the Owner’s requirements can be accommodated within a specific space or property.



The Process: Basic Services


With the basic requirements of the project confirmed, and a vision or conceptual approach proposed, the next phases of work, Basic Services, can begin. Basic Services is comprised of five phases:
1. Schematic Design
2. Design Development
3. Construction Documents
4. Procurement
5. Construction Administration

Beginning with the Schematic Design Phase, the requirements defined and the concepts explored in the Predesign / Concept Phase will be forged into a comprehensive schematic design solution for the project, in which the scale and relationship of the project components will be illustrated. The Design Development Phase is next. In this phase we will take your preferred Schematic Design solution and, as the name suggests, develop it. The broad strokes of an overall design concept will be applied at a finer grained level, area by area. At the same time, the input of our consultants, for example structural and mechanical engineers, will be incorporated more rigorously into the design, a collaborative effort which entails extensive coordination. At the end of the Design Development Phase you will have a clearly defined and developed design for all areas of the project. The design documents will be suitable for preliminary pricing and permitting, but not for construction.


Following the Design Development phase is the Construction Documents Phase, in which we and our consultants will produce technical drawings and specifications, for the purpose of building the project. Because the Construction Documents will be based on the approved Design Development drawings, it's important to have as many of the design decisions made prior to commencing with this production phase of the project.  

That said, the reality of the creative process is never truly linear. It is inevitable that some design decisions will be made during the Construction Documents Phase or later, just as some technical issues may need to be tackled in earlier phases. In other words, there will be some overlap between the phases. "Fast track" projects, in which schedule is the main driver, require considerable overlap between the phases.  


The Procurement Phase, often referred to as "Bidding & Negotiation," is about selecting the most qualified team to build the project. It is not necessarily a "phase" in the literal sense as it does not always occur in sequence. Discussions with potential builders may begin very early in the process. Pricing packages will be issued during the design phases for preliminary estimates. This phase ends when you sign the contract with a General Contractor or Construction Manager to build the project.  


Once the builder is on board and a building permit is issued, the Construction Administration Phase begins. RYA is relentlessly committed to the final outcome, which is ultimately not a thing, but an experience made possible when our design is built. To insure that the design intent is fulfilled, RYA works closely with the builder's team all along the way, visiting the site to meet with the builder and their subs on a regular basis, reviewing shop drawings and other submittals, reviewing the builder's applications for payment, and change order requests, among other things, until the project is complete, you have moved in, and the last item on the punch list is checked off.



Integration of Interior Design and Landscape Design


While the core of this agreement is Basic Services, RYA’s interdisciplinary design team has the capacity to integrate Interior Design and Landscape Design as needed into the process with fluid disciplinary boundaries. Our architects, interiors and landscape designers operate as a unified team working with a cohesive vision, operating with a streamlined delivery process, producing coordinated construction documents with design integrity and offering you the peace of mind that comes with knowing that all players will act as one unified team.
The way this agreement is structured, Consulting Interior Design and Consulting Landscape Design may be provided as Supplemental Services on as-needed, but limited basis. Full Interior Design and/or Landscape Architecture Services are also available and may be provided under a separate agreement. These agreements, if desired, should ideally be entered into at the end of the Predesign / Schematic Design Phase.


Consulting Interior Design, Supplemental Service

Consulting Interior Design Services are available to complement Architectural Basic Services on an as-needed basis. Refer to terms and conditions below. Full Interior Design Services may be provided under a separate agreement. Consulting Interior Design Services may include:
Furniture plans to study potential arrangement of furnishings.
• Visual concept boards to represent the overall “look and feel” of areas, including how furniture, finishes and accessories could be integrated into the overall architectural design.
• Room-by-room conceptual budget for the furnishings.
• Limited selection, procurement and installation of furnishings.
• In the event the Owner is working with an independent Interior Designer, the Architect may provide, upon request from the Owner, limited drafting, specifications and coordination as needed to assist the Interior Designer.

Consulting Landscape Design, Supplemental Service


Consulting Landscape Design Services are available to complement Architectural Basic Services on an as-needed basis. Refer to terms and conditions below. Full Landscape Design Services may be provided under a separate agreement. Consulting Landscape Design Services include:

• Landscape / Site Plan design describing the hardscape structures and planting areas in concert with the architectural design for the building(s), including such site elements as the entry drive and parking areas, terraces, swimming pool, spa, pergolas and other structures, site walls, steps, paths/walks, fencing and gates, site planting and landscape lighting.
• Limited Pricing and Construction Documents for hardscape structures.
• Limited planting plans and species lists.
• Limited procurement and construction administration.
• In the event the Owner is working with an independent Landscape Designer or Landscape Architect, the Architect may provide, upon request from the Owner, limited drafting, specifications and coordination as needed to assist the Landscape Designer or Landscape Architect.
Mark