The    design phase   begins after the selection of the architect. Because the architect (usually a firm) may have limited capabilities for handling the broad range of building-design activities, several different, more specialized consultants are usually required, depending on the size and scope of the project.

In most projects, the design team consists of the architect, civil and structural consultants, and mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire-protection (MEPF) consultants. In complex projects, the design team may also include an acoustical consultant, roofing and waterproofing consultant, cost consultant, building code consultant, signage consultant, interior designer, landscape architect, and so on.

Some design firms have an entire design team (architects and specialized consultants) on staff, in which case the owner will contract with a single firm. Generally, however, the design team comprises several different design firms. In such cases, the owner typically contracts the architect, who in turn contracts the remaining design team members,  Figure 1.1. Thus, the architect functions as the prime design professional and, to a limited degree, as the owner’s representative. The architect is liable to the owner for his or her own work and that of the consultants. For that reason, most architects ensure that their consultants carry adequate liability insurance.

  FIGURE 1.1 Members of a typical design team, and their interrelationships with each other and
the owner in a traditional contractual setup. A line in this illustration indicates a contractual rela-
tionship between parties. (“MEPF consultants” is an acronym for mechanical, electrical, plumbing
and fire consultants.)    
In some projects, the owner may contract some consultants directly, particularly a civil consultant (for a survey of the site, site grading, slope stabilization, and site drainage), a geotechnical consultant (for investigation of the soil properties), and a landscape architect (for landscape and site design),  Figure 1.2   . These consultants may be engaged before or at the same time as the architect.  

  FIGURE 1.2 Members of a typical design team, and their interrelationships with each other and
the owner in a project where some consultants are contracted directly by the owner. A solid line
in this illustration indicates a contractual   relationship between parties. A dashed line indicates a
communication link, not a contract.    

Even when a consultant is contracted directly by the owner, the architect retains some liability for the consultant’s work. This liability occurs because the architect, being the prime design professional, coordinates the entire design effort, and the consultants’ work is influenced a great deal by the architectural decisions. Therefore, the working relationship between the architect and an owner-contracted consultant remains essentially the same as if  the consultant were chosen by the architect.

In some cases, an engineer or another professional may coordinate the design process.

This  generally occurs when a building is a minor component of a large-scale project. For example, in a  highly  technical project such as a power plant, an electrical engineer may be  the prime design professional.

In most building projects, the design phase consists of three stages:

  •     Schematic  design   stage
  •     Design  development   stage
  •     Construction  documents   stage

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