The schematic design gives graphic shape to the project program. It is an overall design concept that illustrates the key ideas of the design solution. The major player in this stage is the architect, who develops the design scheme (or several design options) with only limited help from the consultants. Because most projects have strict budgetary limitations, a rough estimate of the project’s probable cost is generally produced at this stage.

The schematic design usually goes through several revisions, because the first design scheme prepared by the architect will rarely be approved by the owner. The architect communicates the design proposal(s) to the owner through various types of drawings—plans, elevations, sections, freehand sketches, and three dimensional graphics (isometrics, axonometrics, and perspectives). For some projects, a three-dimensional scale model of the entire  building or the complex of buildings, showing the context (neighboring buildings) within which the project is sited, may be needed.

With significant developments in electronic media technology, especially building information modeling (BIM), computer-generated imagery has become common in architecture and related engineering disciplines. Computer-generated walk-through and flyover simulations are becoming increasingly popular ways of communicating the architect’s  design intent to the owner and the related organizations at the SD stage.

It is important to note that the schematic design drawings, images, models, and simulations, regardless of how well they are produced, are not adequate to construct the building. Their objective is merely to communicate the design scheme to the owner (and to consultants, who may or may not be on board at this stage), not to the contractor.

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