The “Big Picture” Process for New Homes

Looking over our blog posts, we realized we have described how to start your project and bits and pieces of the various stages, but needed a post that brings it all together from beginning to end.

Understanding the process from beginning to end in a general way gives you an overall view of the steps and stages and how the detail fits into the overall. Let’s discuss what steps are involved to get your custom home built.

The Site Search

Looking for the land is the first step. Your project goals will dictate the ideal piece of property best suited for your project. Constraints to look for include, zoning restrictions, HOA restrictions, historic designations, and more. Unfortunately, some of this information is difficult to navigate. Luckily, with the right team, it can be done quickly.

The State of The Site

As we have discussed in previous posts it all starts with the site evaluation and what’s currently on the site. Its shape, including topography, existing buildings, setbacks, utilities, and zoning regulations are all a part of what is there now. Nothing can really start without knowing this information and it’s impossible to get an accurate picture without a survey. After your survey is complete it’s time to begin thinking about the future and the feasibility of your future home.

Project Feasibility

Can we build what we want? Do we need to change the zoning? How do we fit our program on our site? To answer that, you need your architect. We have discussed the importance of pre-design. In general, your architect is the connection between the site information and the building functions and shape. Pre-design is a planning exercise exploring the possibilities of building form related to program and site constraints. At the end of pre-design, you should have a general understanding of the project size to inform your budgetary considerations.

The Design

Let’s figure out what we are going to build and how we are going to build it. The design process breaks down further into three design phases; schematic design, design development, and construction documentation. Big picture thinking, the schematic phase answers what we are going to build while the design development phase answers the how. The construction documents (the blueprint phase) communicate the design decisions to the contractor for pricing, permitting, and construction. The drawings are not the only tool of communication during this phase. Construction documents also include the specifications of the materials and products being used to build the project as well.

Process Timeline


After the design phase, we enter the bidding phase and substitutions phase. This phase is sometimes referred to as value engineering. The goal during this phase is to allow your contractor to not only gather project cost data of the specified materials, but also any substitutions of those products. These substitutions are reviewed by your architect and the other design professionals to verify that the substitutions do not conflict with other components in the design. Substitutions may be made because of cost or perhaps the contractor is more familiar with one product over another. In the case of cost, the goal is for the entire team to work together to make the project more budget-friendly if necessary. Other duties during this phase, and partially in the next, include submittal and shop drawing review. The design team will review the bidding products, similar to the submittals, and verify the design intent was communicated to the material suppliers properly. After all the design and substitutions, it’s finally time to build.

Construction and Construction Administration

Although the general contractor has now taken the lead on the project your design team’s work is not complete just yet. Through site visits, “request for information” (RFI’s), and additional drawing support, your architect and the other design professionals help solve field-born problems and more importantly, clarify design intent. This is called construction administration. This helps the contractor build more accurately and as efficiently as possible with reduced time delay due to complications. After months of work from both the design team and the contractors, you are finally ready to move in.

Looking for more detail? Check out more of our blog posts and future posts for further information about the process.

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