Sketch design

When we take potential clients through the time programme of the architectural process, we are often asked why it takes so long. As we noted in our recent article, The iron triangle, every project we undertake has “unique conditions that demand prototypical responses, the production of which cannot be achieved quickly. Making architecture is like investing all the research and development that goes into designing a new car, but then building it only once.”

This is the broad answer. More specifically, and to assist you in fleshing out your expectations of the architectural process, what follows is a description of the 2nd of the seven key stages we undertake for each of our projects.[1] An archive of all seven stages can be accessed here.

2. Sketch design

sketch design

We split the sketch design stage into two parts. In the first, we undertake a design-driven feasibility study. This involves exploring a series of layout options with you, each approaching your brief in different ways. We do this through simple, hand-drawn floor plans that encourage objectivity and open-mindedness. Each option is accompanied by a brief cost estimate based on its size and our understanding of your expected level of construction quality. We use this process to help you establish an accurate project budget attached to a defined scope.

In the second part, we flesh out your preferred design arrangement into a three dimensional building. We resolve the layout, form and materiality of your house, and communicate these to you via floor plans, elevations, sections and materials palettes. More evocatively, we build a physical model of the project from card, pasteboard and balsa wood. Often we produce a digital model also, though nothing beats the childlike joy of holding a miniature house in your hands and imagining yourself wandering its rooms.

Once you have given us the tick of approval for our design, we put together a written scope of works document and submit it, together with our drawings, to a quantity surveyor. She then prepares an elemental cost estimate of the project, refining our initial feasibility study by studying each component individually e.g. separate costs for structure, windows, joinery, plumbing works etc. If necessary, we work with you and the quantity surveyor to tweak both the design and your budget until they align. By the end of this process, we have produced a resolved design that you both love and can afford.

Stage duration = 10 – 12 weeks
Architect’s time = 80 – 120 hours
Specialist consultants = Quantity surveyor
Documentation = Sketch floor plans, elevations, sections and model
Scale of drawings = 1:100
Quantity = 8x A3 pages + model

farmer house sketch design


  1. Disclaimer: time allowances are estimates only and will vary depending on project size and complexity.

Image credits:

  1. Sketch design. Author’s own image.
  2. Farmer House sketch design. Author’s own image, see here for further details.

3 thoughts on “Sketch design

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  1. Warwick. I was wondering how do you charge this initial stage to your client? What are the fees based on and what type of an architect/ client agreement are you using at this early stage?

    1. Hi Victor, we use our own custom client / architect agreement from start to finish. Fees vary these days depending on the type of project, but for residential work we usually stick with a percentage fee method.

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