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Our Design Process

At Bell+Associates Architecture our process is unique and tailored to ensure that the experience of designing your new custom home, or renovating your existing one, respects your time, money and dreams, while ultimately resulting in a custom home or cottage that is beautiful, functional, and a joy for you and your family for years to come. You want to choose the right architecture firm for you, and the design process is key to not only a successful outcome, but also the journey you will experience along the way.

Pre-Design: Site Consultation

Listen & answer questions, discuss site zoning, restrictions, features

After completing a phone consultation, the next step is to meet on your property and we will seek to understand your vision and answer your questions. During the visit, we will:

  • listen to your desires and goals and provide feedback on lot attributes and benefits
  • show you how many crucial custom home design decisions are strongly influenced by the physical properties of the build site
  • discuss zoning restrictions and the relationship between the natural characteristics of your property and desired build features

If you sign a contract with us, the site consultation fee (less HST) will be applied to your retainer.

Phase 1: Programming

Design objectives, budget, schedule, zoning

This critical phase captures your vision, wants and needs, along with the technical aspects of the site and a plan to define the overall parameters and feasibility of the project. It’s an essential step that many designers and contractors miss. By the end of this stage you’ll have a high-level view of all aspects of the project and understand what is possible for your site and budget.

The Program Brief will document key elements of your project including: design objectives, space requirements, budget estimates, proposed schedule, and site and zoning analyses.

A Program Brief will not only reduce headaches and smooth the process considerably, but will also reduce your overall design/build budget when compared to skipping this step and jumping into drawings and construction before your needs, wants and budget are fully understood.

Phase 2: Schematic Design

Bubble diagram, site & floor plans, cost estimates

Now, with a strong understanding of your needs, wants and dreams and an analysis of the technical requirements fully documented, we begin with a blank page and over 35 years of design experience to make your vision a reality. We don’t just modify an existing design, we develop new sketches to illustrate the look and feel of your new home. By the end of this phase you will be well on your way to your custom dream home or cottage design with:

  • a preliminary site plan
  • floor plans (with size and location of rooms)
  • preliminary cost estimates for construction

Be assured that you will be part of the team and decision-making process every step of the way.

Phase 3: Design Development

Plans/elevations, site plan, 3D elevation renderings, exterior finishes

Your custom home design is refined during Design Development. The sketches become formal plans and elevations including exterior finishes and key details. One of our experienced technologists will build a 3D computer model and our detailed renderings, complete with exterior finish recommendations, will provide an excellent picture of your new home or cottage.

Phase 4: Construction/Permit Documents

Detailed drawings & plans required for permits & construction

Construction Documents capture the entire project in full detail. Contractors are impressed by the thoroughness and accuracy of our team’s construction documents and this attention to detail means the permit process moves along smoothly and quickly. The construction documents are extensive and provide the specific details required for building your home or cottage. We will also assist in preparing your permit application for submission to the municipality.

Phase 5: Contract Administration

Permit application, review/monitor builder, trades, schedules, payments

For most residential clients, this is an optional service and if you hire a reputable contractor and have the time to monitor the construction progress on your own, it is not required. The services can be customized for each project. Typically, upon completion of the construction documents, if you choose to retain us for comprehensive Contract Administration services, we apply for permits, organize potential builders for pricing and assist in ordering special materials (as required). We review the tender(s) obtained and negotiate contract(s), as required. We review schedules, proposed payment schedules and project milestones.

During construction, we establish regular site meetings, carry out unscheduled reviews and assist the contractor with additional information or direction. We review proposed alternates and co-ordinate required administrative duties. We review shop drawings from the major sub-trades and meet with them as required. We review, monitor and administer all payments to the contractor, and can certify mortgage draws, at your bank’s request. At the conclusion of construction, we review the project and report on deficiencies.

We also review the completed project eleven months after completion, before the standard contractor warranties expire, and produce a warranty deficiency list, if required.

Although you finish as an expert, you begin with many unknowns. As such, we strive to keep you informed at all times on every aspect of the project. We would like to think that our experience allows us to anticipate all of your needs, but every project is unique and thus must be treated as such. We cannot guarantee that there won’t be frustrations over the duration of the project, but we can assure you that we will do everything in our power to make it a fun and rewarding experience, with a very satisfying final result that fulfills your vision.