Architecture is a very collaborative process and only rarely a lone activity. There is always a client and there is always an interpreter of that client's needs. The relationship between client and architect is fundamental, and the establishment of a professional and trusting relationship between the two is the bedrock of every successful project.

Creating architecture involves art and beauty, science and engineering, values and beliefs, friendship and team-working. It is one of life's rewarding activities, bringing together a wide range of personalities, skills and expertise. It is an adventure for the client, the architect and their team.

It is important to place that adventure within a sound organisational and contractual context so that procedural complications do not derail the principal activity. A simple, clear, legally-defined understanding of the services involved will benefit the whole process, avoid conflict and help clarify the interrelationships and responsibilities of all the partners involved in commissioning, designing and building a project, large or small.

The following phases are meant to illustrate the general scope of work associated with each specific part of transforming a real estate asset. With many clients, we combine some of these phases to align with what a project requires. The cost and time to perform these tasks within a normal standard of care varies according to the complexity of the site, goals of the client, and the financial resources available for each investment. Each phase uses an exhaustive checklist to confirm that client requirements, decisions, and approvals are completed prior to more complex work starting. NOTE: Many of our residential and small scale clients do not require all these services. They are described for information and discussion purposes only.

Phase 1 - Existing Conditions

Most projects don’t begin with a blank canvas and a flat area of land to design and build upon. With so many existing buildings, either broken up into leased tenant spaces or re-purposed for different uses, many projects begin with the existing building shell and are tailored to fit the next occupant’s use (usually the new owner). This is where documenting existing conditions plays an important role in the conception of the project.

For each site survey, the level of investigation depends on the scope of the project. If a client wishes to generate drawings for leasing purposes, wall locations, window/door sizes, and utility locations are documented with appropirate dimensions to show the lease area.  If the client’s goal is to renovate the building or build an addition, the survey will be more involved, and can include surrounding site context, structure, electrical service, mechanical system sizes and approximate age, condition of the roof, adequate parking, and current accessibility standards.

Kelly + Morgan Architects uses a mix of resources (including our initial site visits) to document this stage and many clients will already have existing surveys and “as-built” drawings to help us start a project with quality information.

Phase 2 - Project Feasibility & Constraints

If you have a construction project in mind, whether it is a new build on a recent plot of land you have acquired, extending your structure or even splitting a large plot of land, then you may have already found yourself wondering whether the building project is possible. Or not?

In the early stages of any development project, a feasibility study is essential to determine the viability of a project and they are extremely useful in helping to determine the options available for you. Establishing if a project is really possible is perhaps one of the most common questions, we as architects, are asked regularly. Other common questions are:

  • How big of an addition can I build?

  • How does the planning and construction process work?

  • How much will it cost?

At Kelly & Morgan Architects, we carry out feasibility studies for projects of all sizes and with our collective expertise and knowledge of the North Bay counties, we are certain our services will be of use to you.

Note: Many of our clients will want proposals from us for both Phase 1 & 2 at the same time but we are able to separate these tasks if conditions warrant.

Phase 3 - Conceptual Design

Concept design requires that the architect grapples with the real issues of form and bulk, scale and mass and the generic appearance of a building within its surrounding urban or rural context, resolving and encapsulating the principles of the scheme. Concept design implies an idea, or range of ideas, a development approach, a guiding concept and a design intent. It resolves the issue of 'what' and 'how much' and begins to set the stage for understanding 'how'. Concept design explores the resolution of the program, implied or set out in the feasibility stage. The conceptual approach places the amount of development intelligently on the site.

It is vital that the architect and the client agree the objectives and outcomes of the concept design process in advance. Concept design can be simply a series of sketches, ideas and explorations, or it can go into considerable depth, including design illustrations, indicative plans, sections and elevations and 3D models of a development approach.

Concept design can also be an iterative process where, through a series of design meetings, the architect modifies the concept, adjusting and narrowing down a broad-brush approach towards a more precise, well-illustrated concept, capable of being meaningfully discussed, not only with the client, but also with external partners, local jurisdictions, planners, engineers and other stakeholders.

As a result, the architect's time commitment often gets stretched trying to satisfy a client's evolving requests as they better understand their own project and the architectural concept. This is why it is so important that both the client and the architect understand and agree the deliverables required, the work involved and the fees and other costs that will be charged. It is the phase of the project where a good architect can provide tremendous value to the proposed asset.

Concept design is seldom a 'Eureka!' moment where a single idea pops into the head which resolves everything. It is virtually always a series of iterative explorations, a testing of ideas, resulting in a satisfactory resolution of often conflicting criteria, whether aesthetic, organisational, technical, financial, social or contextual. A successful concept design is one that fulfills most of the criteria that the client, the architect and the team judge to be most important.

Phase 4 - Process and Real Estate Strategy

Real estate development is the process of creating value by making tangible improvements to real property. The development process ranges from land speculation and new construction to the renovation of existing buildings. It is the process by which physical places where we live and work are conceptualized, designed, constructed and occupied. Successful implementation of this process is crucial to our economy along with our everyday lives.

The development of real estate involves a plethora of disciplines and professions, including architects, engineers, planners, lawyers, bankers, public officials, construction trades and others. Each team member plays an integral part of the real estate product delivery process. The real estate developer is the one who oversees this process and coordinates the information generated by each project participant. A successful developer does this by ensuring that tasks are being completed in a way that allows for information to be generated and shared efficiently. A lack of effective information sharing will require team members to make assumptions which could prove costly or result in a less than ideal outcome.

Throughout the process, numerous tasks are being completed in the development process. To organize them, we’ve grouped them into five distinct functional disciplines, as shown in Figure 1. They include Market & Competition, Physical & Design, Legal & Political, Financial and Project Management. As the development process moves forward, the plan is iteratively refined across disciplinary boundaries. As information is gathered from related tasks within and across disciplines, the developer gains more certainty about the project. Designs are finalized based on financial returns; budgets are established based on market conditions; permits are given based on legal evaluation; and so on. The spiral in Figure 1 indicates how the development process iterates through these disciplines, narrowing in towards a final product.

Kelly + Morgan Architects uses this system (established by Ben Bulloch & John Sullivan) that is based on the iterative assembly information to mitigate risk and provide a higher likelihood of making decisions in a logical sequence. Though this is not necessary for smaller residential projects, the ideas apply to all projects where an increase in asset value is an underlying motive. For us, it is an all too common occurrence is to see owners focus only one or two of these areas and the results are rarely positive.

Figure 1 - Five Function Disciplines to Real Estate Development. Ignore this at your peril. Created by Bulloch & Sullivan.

Phase 5 - Design Development/Planning Applications

Concept design proposals are followed by 'design development'. At this stage, the client has approved the direction of the project and the architectural design is developed and defined in detail sufficient to illustrate via plans, sections, elevations and 3D imagery, the overall form and fabric of the project and its detailed layouts, spatial arrangements, facades, overall appearance and range of construction materials and finishes.

The design is sufficiently developed to generate detailed quantities and cost information for the overall appearance, structure, services, finishes, external works and landscape.

At this stage, detailed consultations with local authorities and statutory authorities will be carried out. The material produced is the basic requirement for a detailed planning submission. This submission describes the architecture of the project and, if approved, becomes a binding legal document to which the client, the architect and the construction team must adhere.

A planning approval grants permission for a client and their design and construction team to construct the building. The planning approval gives the client certainty and captures real development value, allowing them to raise capital against the approved scheme. The planning approval allows the project team to proceed with the creation of more technical documents, especially the building permit application.

Phase 6 - Design Team Coordination

Delivery teams typically include those professionals involved in the programming, planning, design and construction of the project. The size and composition of the project team will vary depending on the extent of the design, the construction budget, and the various facets of the project. Delivery teams typically are led by an architect and Kelly + Morgan Architects offers this service for appropriate sized projects.


  • Owner - Establishes the vision and goals for the project and chooses the project team

  • Architect -Plans, designs, and oversees the construction of a building.

  • Engineers -Plans, designs, and oversees the construction of structures and systems. There are many different types of engineers: civil (site infrastructure), structural, mechanical (heating and cooling systems), electrical (power and lighting), and plumbing. Some firms offer multiple engineering disciplines.


Depending on the project, additional expertise may be provided by one or more of the following professionals:

  • Acoustic Consultant - Designs and manages sound and vibration in built environment.

  • Archaeologist - Assesses/manages the impact of project on buried cultural resources.

  • Code Consultant - Assesses compliance with building codes, focusing on life safety, egress, fire protection, accessibility, and construction types as they relate to building codes.

  • Commissioning Authority - Verifies that systems for mechanical (HVAC), plumbing, electrical, fire/life safety, building envelope, lighting, wastewater, controls, and building security operate as designed. In California, under the new Energy Codes, this is becoming

  • Construction Manager - Acts on the owner's behalf to manage schedule, cost, and quality.

  • Cost Estimator - Estimates project costs and checks them against the project budget. Estimates variations on the proposed project.

  • Energy Code Consultant (Title 24, Part 6) - In California, this professional provides advice on building energy performance, thermal envelope design and the production of a completed Certificate of Compliance for Title 24, Part 6 requirements.

  • Environmental Engineer - Protects public health from adverse environmental materials or conditions encountered as part of the project.

  • FF&E (Furnishings, Fixtures, and Equipment) Consultant - Provides expertise related to products procured outside of the main construction contract.

  • Fire Engineering Consultant - Provides expertise for fire protection and suppression systems.

  • Geotechnical Engineer - Provides expertise related to earthwork and foundations.

  • Historic Preservation Consultant (Cultural Resource Professional) - Balances historical and architectural significance with design. Assists in navigating preservation regulations or tax credit programs.

  • Interior Designer - Designs interior spaces for functionality and aesthetics.

  • Information and Communications Technology Consultant - Provides expertise in communications and data requirements

  • Landscape Architect -Plans, designs, and oversees construction of outdoor areas.

  • Lighting Designer - Designs lighting systems, including natural and electric light.

  • Security Consultant - Assesses threats and risks. Develops security program.

  • Surveyor - Determines three-dimensional relationships between physical points, conducting surveys of boundaries, features, utilities, or elevations.

  • Traffic/Parking Consultant - Studies traffic flow and project impacts. Designs road improvements, access points, and parking areas.

  • Vertical Transportation Consultant - Plans for escalators, elevators, and lifts.

Phase 7 - Construction Documents/Bldg Permit Applications

Construction drawings and specifications are needed to obtain comprehensive construction bids, building permits and construction contracts, and to identify all the work that is necessary. They establish and define the scope of work, and the quantity and quality of the work to be performed by the general contractor. Construction drawings and specifications prepared by licensed architects protect both owners and contractors from potential discrepancies or misunderstandings during the course of construction. A comprehensive and well-thought-out set of contract documents is the unifying directive that leads to the successful completion of the work.

Kelly + Morgan Architects can provide the following:

  • Prepare construction drawings and specifications suitable for bidding and construction

  • Submit construction drawings and specifications to the local governing agencies for review and the issuance of building permits

  • Manage and coordinate the plan check process

  • Update the documents as necessary to address plan check comments issued by the Building Department for final project permit approval

Phase 8 - Bidding Phase/Hiring the Contractors

Kelly & Morgan Architects can direct and provide oversight of the entire bidding and negotiation process to secure construction bids from qualified, fully licensed and insured general contractors or subcontractors. Our services include:

  • Pre-qualifying bidders

  • Distributing bid packages to pre-qualified contractors

  • Conducting on-site, pre-bid walkthroughs and meetings with prospective contractors

  • Responding to contractor questions and issue addenda as necessary

  • Securing sealed bids from contractors

  • Evaluating bid results

  • Reviewing bids with clients

  • Helping clients coordinate interviews with bidders

  • Assisting clients and their legal representatives in preparing the agreement between the owner and contractor for the work

Phase 9 - Construction Contract Administration

Once a contract has been negotiated and executed between an owner and contractor, Kelly & Morgan Architects can provide administrative services to ensure that the construction work being performed complies with the contract documents. Our services during this construction phase include:

  • Coordinating and participating in preconstruction meetings with owners and contractors

  • Monitoring the contractor’s project mobilization and start-up

  • Visiting the site on an as-needed basis to observe the progress of construction and general conformance with the construction documents

  • Communicating with the owner as to project status, scope and schedule

  • Interpreting the documents and issuing any necessary clarification or modifications

  • Reviewing submittals, shop drawings, samples, mock-ups, schedules and punch lists to conform with the intent of the design documents

  • Reviewing and approving payment requests and change orders

  • Assisting in the close out of the project