Following is a summary of our typical process for designing your custom house, alteration or addition.  Note that there are moments in the process that are available to you as natural stopping points.  As you read on, keep in mind that partial service is an option to you, should you wish to engage our service in only a limited way.


Pre-Design Phase

Step One:  Meet

We will meet with you to discuss the aspirations and programmatic requirements that you have for your house.  Subsequent to our meeting we will produce a recap of our discussion for your confirmation, by way of a formal proposal.   There is no cost to you for Step One.

Step Two:  Ground Work

Once we are engaged to perform services, we will research the various regulations that apply to the property and outline an approach to the approval process that is required by the municipality in which the property is located.  If the project involves an existing structure, such as an addition or alteration would, then Step Two will also entail the field measurement and drawing of existing conditions.  Depending on the requirements of your municipality, we may request that you commission a land surveyor to create a survey of your property, if you don’t already have one.


Schematic Design Phase

Step Three:  Conceive

With applicable restrictions and constraints identified, we will conceive one or more architectural schemes that embody your program and present them to you for discussion.

Step Four:  Iterate

If various schemes are conceived, then based on our review together and your consideration, we will ask that you choose one scheme / set of ideas to carry forward.  We will take any comments and direction you may provide and incorporate them into the scheme.  We will present the revised scheme to you and review with you again, again taking any new comments and incorporating them into the design.  It would be unusual in our experience to go beyond a third cycle of this process, with the third iteration consisting of minor tweaks, but we may go through as much iteration as you like to achieve your full satisfaction.

Step Four will culminate with a set of finalized schematic drawings comprising a plot plan, floor plans and building elevations.  This set of drawings will be generally dimensioned and provided with descriptive notes reflecting the schematic level of design that’s been achieved at this stage.

The culmination of Step Four will result in a drawing set that we will refer to as “Schematic Design Set”.  This is a potential stopping point for a partial service.

Step Five:  Reflect

With a finalized schematic design in hand, the following opportunities will become available to you:

A.)  A ballpark estimate may be sought from a qualified, reputable local builder.  The design is still very general at this stage and so the estimate is typically a rudimentary, rough order of magnitude one, but nonetheless serves to confirm or otherwise alert us with regard to the direction of the design in terms of its potential cost.   It’s important to understand that the information at this stage of design is not sufficient to allow a fixed, firm price – it will only “characterize” the work so that an experienced builder can form an informed opinion and give confidence or pause to the direction in which the Project is headed.

With an opinion of cost in hand, we will confirm the scope of the work or make changes to it at this time.   If any changes occur we will review together both before and after they are incorporated to confirm that our mutual expectations with the Project are understood and are on track.

B.)  A proposal for services from a structural engineer may be solicited. Depending upon the complexity of the design, the services of a professional engineer may be warranted.  We will have pointed out any complexities through the iteration of the schematic design, so this potential will not occur as a surprise to you.  If the services of a P.E. are indeed warranted, we will use the schematic design drawing set as a basis to solicit one or more proposals.  Alternatively, you may elect to hire an engineer of your choosing, and we will coordinate our architectural design with that engineer’s structural design.

C.)  The drawing set may be used for required submission(s) to certain Land Use boards or commissions, such as the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA).  For example, if you have authorized us to develop the schematic with the design being dependent on obtaining a waiver from any local zoning regulation, then the drawing set will be sufficient in detail to submit to the ZBA for a public hearing (and it will have been drawn with that presentation in mind).


Design Development Phase

Step Six:  Develop

Moving forward, we will enhance the schematic design, studying the relationships of building elements in larger scale detail drawings and discussing material and finish specifications with you.  The design of the exterior envelope will be developed based on discussions with you about your priorities for energy conservation and the durability of exterior finishes.  Development will include wall composition, roof composition, basement wall considerations and any added measures desired such as renewable energy systems will be further identified and incorporated at this stage of the design.  We will meet together periodically to show progress and seek information based on questions that may naturally arise through this work.

Step Seven:  Flesh Out

We will create structural framing and foundation design drawings, either through consultation with a professional engineer or not, depending on the complexity of the design as determined earlier in Step Five.  These drawings, along with floor plans, exterior building elevation drawings and building section drawings and details will comprise a drawing set that may accompany a building permit application to the municipality where the property is situated.

The culmination of Step Seven will result in a drawing set that we will refer to as “Permit Set”.  This is a potential stopping point for a partial service.


Construction Documents Phase

Step Eight:  Detail

Upon your approval of the developed progress drawings, we will advance into the next stage of the Project by developing the drawings further with detailed notes and dimensions.  We will advise on options for detail elements such as cabinetry, built-ins and other millwork, enhanced trim, door hardware, light fixtures, plumbing fixtures and other elements to be specified.

Step Nine:  Round Out and Button Down

The drawings developed to this stage, along with cross sections, larger scale details, various schedules of doors, windows and finishes and specification notes will form a working set of Construction Documents, also known as Contract Documents; because these documents will contain the information necessary to describe the Project in sufficient detail to establish a fixed sum bid, they will ultimately form the basis of your Contract with your builder.

The work during Step Nine involves less communication with you, as it is much more technically oriented.  The design is fully established at this point and our back and forth is limited to status updates to report progress, with an occasional confirmation sought to check and ensure alignment with your expectations.


Bidding Phase

Step Ten:  Bid

Using the prepared Construction Documents as a basis, we will prepare bid packages complete with instructions to bidders and will conduct a competitive bidding arena, soliciting construction bids from various local, reputable contractors.  We will tour the site with each bidder to review the site conditions and will be available to answer questions that may arise during their bidding of the work.  We will receive the bids and assist you with analysis and evaluation towards making a selection.

The culmination of Step Ten will result in a process point that we will refer to as “Construction Commencement”.  This is a potential stopping point for a partial service.


Contract Administration Phase

Step Eleven:  Observe and Advise

We are available at your request to perform tasks that are customarily incumbent upon our profession during construction:

  • Meet with the Contractor at a frequency that is appropriate to the pace of the work, to review work in place for conformance with the Contract Documents, discuss work in progress and review upcoming, critical path items for any key input that may be needed.
  • Review any construction submittals that may be required by the Contract Documents and provide any clarifications that may become required.
  • Review the Contractor’s payment applications to certify that work being billed has in fact been transferred to you through the course of the work that was performed in the payment period.
  • Towards the completion of the construction, create a punchlist of work that we feel must be completed prior to final completion of the work and final payment to the Contractor.

Should you choose to involve us not systematically but only at certain moments in the construction, our only request would be that you provide sufficient notice in any call for construction related services.



For the above services we typically propose compensation to be on an hourly basis, at standard hourly rates.

Proceeding at hourly rates, it goes without saying that the design and drawing set for a basic house will produce a lower fee than the design and drawing set for a complex  house.

What is a basic house?  A basic house sits easily on a benign site, with a conventional foundation and framing system, with no large openings or complex roof lines.

What is a complex house?  A complex house, on the other hand, may require sensitive attachment to a challenging site, may require complex foundation and framing design or may have special systems requirements, for instance.

If your preference is for a fixed fee, we can accommodate that at the culmination of Step Four.  At that stage, in accordance with your preferences and once the extent and nature of the full project requirements are known to us, we may offer a fixed sum fee to proceed upon a fixed scope of work.



Joseph Bergin Architect P.C.  is currently staffed  by me, Joe Bergin, operating as a sole proprietor.  However, I maintain a small network of talented freelance draftspersons who assist me from time to time in the full execution of services, depending on work load.  In any event, I will be the architect responsible for your Project and will perform all tasks that I feel cannot be delegated to drafting staff.  Please note that if I am performing duties that are delegable to drafting staff I bill my time at the drafting rate.  Also please note that I will be your primary point of contact throughout the Project and will be solely responsible for the design work of the Project and its management inside my firm.

I always appreciate new opportunities to collaborate with people in the design of their custom homes.  If, after reading all of this, you feel that we could align our forces well, I encourage you to make contact so we can determine if a “Step One Meeting” might be in the making.  If indeed we come together, I would very much look forward to applying my knowledge and talents towards a successful outcome for your project.


Joseph Bergin, AIA | LEED AP

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