Designing and getting projects built can be a complex endeavor. To many of our clients this process is new and a bit scary. It is our goal to take your visions and create a set of documents from which we achieve planning and building approvals and then a general contractor can build your project. Here are few common questions asked of Knorr Architecture about the Design Process

What is the process for getting my project designed and built?

What are the services that architects provide during this process?

After numerous verbal explanations answering these questions, we decided it was time to provide a step-by-step guide for our current and future clients to better understand the architecture process.

Our industry has been around for a long time, and with that has come some standards for how we practice. Although technology and the law lead to occasional changes, the general principles stay the same. The most important thing to understand is that getting a project designed and built is a process, it takes time. Decisions are not made all at once, but throughout the course of a project.

Standard Phases

Standard phases bring an order to the design process. Each phase has a purpose and a level of expectations that you as the owner can expect to see. In general the phases are sequential and you as the owner will sign off on the completion of each phase, permitting the project to move forward based on the decisions you made up to that point. The timeframe to complete each phase varies depending on the complexity of your project.

Here are the six phases:

Phase 1 Pre-Design

Phase 2 Schematic Design

Phase 3 Design Development

Phase 4 Construction Documents

Phase 5 Construction Procurement

Phase 6 Construction Observation

Phases also help to determine fee breakdown and billing. A common misnomer is that the design fee is due upfront or paid in one big lump sum. This is incorrect. Payments of design fees are actually made monthly as the project progresses. These payments are based on the amount of work completed in that particular month.


Our design fees are set at the beginning of a project as either a fixed fee or an hourly fee with an estimated number of hours to complete. The total fee is then divided into the individual phases by percentage of the total fee (for fixed fees), or as an estimated number of hours per phase (for hourly fees). We like these type of fees because they give our clients an under- standing of what the design fee will be from the beginning of a project, helping to avoid surprises down the road.Our design fee varies from project to project depending on the following factors: They may typically run between 7% - 12% of the cost of construction, depending on the level of services provided.clients an understanding of what the design fee will be from the beginning of a project, helping to avoid surprises down the road.


Goal: research and determaine the owners criteria for the project

Fee beakdown 5-10% of total fee

Before Design

Simply put, pre-design the stuff that is done before starting design. Pre-design can vary greatly depending on the complexity of a project and the experience of the owner. Sometimes an owner will come to us with most of the pre- design criteria established, however, more often, the owner needs our experience and researching capabilities to properly determine the projects requirements.


The Pre-design phase may involve the following services:


Programming consists of establishing and documenting detailed requirements for the project relating to but not limited to; design objectives, development of space requirements, relationships between spaces, flexibility and expandability, special equipment and systems, and site requirements.

Budget Analysis

The budget should have estimated costs for both the hard costs and soft costs involved in your project. Hard costs are construction related costs including material, labor, and the contractor’s overhead and profit. Soft costs are non- construction related costs including the designer’s fee and expenses, consultants fees and expenses, city fees, bank fees and interest, and insurance.

Schedule Development

The following are just a few of the factors that contribute to the project schedule:

Owner’s schedule

Designer’s schedule

Complexity schedule

Owner’s decision time

Consultants’ schedules

ProjectPermit process

Contractor’s availability

Because of all the various factors involved in the schedule, it is important to continually adjust the schedule as the project proceeds.

Code Analysis

It is important to understand the rules of the game before you play. This ideology is ever important when it comes to your project. Cities and often specific regions within cities have different sets of rules governing many aspects of your project.

Space Schematics

In certain projects we will produce space schematics that may include: diagrammatic studies and descriptive text, conversion of programmed requirements into net area requirements, general space allocations, adjacency, special equipment, and flexibility and expandability.

Existing Facilities Surveys

Many projects are remodels or additions to existing structures. These types of projects require a record of what is built. Since most of our clients do not have drawings of their existing build- ings, we recommend they hire an as-built consultant. An as- built consultant will measure and create accurate CAD draw- ings of your building that we can then use as a base to develop the new design. We are happy to refer our clients to as- built consultants that we have used in the past.

Site Analysis and Selection

Whether you already own a site for your project or would like our assistance in finding one that will meet your needs, we are diligent when it comes to site analysis. It is our belief that great design comes from a buildings relationship to its site. We analyze a projects site to determine what makes it valuable, what are its opportunities, and what about it is negative and needs to be properly dealt with.

Consultants Needed

Aside from our services in the Pre-design phase, most projects require that the owner hire consultants to prepare the following two documents:

Site Survey

A map depicting the boundaries, topography, utilities, and existing buildings on a particular site.

Soils Report/Geotechnical InvestigationSoil

borings and laboratory tests performed to determine the strength,compressibility and other characteristics of the soil conditions of a site. This type of report is more frequently required in hillside or costal areas.We are happy to refer our clients to surveyors and soils engineers that we have used in the past.

End of the Phase

The pre-design phase officially ends when the owner signs off on the approved program, budget, schedule, and code analysis. At this point, any site analysis should also be complete.


Goal- utilizing the criteria established in the Pre-design, graphically explore design alternative concepts. Then present these options to the owner and narrow them down to one preferred concept.

Fee breakdown: 15-25% of total fee

Commencing Design

Schematic design typically begins in rough form as sketches, floor plan studies, and/or quick models. Several owner/ designer meetings are typical during this phase to make decisions and determine a design direction.

1 Site Plan

2 Floor Plans

3 Key Elevations

4 Key Sections

5 Area Analysis

6 Renderings or Model

7 Preliminary Cost Estimate

The preceding list of drawings may still be rough in nature at the end of this phase. Their intent is primarily to determine a design direction with which to proceed intothe next phase.

The schematic design phase officially ends when the owner signs off on the drawings, giving approval of the design up to this point.


Goal: refine and develop the design such thatmost of the major design decisions have been made. Implement the various systemsinto the building.Fee Breakdown: 15-25% of total fee

Finalizing the Design

The design development phase typically includes finalizing the size of the various rooms & spaces, refining the look of the pro- ject, selecting exterior and interior materials, determining the project’s systems, and deciding upon door and window types and locations. This phase may also include several owner/ designer meetings which are critical to finalizing design deci- sions so that the detailed documentation can commence in the next phase.


One common question that arises is what level of interior design do we provide as part of our basic services. Simply put, we will design everything that is typically built-in to the project. This includes basic cabinetry and finish materials such as tile. This does not include furniture or stand alone light fixtures. If you would like detailed interior design services, we are happy to provide these for you at an additional cost, or collaborate with the interior designer of your choosing.


At the end of the design development phase the previously listed documents from the schematic design phase should be updated in further detail. In addition, it is common to also have the following documents:

1 Outline Specification

Preliminary written description of the project’s major systems and materials.

2 Key Interior Elevations

Drawings depicting the vertical relation- ship and material choices of the project’s interior rooms.

3 Reflected Ceiling Plans

Drawings of the ceiling depicting locations of lighting, equipment, & level changes.

4 Interior Schedules

A detailed list of the type and location of of interior finishes.

5 Door & Window Schedules

A detailed list of the type, size, graphic appearance and location of all of the doors and windows in the project

6 Key Details

Large scale technical drawings of specific elements within the projects

End of the Phase

The design development phase officially ends when the owner signs off on the drawings, giving approval of the design up to this point.


Goal: to prepare the technical written and graphic documents that set forth the requirements for constructing the project and obtaining government agency approvals.Fee Breakdown: 25-35% of total fee

Instructions for Building

The construction documents phase involves adding a level of detail and technical information to the design documents such that a contractor has a set of instructions with which to build the project as designed. This set of instructions is, how- ever, not a complete set, as the contractor is responsible for many aspects of constructing the project.This phase may also include several owner/designer meetings, however, it is not as likely as previous phases considering most of the design decisions have been made. This phase is more about the designer and consultants working through the technical aspects of the project.


It is during this phase that the project is submitted to the local building department for what we call PLAN CHECK. Plan check is the process by which the various city agencies review the submitted documents for compliance to the codes. The owner will be required to pay a fee to the city when the documents are submitted to plan check. The time frame for this process varies depending on your project’s size, complexity and the speed of the local jurisdiction.

After the various agencies review the project they will return the documents with corrections. Every project has some level of corrections. This does not mean that the work was done improperly. The designer and consultants will then fix the corrections and resubmit the documents for a second review. If the submitted documents then meet the agencies approval, the owner will be allowed to pull a permit to construct the project. All this means is that you will pay the permit fee allowing construction to commence. For an additional fee, most jurisdictions will expedite this plan check process.


At the end of the design development phase the previously listed documents from the schematic design and design development phases should be updated in full detail. Additional documents will also be created as part of this phase and can vary greatly depending on the scope of the project. A completed construction document set is highly technical and can be quite extensive. Those unfamiliar with the industry will often have a difficult time understanding these types of drawings.

End of the Phase

The construction document phase typically ends when the permit is pulled and construction begins. However, sometimes a permit is pulled before all of the construction documents are complete since not all of the documents are required to obtain a permit.


Goal: to assist the the owner in the selection ofa contractor to build the project. Fee Breakdown: 2-10% of total fee

The Contract Documents

This construction procurement phase will often overlap with one of the other phases depending on the method of selecting the contractor. It is important to note that the documents prepared by the designer and consultants in the construction documents phase are actually considered to be contract documents. They are a contract that the owner will hire a contractor to perform. In addition to the documents, there is an actual contract that must be signed between the owner and the contractor. The architect can help the owner to determine the type of contract to be used.

Contractor Selection

When it comes to hiring the contractor the owner typically has two choices:

1. Bidding

Involves making the set of documents available to two or more contractors who then submit a bid to the owner with how much it will cost to build the project including the contractor’s fee. The owner can then select whichever bidder they want, even if they are not the lowest.

2. Negotiation

Involves selecting a contractor based on qualifications, capabilities and/or referrals. Once a particular contractor is selected the owner then negotiates the of the contract with the contractor including the contractor’s fee.

Which Method is Better?

There are positives and negatives to both processes. Either way, it is important to determine the method of contractor selection early on in the process. Knorr Architecture can help you determine which contractor selection method is right for you.

End of the Phase

The construction procurement phase typically ends when the contractor is selected and has signed a contract with the owner.


Goal: to observe the construction of the projectfor general conformance to the construction documents. Assist the owner with contractor payment requests.

Handle requests for changes during construction.

Fee Breakdown: 10-20% of total fee

The Owner’s Agent

During the construction observation phase the designer will act as the line of communication between the owner and con- tractor. Once the project construction commences it is important to keep the designer involved in the project to assist the owner with the following tasks:

Observation Services

The designer will visit the construction site at appropriate intervals to observe the work for general conformance to the construction documents.

Evaluate contractor requests for payment

Assist the owner in processing payments to the contractor by visiting the construction site to determine if the particular work described in the payment request has actually been completed.

Process submittals

Review shop drawings, product data and samples for general conformance to the design intent.

Review results of tests and inspections

Keep the owner informed as to the progress of tests and inspections during the construction process.

Supplemental documentation

The architect can provide supplemental documents to clarify design intent for the contractor.

Handle requests for changes

The contractor, architect, or owner may need to change something during construction. The designer can administer this process and prepare the necessary construction document revisions.

Resolve claims between the owner and contractor

The designer acts as the mediator between the owner and contractor if a dispute arises. This is the first and least expensive step to conflict resolution during construction.


The project close out process for the owner. Assist the owner with the various processes and steps that occur as construction ends.

End of the Phase

The construction observation phase typically ends when the construction is complete.


As we say here in the office, “design is often the easy part of what we do.” When we take on a project here at Knorr Architecture, much of our time is spent on the less glamorous, but equally important administrative process. Project administrative services occur throughout all phases of the project and are included in the basic fee for services.

Keeping the Project on Task

General administrative tasks may be as simple as a phone call to inform the owner of some information, or as complex as internally coordinating a detailed set of construction documents. Communication and organization are key to a smooth administrative process. At Knorr Architecture, we pride ourselves on these skill sets. Often a well-designed process can be just as valuable as a well-designed building.Examples of general administration on a project may include:

Phone, e-mail, & fax correspondence with the owner

Owner meetings & presentations

Preparation of meeting agendas & minutes

Internal coordination of staff

Internal coordination of files & documents


Design and construction are team processes. There are often many parties involved outside of the owner-designer relationship. Consultant coordination involves coordinating the various consultants required or desired for your project.

Required Consultants

Government agencies responsible for your project require certain consultants be involved in your project because their expertise is critical to the safety of your structure. The type and number of consultants required will vary from project to project, and is most often based on your project’s location, type, and size.

Some of the required consultants may include:


Civil Engineer

As-Built Service

Landscape Architect

Soils and/or Geotechnical

Title 24 Consultant (Energy)

Structural Engineer

Electrical Engineer

Desired Consultants

As the owner, it is your choice to bring on other consultants to assist with specialized portions of the project. If appropriate to your project, desired consultants can greatly enhance the design or process of a project. Some desired consultants may include:

Landscape Architect

Lighting Designer

Kitchen Designer

Interior Designer


Cost Estimator

Pool Consultant

Environmental Engineer

At Knorr Architecture, we do not directly hire these outside consultants, however, as you can see, we handle almost the whole process. All the owner has to do is select them, sign their contracts, and pay them when an invoice is recieved.

Please contact Torin Knorr diretly should you wish further information regarding theArchitetural Services provided by Knorr Architecture. @

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Thank you, hopefully this answered many of your questions about the DESIGN PROCESS.


We pride ourselves on the work we have completd over the course 40 years. Referrals are key to our success and here is a brief list of former clients we haveworked with in thepast. Most of our work is in San Mateo, Atherton, Woodside, Palo Alto, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Menlo Park and Napa Valley,

We typically take on 2-3 major projects a year in order to maintain the quality level we feel is required to do great work.

Here is a list of cliets and Contractors we have worked with in the past.


Steve and Barb Young

Ofer and Michal Ben-Shachar

Joe Whelan, Portola Valley Ranch

James Brolin

Kenny Loggins

Bernie and Allison Affrunti

Ariel and Zohara Bardin

Amir and Sandra Ben-Efraim

Lisa Vellequette

Dave Vellquette

Stan and Maria Jones

Dick and Toni Paterson

Rich and Lani Ream

Robert Scoren

David and Yoko Hughes

Larry Weinhoff

Bill Wright

Ben Gilad and Qian Su


Campi Construction

Mike Donecho Construction

Gary Lencioni General Contractors

Jerrel Kiger Construction

Chesler Construction

Scott Plemens General Construction

Pete Moffat General Contractors