Architectural Design in Houston

Architectural Design for Building Design, Building Plans and Architectural House Design in Houston

Before any construction contractor can begin construction, it is necessary to create a building design through a process known as architectural design. In the case of residential design this process creates home ideas that develop into detailed home designs. The detailed home designs then progress into home plans for new construction or remodeling.

We have prepared an architectural design process guide to support your building design project.




Architectural Design Process Index

What is Architectural Design

Architectural design is the process of creating real property improvements that serves the function and use of the living space in an aesthetically enhancing way. Distinctive architectural design is space and element development through the application of form and function with sustainable materials.

While architecture is the professional practice of orchestrating the artistic imagination with space to create a buildings personality, it communicates through both art and science to create a balance in people’s lives within these buildings.

Any particular design form effort is historically based upon the precedents of past building styles and themes. Architecture becomes the benchmark for architectural style and design evolution.

Architecture is influenced by the demands of the people that use the buildings and the changing trends of their needs for function and cost of construction. Materials play a major role in both form and sustainability. As technology advances and natural resources shrink, manmade materials have a greater place in architectural sustainability.

The end game of architectural design is to create a building design that results in building plans. These can be for architectural house design or commercial interior design. There are endless reasons for why people require building plan design, but the primary motive is producing construction documents.

Construction documents provide builders with the directions and recipe (specifications) to build and deliver a structure from someone’s imagination. Building plans are one part of many construction documents that are required for constructing building improvements. The building design is the signature element of the building plan.

The building plan design consist of exact building measurements generally to scale, building codes and image drawing elements to clearly assist the builders with understanding the architects or designers’ intent. With the building design representing the architect’s intent, in few words, the building plans are the instructions.

The architecture design process is a progressive step procedure consisting of various phases. Each phase has similar names but generally refers to the general design stage activity.

The first phase is the pre-design phase. This requires collecting data and researching the data to determine if the project is a “go” or “no go”.

The second major step is determining the contractual design approach the owner wants to develop their drawings. There are 2 basic approaches to creating design drawings, design to bid and design to build.

The final major step is the pre-construction phase. During this stage the general contractor prepares documents such as a schedule of values, scope of work, contracts and construction schedules.

Houston Architecture

Pre-Design Phase

The pre-design phase of developing a construction project requires a degree of planning in preparation of commencing design. This often begins with a detailed feasibility analysis of the project.

There are matters of having a general understanding of the investment requirements that your proposed project will take. In addition, there are often logistical concerns that will need to be addressed, such as if the construction site will be sufficient to meet the needs of the project.

And of course, there is the matter of hiring a general contractor and architect for designing and building the project, but not least, it is important for the owner to prepare for sharing their vision with their design team.

The owner needs to clearly understand their needs and wishes of matters such as the floor plan flow as it pertains to either a family home or a commercial office work flow. The quality of the finishes and architectural appointments are also factors that define the ultimate design of Houston architecture.

Building Design
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    Feasibility Study

    Depending on the type of project the owners want to build dictates the feasibility study needs. There are many different types of feasibility studies necessary for various projects.

    For instance, commercial properties may require a traffic study or an environmental impact study. The local governing authority will normally demand that various studies will be needed for permitting your project.

    In all cases, it is essential to conduct a financial feasibility study on your project regardless if it is a residential or commercial property.

    There are various types of financial feasibilities depending on the complexity of your personal scenario. In a straight forward basic buy scenario, a financial feasibility study focuses on the investment required for a project.

    In this case it typically requires some basic facts like square footage of the building and land cost to have a conversation with your lender.

    In more complex scenarios for owners with an existing property, they may wish to evaluate various scenarios such as remodeling, building an addition or razing their existing building for the land use of building ground up.

    These studies are invaluable in assisting owners with decision making for projects that have many moving parts. To learn more about this matter follow this link Houston Commercial Construction. 

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    Design Team

    The design team should consist of an architect, general contractor and the owners. On larger construction projects, the owners may include interior designers, landscape architects and various engineers, such as structural, mechanical, plumbing and electrical professionals. This completely depends upon the project needs and the advice of your trusted advisors.

    The design team are professional advisors much like attorneys or doctors. They should be listened to and trusted to provide you with options and directions for your projects best interest.

    No different from other professional advisors, if you are not comfortable with their advice or the personal fit as a trusted advisor, then you are better off aligning your interest with a different design / construction professional.

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    Needs & Wants List

    The needs and wants list are much like it sounds. There are building features and appointments that are essential needs and there are others that would be nice to have if your investment budget will allow.

    The primary reason of developing this list is to share with your design team. They need to understand your vision for a finished product.

    These products and features can be communicated well by sharing photo images and sharing your importance of these items. At the very least such items will create a dialog and questions that will lead to a more defined visionary image in the minds of your design team.

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    Site Analysis

    A site analysis is the collection of data and professional evaluation of the proposed building site. This is also a prerequisite of beginning building design. This analysis may include such matters as property surveys, topographic surveys, tree surveys and soil test.

    One requirement that often is overlooked is to research the deed restrictions on the building site. These documents provide the building restrictions imposed by the legal deed that define such things as building setback lines, building structure minimum and maximum sizes and heights. They also go as far as defining the types of structure classification that is permitted.

    If the deed restrictions prohibit a condition that is a must on the owners needs list, the design team must formally request a variance hearing with the governing authority. This is a public hearing that takes place discussing the impact of the owner’s request on the property holders in the immediate area.

    To learn more about planning for the commercial remodeling process visit the following link, Commercial Remodeling Process.


Custom Home PlansDesign to Bid Delivery Method

The design to bid construction delivery method is the oldest and traditionally accepted construction plan approach. This approach involves the owner directly hiring an architect to prepare design plans for renovation or new construction of a building. The construction documents are prepared by the architect and the firms engineers. Once completed the architect would solicit a short list of general contractors to bid the plans. Hence the name design to bid.

This construction document delivery method is favored by many property owners because they believe that the bid approach results are the best value due to the competitive bidding environment. They think that because 3 general contractors bid the project that they will get the best value for their construction project investment. This is not always the case.

The design to bid method exposes the owners to a number of financial risks that are commonly not taken into consideration by the owners. The first of these is the errors and omissions that occur during designing and engineering complicated blueprints. Depending on the significance of these kind of events and at what stage of construction they are discovered will dictate the magnitude of the cost to repair.

Architectural Design Styles

A second example of how the design to bid process is not the most cost-effective delivery process is that general contractors will typically bid to the building plans and material specifications that are specified in the documents.

That is to say if the architect specifies certain materials that are more expensive the necessary or designs a structural architectural feature that requires exceptional over engineering, then the owner pays for these items without knowing about them.

The primary reason that architects like this method is because they are in control of the design process. They are trying to meet the needs of their clients and follow the owners design direction.

This approach does not have a value engineering element to the design process. If the bids come back outside an acceptable price, the owner may be required to pay further design fees to downsize the plans. The alternative to the design to bid method is the design to build approach.

Building PlansDesign to Build Delivery Method

The design to build delivery method is a process involving hiring the general contractor to be responsible for both the design of the construction of the real property. That is to say that the general contractor hires the architect directly and remains solely responsible for design and construction of the project. This is one of the distinctive differences than the design to bid delivery method.

The second fundamental difference is that the building contractor works with the architect during design to introduce cost effective strategies to achieve architectural design features. In addition, unlike the design to bid approach, the GC provides the owner with a schedule of values to build the project based upon the plans and specifications developed during this approach.

Additional benefits that the design to build method provides the owner a faster time line to commencing construction. This is due to the design build process eliminating the time for bidding and value engineering the architectural design.

The greatest benefit for the owner is that if there are plan errors or omissions, the owner has the building contractor to turn to as the responsible party. To learn more about the design build delivery method follow this link; Design Build Approach.

Critics of the design build approach find it a disadvantage that this process does not allow for completive bidding. They suggest that the design build method is more expensive than the design to bid method.

This myth is debunked by the facts of design build project delivery. First that designer and builder work hand in hand toward a common goal. The construction budget is established early in the process and designed too.

Secondly, the process time is dramatically reduced as mentioned earlier. Also differently, the owner stays in control of both the building design and projected construction cost throughout the entire project life. The following link provides a comprehensive view of the design build delivery method; What you Should Know about Design Build Remodeling

Home DesignCollaboration Design

Both the design to bid and the design to build methods require some degree of collaboration amongst design professionals and owners. These hired professional service providers are referred to as the design team.

Depending on the size and complexity of the design project dictates the appropriate members needed. In most cases the design team consist of a general contractor, architect and the owners. In more sizable projects additional members may be introduced like interior designers, landscape architects and MEP engineers.

The collaboration design approach is a philosophy of various professionals coming together to contribute to the project’s development. The goal is for the collaborating members to bring their knowledge and experience to a collective effort of creating an efficient and functional building design.


House Design

Architectural Process of Designing

The actual architectural design process consists of 3 phases. The conceptual design phase, the design development phase and the construction document phase. Each phase of drawing design process builds upon the previous phase until there are construction documents.

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    Concept Design Phase

    The concept phase involves the architect drawing proportionate geometric design shapes that represent functional floor plan spaces.

    These shapes do not have dimensions but rather general proportions representing a non-scaled plan.

    The drawings that are created at this stage are rough floor plans, exterior building profiles and roof forms.

    During the early stage of design, the owner shares their needs and want list with the design team.

    The needs list with photo images assist communicating the owners design ideas to the design team.

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    Design Development Phase

    During the design development stage, the architect will begin to scale the geometric shapes of the concept stage and add dimensions to the blueprints.

    He will prepare wall sections, a door & window schedule and profiles of the casework and bathrooms.

    This stage is appropriately called the development stage because that is what takes place during the design development phase.

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    Construction Drawings Phase

    The construction drawing phase requires the acceptance of the completed design developed plans. This is necessary before the plans are engineered. The structural and MEP engineering are a required part of this stage. The designer will work on completing drawing details while waiting for the engineering to be completed. In some cases, the interior decor product selections will be made during this stage. If not, selection allowances will be prepared.

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    Engineering Design

    As mentioned in the case of any major new construction or renovation project there is some level of engineering required. Be it structural, mechanical, plumbing or electrical, engineering involves the mathematical calculation of relevant facts to reach a reliable compliance with building codes and the demands of the building.

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    Interior Design

    Interior design can be as simple of contribution as selecting a color scheme for the building and as complicated as creating floor patterns and furniture piece design. The interior design function can overlap into the architects work if the owners require such services. To learn more about how interior design influences design and construction, follow this link; Interior Design.

Pre-Construction Phase

After the construction documents have been completed, the general contractor or design team is required to prepare additional construction documents. These documents are referred to as pre-construction documents. These are separate documents from the permit submittal documents prepared during the design stage.

These pre-construction documents and activities are required prior to construction commencing. They include selecting customer colors and products, specifications for materials, clearly defining a scope of work, construction schedule and creating a schedule of values for the construction budget.

These documents are required for contracting with the owner, preparing subcontractor documents and finalizing the execution plan. They also play a significant role as control devices during construction for the general contractor’s construction company.

Interior Inside House
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    Color & Product Selection

    Every construction project requires color and product selections made by the owners. These selections not only play an important role in fulfilling the satisfaction of the owners but are critical to purchase to keep the project schedule.

    It is common in both residential and commercial projects to have long lead time items that require advance orders. Owners may also require product mock ups laid up as samples for approval.

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    Specification Development

    In some cases, the architect and design team will provide material and workmanship specifications while completing the design plans. At other times, the general contractor will be required to create these standards.

    Specifications are established for both goods and workmanship for the project. The general contractor must have a clear understanding of these things before they purchase materials.

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    Scope of Work

    A scope of work is a detailed description of the work to be performed to complete the project. The general contractor prepares a scope of work for the entire project that he performs for the owner.

    The GC then produces a scope of work for each trade contractor as terms of their contract. These scopes of works are used in conjunction with the plans and specifications as standards of quality and performance.

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    Bid Documents

    On significant larger projects the design team will require the general contractor and subcontractors to prepare submittals for assurance of specification control. These are items like manufactures shop drawings, material color splotches and material specification documents.

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    Schedule of Values

    A schedule of values is created by the general contractor for multiple reasons. First it provides the owner a project cost of magnitude for contracting. Secondly, the schedule of values becomes the control device for the GC’s line-item cost controls.

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    Construction Schedule

    The construction schedule like other documents has a variety of purposes. A schedule will require a critical path that dictates the required time lapse necessary to complete a project. These are also used develop cash flow plans for the project’s financial feasibility.

Houston Architecture

Houston architecture services are required for all major residential and commercial construction projects. The projects may be new construction or renovation projects, but they still require architectural design services. Although the Houston architecture design services are procedurally similar, the actual requirements change somewhat.

Depending first if the construction project is commercial or residential and secondly if it is new construction or renovation. We will discuss building plan design development and the differences in residential and commercial building plans.

House Design ModernNew Construction

The design criteria for commercial new construction are wide open to the designers’ imagination when developing the theme for Houston architecture. The canvas is vast when it comes to the proposed forms of the structure in the building design. This is not the case when it comes to the architectural form of a renovation project.

Existing buildings have many more restrictive conditions. Items such as the buildable land and existing structure can make building new much more cost effective. New construction building design also allows for greater flexibility in the use of product selection, value engineering and freedoms associated with modern architecture.

When it comes to comparing commercial new construction to residential, the actual building plan design processes are quite similar, although the supportive architectural design services required are drastically different.

Residential home design in Houston is driven by the owners’ lifestyle, whereas commercial office design is driven by the business work flow. While each can have similar architectural features, commercial construction must comply with such codes as the ADA and life safety regulations. These codes are nearly nonexistent in single family residential.

Design a SpaceCommercial

The commercial architecture function is driving by the assembly of people for a common use. Although the form is characterized by some spectacular shapes and themes, the function is restricted by work flow, life safety and the American Disabilities Act.

Commercial construction must comply with such codes as the ADA and life safety regulations. The building design must make larger space allowance in public spaces for these requirements.

Most commercial buildings attract public use including many private commercial buildings. Due to the presence of the general public, the building codes require fire protection and access for disabled people to have equal access.

Life safety deals principally with fire suppression and public egress from the building, while ADA addresses accessibility to public spaces. To learn more about commercial architecture design follow this link; Commercial Construction Architecture Design Process Houston

Selecting the best new commercial construction contractors can be confusing and requires the owner to follow a vetting process to identify the right general contractor for them. Follow this link to learn more about commercial contractor companies; https://www.marwoodconstruction.com/construction-companies-near-me/

House Design IdeasResidential

Residential housing can be both residential and commercial construction standards. Multifamily residential is considered commercial due to life safety and the Disabilities Act. Single family attached and detached is considered residential. In the reference of this article, we will mean single family when referencing residential.

Again, the actual steps of the architecture design process follow the same steps and process, the functional features for residential are far different. Custom home plans require the designer to focus on the personal, family and lifestyle needs of the owners.

The floor plan flow is for the intended pleasure of the owners not the employee work flow. Custom home plans start defining the general needs of the house design, like number of bedrooms & bathrooms and a targeted living space footage. We have attached a link to follow to provide some additional insights about architectural home design.  

Understanding the intricacies of the architectural home design process can make the practice much easier on novice and experienced owners. The architectural house design discipline that results in custom home plans follows the same procedure of design developmental phases as previously discussed.

Custom home plans are developed by the Houston architect to the wishes of the owners. The houses interior design appointments are what gives the specific building design it’s individual character. The following is a detailed discussion about the entire home design process; Architecture and Interior Design.

Commercial Remodeling in HoustonRemodeling

Remodeling is a different beast when it comes to renovating either commercial spaces or house plans in Houston. Much of remodeling planning takes place partially blind.

That is to say, that the existing space is generally occupied and restricts the use of destructive testing to visually verify the existing hidden conditions. In many cases even destructive testing is insufficient when it comes to older structures.

Remodeling and renovation by its very nature is commonly destroying the conditions of the space before it can build it back. The question always becomes is it cheaper to renovate then build new.

This depends heavily upon how much of the existing structure can be salvaged and can the space and profile of the existing buildings architecture be converted properly, so not to corrupt its design statement.

Renovation building design begins with developing an as built drawing. The as built drawing creates a template of the existing floor plan. This allows the home designer to implement the building design changes directly to the as built drawing.

This allows the builder to have a better idea of how the changes impact the existing structure. The as built drawing is also a required construction document for the permit building home plans.

Commercial Interior DesignCommercial

Commercial space renovations for common uses such as office spaces pose a small risk of hidden surprises provided, they are newer constructed buildings. Commercial spaces of historic buildings or buildings that require a change of public use present far greater risk for both the design team and owners.

They would also start with developing an as built drawing as a template. The commercial building plans would also require the as built drawing as a submitted construction document. To learn more about the Commercial Remodeling Process.


A home renovation holds some of the same challenges as commercial older building renovations. Apart from the previous discussions on as built drawings, one of the greater architectural home design challenges is converting from one architectural theme to another.

That is to say if the owner’s home is French Country and the owner wants to change to a modern style, this will present the design team with a monumental challenge. Home ideas need to be consistent within the original architectural intent of the house design.

That is not to say that contemporary home design ideas cannot be introduced into older architectural home styles, but rather they need to be introduced in such a way not to disrespect to integrity of the architectural design. For further discussion on the home renovation design process follow; Home Remodeling / Home Renovation Process

Modern Home DesignResidential Architecture

Residential Houston architecture is constantly in an evolutionary state. The demand for vintage homes and contemporary homes is vast and diverse. In metro Houston the age of homes in some of the affluent early neighborhoods is 100 years old. The architecture of these houses is rich in tradition and reflects the culture and family values of the times.

These houses require a serious and thorough evaluation prior to modifying the existing building house design. Creating custom home plans for timeless architectural design period home renovations requires imagination and a high level of professional skill.

Blending new home construction architecture with these architectural monuments requires a compromising approach and a skilled imagination of creative design team. The challenge for most owners in metro Houston is finding a building lot in a neighborhood that they want to live.

This requires patience, imagination and persistence to find the right property to design and build your new luxury home. The following link offers some additional insights about Luxury Home Houston Architecture and Design Process.

House Design IdeasDesign Styles

Residential Houston architecture is represented by a collection of a century of different styles and architectural themes of home design. As decades pass, so does the owners’ taste in trending architecture changes.

In some cases, what is old becomes new, while in other cases what new design themes establishes new benchmarks for the future of Houston architecture. Home ideas can be inspired by house designs that owners have seen in their travels or draw from their experiences for their home design ideas.

One-of-a-kind homes are both very personal and unique in their architectural design. The owners of these fine homes are excited and proud about the special design features and architectural appointments. For further conversation on this topic; Luxury Home Features.

Commercial Architecture

The skylines are lined with world class commercial building Houston architecture. From high rise tower buildings to museums and theatres, Houston has some of most beautiful buildings in the world. Many of these landmark buildings are distinctively recognized by their features.

Most of the commercial building architecture is not landmark structures, but rather storefronts in strip centers, industrial tilt wall or the many apartments and small privately owned business offices. Business owners routinely evaluate the need for updating their properties with the need for remodeling.

These are opportunities to create interiors and exteriors that represent the modern work places that are in demand these days. The following is a link to more about Commercial Remodeling Building Design.

Design of SpaceSpace Planning

Space planning is an essential step in large office space floor plan development. Creating critical departmental work flow into an efficient linear direction can assist the owner in understanding work flow bottlenecks and future growth issues.

With a well-defined work flow the designer can plan for multi-user equipment like printers and both group and individual work stations. The following link will discuss the office remodeling process in greater detail; Guide to Professional Office Remodeling PPT

The design process is an essential aspect of new construction and renovation. The blueprints, house plans and building plans in Houston are the equivalent of a road map before a long cross country road trip.

Without the proper planning and direction, you are likely to find yourself somewhere you did not intend on arriving. It is through the practice of great architectural designing that provides the legacy of fine architecture. It is with fine Houston architecture.