Our Design Process
At Studio S Squared Architecture, our services range from advising on initial site selection and helping establish a scope for your project relative to your budget, to complete architectural plus interior design services starting with conceptual design and ending with observing the actual construction.
Our typical full service project is broken down into five (or six) phases of work, as shown here.
Please contact us to schedule a meeting to discuss your project. After meeting with you to learn more about your specific requirements, we will determine the appropriate scope of work.
Phase 1A: Schematic Design
We review your initial wish lists and Houzz Ideabooks, budget concerns, and local zoning restrictions to develop multiple schematic design approaches to your project. In this initial phase, we focus primarily on the site plan, floor plan, and exterior elevation design, including the details particular to your chosen style.
We use a combination of freehand sketches, AutoCAD, and 3D software (Sketchup Pro) to develop your design during this phase. To help you visualize the design as it progresses, we encourage our clients to download the free version of Sketchup so that you can explore the 3D models we send you in the comfort of your own home.
This phase is the heart of our creative process, and we will explore many different ideas with you in search of the perfect combination of floor plan and exterior design that feels like “home” to you. Watch our Phase 1A video to learn more.
Phase 1B (when required): Planning Department Submittal
Many locations require a “design review” permit by the local planning department, often times requiring neighborhood outreach and public hearings.
When this is required, we can help navigate what can often be a complex and stressful process. We have an excellent track record with planning departments throughout the Bay Area. Watch our Phase 1B video to learn more.
Phase 1C (when required): Public Hearing
Besides Planning Department approval, many jurisdictions also mandate neighborhood noticing/outreach for your project, followed by a public hearing before an appointed body of citizens such as a Design Review Board or Planning Commission. These civic-minded volunteers are empowered to approve, modify, or disapprove your exterior and site design. We will represent you at any required hearings, preparing a formal presentation with helpful graphics to help the reviewers better understand the design rationale for your project.
There are three typical outcomes for your public hearing: 1) Approval with no changes; 2) Approval with minor revisions (most common); or 3) Continuance to a future hearing, with major revisions. The last of these normally only happens if there is major neighbor opposition. Any of these three outcomes can be appealed by you (or your neighbors) to the City Council.
In the event of a continuance or appeal, we will work with you and Planning staff to find an appropriate design compromise that will garner approval on the next try. Because of the unpredictable and highly subjective nature of neighbor opposition and political process, our services during Phase IC will be billed to you on a time + materials basis.
Phase 2: (Interior) Design Development
Once the floor plans and exterior design have been approved by you (and the Planning Department, if applicable), our focus turns towards developing the interior design.
During this phase, we will discuss your interior preferences using Houzz or other images you may have collected, then develop CAD drawings, 3D images, and virtual walkthroughs showing the millwork design, lighting and electrical plans, trim package, and preliminary floor, ceiling, and wall finishes for your review and comment.
At the end of this phase, we will incorporate any comments you have on the new design elements in one iteration, and solicit a follow up cost estimate from the contractor(s) who assisted us in Phase I to validate we are still within your targeted budget. Watch our Phase 2 video to learn more.
Phase 3: Construction Documentation
Once you sign off on the Phase 2 design, we will develop the drawings required for construction, bidding, and for submittal to the local Building Department for your construction permits.
During this phase, we will also finalize coordination efforts with the other members of your consultant team, which may include: geotechnical engineer, civil engineer/surveyor, structural engineer, landscape architect, truss fabricator, fire sprinkler contractor, green building rater, Title-24 Energy consultant, a/v consultant, etc. Watch our Phase 3 video to learn more.
For a list of recommended consultants, see our list of trusted Colleagues.
Phase 4: Contractor Selection / City Plan Check
We will help you create a pool of pre-qualified bidders with contractors who have built past projects of ours, as well as builders you introduce to us. We create detailed instructions to bidders and a bid calendar, respond to questions during the bid period, help you select a contractor, and make sure different bids are accurate.
Nearly all of our projects are competitively bid out, with as many as 10 contractors competing for the right to build your home. Our highly detailed architecture + interior plans ensure that all contractors are bidding “apples to apples” and that the design intent will be carried out during construction with minimal risk of change orders due to incomplete plans.
While the contractors are bidding on your project, we will be working with the Building Department to obtain plan approval so that you can start construction soon after you have selected your contractor. Watch our Phase 4 video to learn more.
Phase 5: Construction Administration
We remain at your service and completely accessible to your contractor during construction on an as-needed basis. We believe in a team-oriented approach during construction and will do what we can to help your builder keep the project moving, while protecting your interests and the integrity of our design.
If requested, we will visit your project site during construction to confirm the contractor is meeting the intent of the design and to answer questions that may occur. The travel and meeting time for these construction site visits would be billed to you on an hourly basis, but all other design clarification questions during this phase are part of our fixed fee. Watch our Phase 5 video to learn more.
Different firms have different strategies and philosophies: ours is based on heavy client interaction, creative and custom solutions, and high value for both your design and construction dollar.
Our fixed fee approach includes the following as basic included services:
- Uniquely detailed 3D interior/exterior models of your new design (very useful for taking virtual tours of the home to truly understand the new design prior to the start of construction)
- Unlimited plan and 3D model iterations during the initial schematic design phase until you are satisfied
- Highly detailed and comprehensive construction documents
- All the vital coordination of the many required engineering consultants and City/County Permitting Departments
- Assistance bidding your project out to multiple contractors to take advantage of competitive bidding, using our highly detailed plans, specifications, and instructions to bidders
Admittedly, our comprehensive approach is not a perfect fit for all clients. To that end, if you could take the time to fill out our New Client Questionnaire, that will help us determine whether we might be a good fit for you as your architect!
“Studio S Squared is amazing to work with. They have a strong sense of design but were also very responsive to our ideas and questions. They were extremely patient with our many many questions and ideas, and the iterative process with them was actually smooth and fun.”
“Studio S Squared Architecture is in my opinion the best choice for anyone who plans to build a new home or remodel an existing home in the greater bay area. Over the past 20 years, we have supplied custom ordered window and door packages for many homes designed by Studio S Squared. They have vast design knowledge, from old traditional designs to new contemporary.”
“The Studio S Squared team is extremely talented and have great aesthetic vision. They are extremely accessible and helpful, with no desire to nickel and dime clients. I’m so glad we decided to work with them and I would use them again in a heartbeat.”
“Studio S Squared provided service that was prompt, courteous, professional, accommodating, and reasonably priced. We now enjoy a beautiful, open, naturally lit, energy-efficient house that fits our lifestyle perfectly and is a continuous source of pride and pleasure. Five stars.”
“We immediately felt that Studio S Squared deeply understood our vision for our home. They came up with the most beautiful, elegant and functional design we could have imagined. We are literally living in our dreams now.”
“Studio S Squared’s plans definitely stand out amongst the rest as they take a very thorough and detailed approach to the design of their projects. Their homes also tend to have their own charm, breaking away from the cookie cutter norm that many architects get too comfortable with. They definitely make our job fun, interesting, and unique. Go with them!”
“The use of 3D modeling was extremely helpful in planning and designing the rooms and floor plan. We thoroughly enjoyed the collaborative process of discovery and design. Studio S Squared fosters a creative office atmosphere, which made it a delight to work on our project.”
“Eugene and his colleagues were incredible to work with, listening to our desires and modifying the design based on our feedback (although to be honest, we did very little modification, since he captured our wishes spot on!).”
“As first-timers to home remodeling, we appreciated Eugene’s patience and guidance as we explored numerous design options. The Studio S Squared team was both professional and personable and translated our desires into an amazing design.”