Phases of an architectural project

Fases de un proyecto de arquitectura

As you can imagine, raising a building, from a large stadium to a modest house, requires a rather long process that includes, from the first sketches to the completion of construction, a series of steps that range from the processing of licenses, the study of regulations, choice of materials, etc.

Sometimes, especially at first, this whole process can seem tedious because of the number of points that have to be fulfilled before moving on to the next phase.

In this post we will summarize the phases through which an architectural project must pass and the intermediate steps of each one of them.

First contact

Before starting any work it is necessary to contact the architect who will be in charge of it. This first approach will lay the foundations for the future preliminary project

Preliminary design requirements

There are some basic data that the client/promoter of the work must consider before starting his project, the most common are:

  • The kind of building.
  • Urban planning.

Let’s take a look at them:

Type of building

It may seem obvious, but the requirements for building according to which type of building change quite a lot.

A medical center is not the same as a restaurant or a ground floor house. They change the materials, the licenses, the structures and, of course, the budget.

Urban planning

Related to the previous point is urban planning, that is, the regulations used for land management in terms of its conditions to be transformed (built), or preserved.

In Spain, for example, urban planning depends on the public administration, and it must to take into account, among others:

  • Urban qualification: deals with the assignment of formal and volumetric characteristics of the building for each land
  • Shape and dimensions of public spaces per inhabitant
  • Areas for public facilities such as schools, libraries, civil administration buildings, hospital, etc.
Planificación urbanística

Preliminary project

We have seen that, with an idea of construction and a previous knowledge of the land and its planning by the public entities, we can already take the first step to carry it out and have a first contact with the architect.

The next step will be the preliminary project, in which the client and the architect will work together to outline the idea and start working.

In this step the architect will make the feasibility study and will work together with the client in the elaboration of an initial budget, which can be modified as the project advances.

Preliminary documentation

In this phase, the architect will present the first sketches and developments of the project that he has been commissioned to do. In order to facilitate his work and not to suffer delays, it is advisable to gather certain information concerning the location and characteristics of the plot

Complete geotechnical plan

The geotechnical plan is carried out by means of a study on the type of soil of the plot, which gives information on its different depths, the admissible tension for the land, its phreatic level (the presence of water), etc.

Architectural survey

If the work is planned to be carried out over an existing building, the architect must know its condition.

 The aim of the survey is to be able to make a historical reading of the building. Depending on the technique available, two or three dimensional studies can be made with graphic information about its structure.

Basic representations – Model, render

In this first phase, the architect will present his client with graphic elements that represent the first outline of the project, either with a model, a three-dimensional graphic representation, etc.

Floor plans, sections and elevation

While preparing more visual products, the architect creates the first plans and sections of the building for the next phase: the basic project.

In these first plans, in a simple way, the floor plan (top view), the sections (cuts) and the elevation (front view) will be presented.

Documentación previa, fase de proyecto de arquitectura

Basic project

At this stage, the documentation required to apply for the planning permission will be defined.

The materials, plans, accreditations and general urban development plans will be studied. It is the previous step to the execution of the project

Descriptive and constructive memory

The descriptive report is the technical document of the project that includes all kinds of information, from its location and urban legislation, building levels, number of spaces, structural description, materials and licenses

For its part, the constructive memory is a document in which we can find

  • The sustenance of the building.
  • Its structural system.
  • Its envelope.
  • Compartmentalization.
  • The finishes.
  • The equipment.
  • The fittings.

All data are broken down precisely, explaining the materials chosen and their characteristics

Memoria descriptiva y constructiva

Ordinances and general plans for municipal development

The project must comply with municipal by-laws and general municipal planning in order to be launched.

Town planning regulations

Town planning regulations, such as building, land use and development regulations, are those that complete the town planning with regulations on aspects not covered by the latter, such as morphological and aesthetic aspects, uses within the property, etc.

General Development Plans

A General Urban Development Plan is a document on urban development regulations used for the organization of one or more municipalities in relation to land use and its classification into urban land, land for development and undeveloped land, each following specific criteria

Accreditation of CTE compliance

The CTE (Technical Building Code), is, in Spain, the code that brings together the regulations relating to construction. It establishes the minimum safety requirements, such as DB SI, and habitability.

DB SI, Safety in case of fire

The DB SI (Basic Fire Safety Document) establishes the basic requirements that each building must meet in the event of a fire.
It covers six points:

It covers six points:

  • SI 1 – Interior propagation
  • SI 2 – Outdoor propagation
  • SI 3 – Evacuation of occupants
  • SI 4 – Fire protection installations
  • SI 5 – Firefighter intervention
  • SI 6 – Fire resistance of the structure
DB SI y CTE, pasos necesarios en las fases de un proyecto de arquitectura

Site plan

The site plan indicates, normally to a scale of 1:2000, the plot on which the project will be built, with a schematic detail of the adjacent streets, nearby houses, etc.

Summary of the budget

A document that collects all costs so far and those planned during construction. It is one of the necessary steps to apply for the building permit

Submission of a building permit

The building permit usually takes between 1 and 3 months (at least in Spain), so it is advisable to deliver all the necessary documentation, which includes the technical project with the location plans, site, safety studies, etc., as well as proof of payment of fees, safety study, descriptive report, among others.

Building licence

The planning permission is the permit required to start a construction project. There are two types:

  • Minor works, which do not affect the structure or sustainable elements.
  • Major Work, when working on the structural elements, whether it is a new work, a rehabilitation or a consolidation.

The cost of this license ranges between 4% and 6% of the budget of the work (at least in Spain), although this percentage may vary depending on the council or community.

Project of execution

In this phase the project is developed in its entirety and all the information necessary for construction is gathered, including construction systems, materials, etc.

This project must include the descriptive and constructive report and its annexes, as well as the location, structure, installation and detail plans.

PPTP – Special technical specifications

The PPTP is a document in which the conditions of materials and equipment must be included, describing the materials and works and with references to official regulations.

It will also include the conditions of execution, on how the works will be regulated in terms of assembly specifications, installations and mechanical equipment, as well as, if necessary, an environmental impact report

Energy efficiency study

In the case of new construction, the energy efficiency certificate has been compulsory since 2007 (at least in Spain).

In the case of older homes, they will need it if they are put up for sale or rent.

The energy efficiency certificate, which in Spain is valid for 10 years, classifies the building according to its annual energy consumption in reference to normal occupation conditions.

This certificate, as with, for example, household appliances, follows a classification by colours and letters. As we have seen in our post about passivhaus, the energy demand of a building or house in relation to another can be up to 90% in terms of energy saving

Building use and maintenance

Since 2005, it has been compulsory (at least in Spain) to provide each residents’ association with the Building Book, which contains information on the foundations and structure, exterior and interior carpentry, cladding, etc.

Canadian Energuide

Manufacturer selection and technical assistance

Before starting the work, it will be necessary to hire a builder and, depending on the difficulty and size, a quantity surveyor who will be in charge of controlling and monitoring the work in detail according to the project documentation.

Certificate of completion

Finally, the technicians who have been part of the management of the work will issue a document that must be endorsed by the corresponding Association of Architects.

This document includes the costs related to the management of the work, the visas issued by the professional association and the cost related to the civil responsibility assumed by the architect

First Occupancy License

The last point is the issue of the First Occupancy Licence by the administration, a licence that certifies that the work has been carried out according to the project presented to the town hall.

This is a compulsory document as its issue legalizes the construction and will allow the water, electricity and gas supplies to be registered.

This document is necessary for new construction works as well as for integral rehabilitations and works that change the configuration or use of the original building.

As you have seen, the phases of an architectural project include many interrelated steps necessary to carry out a project in accordance with current regulations.

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