Schematic Design

During this stage of the commercial building process, an architect or an architectural firm is charged with creating the very first designs that the property investor receives. The initial design is called the schematic design, and it essentially synthesizes the planned program into a feasible design.

These designs will be created initially as schematic drawings. These specially plotted designs help to address all of the really significant areas of design that need to be seen and reviewed appropriately before the high detail drawings can be approached.

There is a lot of work that goes into these initial schematics because the drawings will eventually become the basis for the design development process. In other words, it will help the investor and architect figure out, refine, and fix all of the faults before any significant decisions are made in the construction plan.

Here is a basic list of what you can expect to find in a schematic drawing:

  • Preliminary building floor plans, space dimensions, volumes, sketches, site maps, and general uses for open space
  • Preliminary material selections
  • Preliminary room layouts and plumbing fixtures
  • Preliminary landscape concepts
  • Mechanical, electrical, and plumbing issues
  • Preliminary response to civil engineering queries involving paving, drainage, grading, soils, and structural systems
  • Preliminary cost estimates

During the schematic design phase, the architect is only looking to define the general scope and conceptual design of the construction project. These sketches are always very rough, but they are an essential part of the process as they allow the important parties involved to get a better feel for the concept so that the final design turns out well.

The investor will be able to inspect these sketches and see if the architect has correctly interpreted the functional relationships between various activities and the appearance of the actual exterior building.


There will be a period of consultation between the investor and architect as they work through the sketches and concepts involved in the design-bid-build system. Keep in mind that other media can also be used, and are used, increasingly in the building industry—slideshow presentations, video, and 3D walkthroughs are common.  

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