The 5 Stages of an Architectural Project

Updated April 17, 2017

While there are some architectural firms that suggest there are four stages to the design process, many professionals prefer to provide a more-detailed analysis using five phases. Either way, the design process will remain very similar regardless of the specifics of the project. Consistently adhering to a tried-and-true process should result in a more efficient, predictable project design, increasing the likelihood of success.


Prior to the actual design phase, an architectural project begins by first conducting some research and legwork. This involves addressing land use issues, preparing to pass city building codes and ordinances and seeking possible investor interest. There may also be historical and environmental issues that require research before moving forward with the project. It's likely the results of these studies will impact the project, so understanding them in advance is necessary.

Initial Design

This is considered an intermediate phase in the architectural design process. This step essentially builds on the studies phase by getting very detailed analysis and research completed. This phase is crucial as the results of this work drive the decisions concerning the remaining steps. While this does not generally involve working with state officials, it does take into account all facets of the project prior to moving forward.

Project Approval

This phase addresses approved steps of an architectural project. This includes a general plan and project explanation, technical and engineering systems, meeting state mandated standards, as well as the organisation and estimated costs of construction. It is at this stage the chief architect, engineer or project manager give their seal of approval.

Final Design

Phase 4 includes the entire set of completed designs based on client style requirements and functionality needs of the building. The designs at this stage include both the projects interior and exterior schematics, and should include everything needed to begin the construction process. Many architectural firms will assist their clients in the construction bidding process at this stage using "specification documents." These include working schematics, product and equipment specs and estimates.


The final step in the architectural design process is construction. The architect is still actively involved in the building at this stage, often visiting construction sites to ensure the structure is being built according to specifications. If changes are required, the architect's role in this phase is to make certain any needed alterations are completed. Keeping the client informed of progress and inspecting the end result are the final steps in the architectural design process.

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About the Author

Tim Brugger has been writing professionally since 1995. He has published newsletters, white papers and informational articles for organizations such as IDS Financial Services, Red Chip Review and Western Independent Bankers. His fiction has also been published online. Brugger majored in business studies at the University of Oregon.