Building a house is an exciting process. Whether it is your dream home or something you wish to turn into an investment property, the experience is unlike any other. You’ll witness your plans transform from inspiration imagery and sketches to an actual structure you can live in or profit from.

To make sure your house-building experience starts on the right foot, here’s an overview of what the architectural planning and design process is like when you’re working with an experienced residential architect:

Due Diligence Phase

An architect will begin by learning all about your vision, tastes, needs, and property goals. The architect will also collect information about the site, like the maximum square footage allowed, height limits, setbacks, topography, and special approvals that might be required. In the process, the architect will determine if your preferences are feasible, given the location’s code requirements and physical conditions.

When your architect has all the information he or she needs to get started, the sketching begins.

Conceptual and Schematic Design Phases


The first sketches or schematics are never final: their purpose is to give you a starting point to visualize options for the house’s layout and appearance. The Conceptual Design will show possible layouts for each level of the home as well as the outdoor space. Though these sketches will not detail particular finishes, they will focus on the big picture, like the flow and function of the space and goals for bedroom and bathroom counts.

At Letter Four, the Schematic Design includes modelling your favorite sketch in our 3D drafting software so that you can visualize how the house will look and feel. The team will build on this design and work on the technical details once you sign off on the initial schematic.

Design Development Phase

The architectural design process gets more technical during Design Development. It is at this time that your architect will bring on project consultants, such as the structural engineer, to prepare the engineering required to submit for plan check, the first step in the permitting process.

Your architect can give you detailed drawings or graphic renderings of the entire property, as well as the individual rooms and main indoor and outdoor areas. The design is pretty much finalized at this point. If you have major change requests, expect your architect to ask for additional compensation.


The architect will work with the city and other authorities to secure a building permit and other approvals, including green building compliance (a requirement in California). Each city is a little different and it’s important to have an architect that is familiar with your particular jurisdiction to help speed the process along and ensure that it goes smoothly. If you have special approvals that require design review boards or planning commission hearings, look to your architect as a guide through this more complex process.

Construction Documentation Phase

The design is a go once your architect starts gathering the construction documents. This phase is crucial to ensure that what your architect has designed is conveyed to the contractor. It includes every detail relevant to the actual construction, e.g., choice of windows and doors, light fixtures, electrical layouts, and schedules. The architect typically takes care of the technical details and works closely with you when documenting finish and fixture selections. It is these documents that your contractor will use to build the project.

Bidding and Start of Construction

These are typically two separate stages that your architect will supervise to act in your best interest as you negotiate pricing and scheduling with potential contractors. If you work with an architectural design and construction company like LETTER FOUR, INC., however, the start of construction can happen sooner as there’s no longer any need to perform a separate bidding phase. Design-Build firms check pricing through every project phase and provide a final, itemized bid while completing other phases to save you time and money.

At LETTER FOUR INC., your dedicated team works together through every project phase to bring your dream house to life. Our setup’s advantage is that the construction team can quickly get design information from the architect or confirm the project’s details. Likewise, our architectural designers can confirm design elements’ feasibility as early as the Conceptual Design Phase.

These phases are a simplified list of architectural design phases for residences. If you want to know more about our process, in particular, we’re only a phone call or email away.

Talk to our architects and project managers at LETTER FOUR, INC. by calling (323) 275-1140 or sending an email to You may also contact us through our website.