Design Process

Listen First, then Solve

David Matero Architecture, a small, yet diverse full-service architectural firm, begins each project by listening to the Client. After all, it is their project. (It has been noted that David is better at listening to his clients than to his wife). Listening and appropriately responding has rewarded DMA with an interesting and varied portfolio. With over 30 years of experience in a variety of projects from New York to Maine, DMA enjoys the challenges of both commercial and residential architecture and often discovers that these genres can overlap to help solve design issues. As one reviews the DMA portfolio they might have difficulty finding a style. As different as clients are, so too should be their buildings. At DMA we strive to design a building that is a reflection of the client, environmentally appropriate, and good design. We believe that a well thought-out and common sense approach to a design project can create beautiful architecture. Although full architectural services is what we like to provide, DMA is good at adapting to the services that are appropriate for our clients. Appropriate services might be a contract by the hour, or a percentage of the construction project, or somewhere in between. We’ve even been known to provide emergency architectural services when clients realize, almost too late, that hiring an architect is a good thing.

The Design Process

Our design process can be broken down into six phases that often overlap and are combined depending on the complexity of the project and whether it is a residential or commercial project. However, almost all projects include all these phases of design and construction in some form or another:


Discussions with the owner to review goals, needs and requirement are critical to establishing the scope of work. It is our job to ask questions to get a clear understanding of the ultimate goals of the client. If the project is an addition and/or renovation, field measurements are taken to produce a set of existing conditions that will be used as a base for design discussions.

Existing conditions, at a minimum, include floor plans, building elevations, and building sections. If the project will be a new-build, then a survey and an understanding of the site constraints and zoning / code analysis are critical.

Schematic Design / Concept Design (SD)

Realizing that a well-thought-out building and site is a collection of complex elements, preliminary concepts are established that begin to set forth the major elements of the project. Preliminary plans, hand-drawn sketches, computer renderings, and/or models are just some of the media that DMA will use to present concepts to the client. SD is also the stage where a preliminary code review is researched to identify zoning requirements or jurisdictional restrictions.

The SD stage establishes the general scope of work, spatial relationships, scale and form, and relation of the building to the landscape, and involves the Client’s review and comments. It is important that at every stage the Client is engaged in the design process as we feel that the Client is part of the design team.

Design Development (DD)

Based on the approved SD drawings, Design Development takes the design to more detail as we concentrate on hardline drawings using CAD. Depending on the complexity of the project, components of the building such as the structural and mechanical system are established. At the end of this phase, a design has been sufficiently developed and documented to begin cost estimate discussions with one or more selected contractor(s).

Drawings will include floor plans with dimensions, elevations, building sections and major details. An outline specification might be part of this scope to gain a better understanding of the design in words and text. The energy efficiency of a project is well understood during this phase, and if it’s a residential new build we will provide a HERS rating (Home Energy Rating System) which measures a home’s projected energy performance.

Construction Documents (CD)

Based on the approved DD and any adjustment during discussions, detailed drawings and specifications will be necessary for pricing, code, and construction. Drawings may include:

  • Site Plan
  • Landscape Plan
  • Code Review and Analysis
  • Life Safety Plans (commercial)
  • Dimensioned floor plans and roof plan
  • Building sections
  • Building elevations
  • Detailed wall sections and details
  • Interior elevations
  • Interior details and schedules (door, window, finish schedule, etc)
  • Millwork details
  • Reflected ceiling and electrical plan, lighting plan, lighting details and lighting schedule
  • Interior design (includes assistance with choosing plumbing fixtures, appliances, floor and wall coverings, and colors)
  • Structural drawings (foundation, framing plans and details)
  • Mechanical, electrical and plumbing (typically provided by MEP engineers)
  • Specifications

Bidding/Negotiations (B/N)

During the bidding process DMA will answer questions from bidders through the addenda process. Once bids have been submitted, DMA will analyze the bids and make notes and recommendations to the Client. In all projects, DMA will assist the Client with negotiations with their selected contractor.

Construction Administration

During construction, DMA will serve as a representative of the Client. DMA will visit the site, along with the client and/or contractor, on a weekly biweekly/monthly basis to remain generally familiar with, and to keep the Client informed about progress and also review the quality of the ongoing work to determine if it is in accordance with the Construction Documents. At the end of construction a punch list will be assembled that will outline the final items necessary to complete construction and for release of final payment.