Michael Blutt Architecture’s Architectural Design Process


Our mission is to Improve your Quality of Life through Design.  We strive to educate and guide you through the process of design and construction so as to be able to refine and achieve your goals in the process.

We hope that you find this information informative and ask that you call us to discuss the project that you are considering, to determine if we are an appropriate fit to assist you in developing your ideas.

Michael Blutt Architecture’s involvement in your project usually begins with a referral from a friend or colleague, meeting us at an event, finding us through a web search, or through the BSA or AIA, followed by an initial phone call to discuss your project and to determine if we are an appropriate fit for your needs, and if we are, to setup an initial meeting.

The initial meeting usually follows a common path and involves;


A discussion concerning the scope and goals of your project

Your first impressions

A review of images you have collected, images are very helpful for clarifying and discussing intent, getting everyone on the same page, both during design and construction, (visit Pinterest)

A discussion of our design process

A discussion concerning the project schedule and budget

A discussion of agreements, the AIA B105 & our MBA Architectural Services Agreement

A cursory review of site and existing conditions

A proposal from Michael Blutt Architecture (MBA) either provided during the meeting or via e-mail subsequently, depending on available time and complexity of the project. The proposal should clearly define the scope/program of the project including, rooms, area, aesthetic intent, etc. so as to minimize misunderstandings later in the process.

Our design process usually follows a typical path and the phases can be generalized to include:

Setting Goals – Documenting Context – Design Options – Cost – Construction

Most residential projects can be categorized as either new construction, full renovation, partial renovation, or addition, or an apparently random combination of these, each with their own benefits and complexities.

Depending on the specifics of the project and client, each phase in the process varies in terms of time, complexity, and expense.  Each phase is specific to the project at hand, where for new construction context is limited to the site and site issues, for a full renovation of an existing house with an addition the context can be very elaborate.

All of this leads to a complex set of decisions, discussions, and choices which in the end develops into the realization of your goals.  There are innumerable changes, good and bad, that may be required along the way and we strive to educate you about the significance of each of the decisions as we move through the process so as to be able to achieve the greatest sum of the parts from what is available.




With the scope/program clearly defined, based on the discussions in the initial meeting and the architectural services agreement, a general understanding of the project cost can be estimated using square foot construction costs.  Understand that project conditions, such as the affluence of the town, the complexity of the construction, the quality of the finishes, and building performance requirements, to name a few, can significantly affect the contractor bid proposals.


For renovations and additions one of the first step is documentation of the existing conditions including:

Survey of existing conditions:

Measuring the interior and exterior of existing house.  Depending on the scope of work this may require either a localized portion or the entire house

Photographing of all interior and exterior conditions and surrounding conditions

Photographing and recording profiles of interior and exterior trim and details, finishes, wall thicknesses and materials, insulation, etc.

Measuring floor to floor and ceiling heights

Evaluation and documentation of the existing windows and doors in terms of condition/integrity, propositions, and detailing

Measuring roof pitch, eave and rake projections, materials, and roof details

Documenting the foundation materials, width, and its condition/integrity.  In some cases where new construction will be supported by portions the existing foundation test pits will be required to verify the material below grade, depth, footing size, etc to evaluate its ability to accommodate the additional loading of the new construction.

The production of existing conditions drawings, based on the survey information, will be used as the underlayment for the design options and ultimately for the existing/demolition drawings to be included in the construction documents.

In the case of additions a certified site plan will be required by the building department to show that all proposed work is to be built within the zoning setback limits or if not a zoning variance will be required.  If it is clear that the proposed addition is not encroaching on the setback requirements the certified site plan and wait until later in the process.  In some situations the site plan requires contours due to varying elevations of the finish grade, typically where lower level walk out access is proposed or flow of ground and storm water are of concern.

As the design options evolve additional verification of existing conditions may be required during the process as a better understanding of the proposed changes develops.


Design is usually a cyclical process of sketching, discussing, and revising, with each cycle refining the goals for the project, followed by another cycle.  The design phase is the most complex in that it requires analysis and evaluation of a broad range of complex issues that tend to be fluid and specific at the same time, think of it as a Rubik’s Cube where the solution is not a solid color on each side but a perfect blend and different on each side.  Design incorporates aesthetics, construction issues, space planning, traffic flow, adjacencies, materials, engineering systems, building envelope, energy performance, code requirements, to name a few.  A lack of understanding of any one piece can derail the best design intent, all of which tends to make the process more complex.

In terms of aesthetic character/style there are three primary organizing principles; redefine the aesthetic with the new work, maintain the exiting aesthetic, or counterpoint the new work against the existing aesthetic.  How these principles are applied can vary across a project but consistency of approach reinforces the integrity of the final design making it more cohesive and rational.

The performance goals for a project have a minimum required standard that is defined by the building code.  These should not be viewed as optimal but rather as the lowest allowable level of performance.  Improvements beyond the code minimums can provide a significantly higher performing building while at the same time paying for themselves through energy savings over time.  The current pinnacle of high performance residential building is the Passive House Standard, of which few local projects achieve but application of some of its strategies and methods can have a significant beneficial effect on most projects.


The cost phase collects pricing estimates for the design, based on the design sketches and schedule of finishes and assemblies, from contractors to verify that the scope and budget are on track with current construction costs and in some situations will require refining the scope or breaking the project into phases, or alternates, to stay on track with the budget.


The construction phase includes production of the construction documents, selection of a contractor, construction, periodic observation of the work in progress, and responding to contractor requests for additional information or clarification.  If in the pricing phase one of the contractors stands above the rest in terms of quality of references, reasonable pricing, responsiveness, etc. we would recommend discussing a negotiated contract for construction with them. This has the potential to streamline the entire construction phase, as the construction documents can be simplified because they would not need to go out to bid.  The contractor’s involvement in terms of the means and methods during the production of the construction documents can improve the quality of the documents, and it would allow you can get on the contractor’s construction schedule earlier in the process.

Agreement Structure & Fees

Concerning the structure and fees of Michael Blutt Architecture, our architectural services agreement is structured with a flat rate of $250 for the initial meeting and an hourly rate of $120/hr for all other services.  My proposal is an estimate of the amount of time it is going to require to complete each phase of the work.  I will require a deposit of 1/3 of the project estimate at the start of the work, which I will work against until it is depleted, at which time I will require the second 1/3 of the agreement, and so on.  I do not work in arrears and if unforeseen complications arise that threaten to exceed the original estimate I will notify you with the intent of modifying the original agreement so as to cover the additional time estimated to be required.

We hope that you find this information informative and ask that you call us to discuss the project that you are considering, to determine if we are an appropriate fit to assist you in developing your ideas.