A project  at Future Engineering proceeds chronologically through several steps as follows:

Pre-Design :
Review the owner's program and budget; interview owners at length. With our residential clients, we often travel to their primary place of residence to do this. Seeing them where and how they live conveys an invaluable base of non-verbal information, and also enables them to show us favorite places, images, family heirlooms, living patterns, etc., that would be hard to convey in an office setting.

Site Analysis :
Before beginning design, we analyze the constraints and opportunities of the site, soils, utilities, zoning restrictions, privacy concerns, mature vegetation, view corridors, sun or wind exposures, highway noise, etc. This includes some mapping and photo documentation.

Schematic Design :
"Concept-driven" is a term we use to describe what happens next. We do not begin until we have isolated and verbalized the important concepts. These are the seeds around which the design will germinate. These come mostly from the owners/clients. And they range from favorite childhood images/places to specific motifs or materials, to particular indoor/outdoor relationships.

Truly, we try to access the fertile field of "dreams" the owners bring with them to the table: that is their contribution. Among the most challenging clients is the speculative developer who just says, "do something interesting." Yet, even in this case, we try to define a surrogate client and user group with dislikes and desires, toward which the design serves and responds.

The Office Style :
We do not have an identifiable style of architecture at Future Engineering. In fact, the diversity and individuality of our projects is very great. The only common ground they share is, we hope, that of quality and creativity. This diversity is a direct outworking of the "concept-driven" process, where we build the design around ideas, goals and concepts that are identified very early on.

Design Development Stage :
This is the "bridge" to construction drawings. Engineering consultants, lighting designers, cost consultants review the design drawing and give their input. As they begin to layout their specialized systems adjustments are quickly needed to accommodate the systems, while still preserving the design intentions.
This phase should not be skipped over, even in "fast track" projects, or the results could be lights off-centered because of structural conflicts, or ceilings dropped because of mechanical requirements, etc.

Construction Documents Phase :
Small scale detailing and materials specifications provide consistency, clarity and reinforcement of the "broad brush" design concepts established earlier. The documents' work truly completes and strengthens the overall design. It provides the up-close attention to detail which people will appreciate in the final product. An important part of the documents is the 16-division specifications manual which complements the drawings and includes applicable performance standards, warranty requirements, and regulatory guidelines.

Construction Administration Phase :
Surprisingly, we have found the design process to continue into the construction phase, with important opportunities to strengthen the design. Sometimes changes are required or requested, and these inevitably provide new design opportunities (or pitfalls, if not attended to). Finally, the contractor and his tradesman frequently are the source of creative ideas which can improve the final design, if he is made to feel free to offer them.

Tools Of The Trade :
IIn addition to site analysis, mentioned above, we make extensive use of study models. We also utilize AutoCAD, a full blown 3-D modeling CAD software package, allowing us the ultimate in architectural design flexibility. We can then provide owners with computer generated "snapshots" of their new home or building. In addition, we employ digital cameras, scanners, and color printers to further assist our clients in seeing, from many perspectives, the form and function of the design being presented.

All of these in-house capabilities allow us to provide our clients with the finest information available to aid in the visualization of the initial design concepts through final working drawings. In summary, the touchstone of the Future Engineering design process is the fertile collection of the Owners' dreams and desires, goals and concepts which are assembled early. The designs are grown around these through each stage of the process. One reason why the principals choose to stay involved.

On-Site Design :
As a post-script to our design discussion, on special projects, we use a participatory design process. The process is especially applicable to public or institutional clients, or mixed use projects, where there are multiple owners, multiple user groups, neighborhood concerns, site planning issues, and many variable factors. The process typically goes something like this:

The Architect and key consultants set up a design studio on the client's "turf" for a several-day-long session to actively study, analyze and plan the project. All the key design team members along with the client and key users are brought together in one place to brainstorm ideas.

A typical on-site day lasts 10-12 hours. As alliterative concepts are generated, these are all (even bad ones) put on the wall and discussed. Choices are at first expanded, then later on, narrowed. Hybrid schemes are developed. One hour to one-and-a-half hour review sessions are held at the close of each day with the owner/users.
By the end of the second or third day a consensus generally begins to emerge. Momentum builds, as people get involved, and a "buy-in" naturally occurs as each participant sees that everything is put up for scrutiny, that their concerns have been addressed and incorporated. The important thing is that all the key people are together in one place, communicating face to face.

This process is a natural outgrowth of the team ethos which Future Engineering  practices. We have noted that many other design firms do not wish to or will not submit to this sort of process because of the way they are structured.

Architect As Leader Of The Design Process :
The architect is the primary point of contact for all parties in the construction process, including owner, users, engineering consultants, planners, building contractor, and sub-contractors. The continuous flow of communication, good relationships with owner and builder, prompt responses, and accurate records become increasingly important as a project progresses.

Team Meetings :
During construction, it is important to hold regular team meetings with the contractor and a representative of the owner, if possible. We typically do this on a weekly basis at a regular time and place. Team meeting notes are recorded and distributed following the meeting, noting action items and who is responsible for follow-up. We like to start the team meeting during the design phase, if the contractor is brought on board early in the process.

Schedule And Budget :
We recommend pre-selecting a contractor during the design phase, in order to give construction input before the plans have been finalized. An updated cost estimate and construction time line is then developed, which is refined as more detailed drawings are produced. If the owner does not have a pre-selected contractor, then Future Engineering will retain a cost-estimator, or a contractor who has a strong project management staff to do cost estimating during the design process. We have found that our in-house cost estimates are frequently out-of-touch with the market, and therefore, we do not rely upon them past the schematic design stage, if budget is an important criterion, and it typically is.

Some Important Keys We Have Found In Budgeting :
Everyone has a budget (even if it is a lavish one).

Ask the owner what his budget is and establish it early on. It does no good to be optimistic about where the bids will come in, and then end up with a useless set of construction documents.

Be realistic. There is a definite relationship between quality of materials and price which cannot be ignored.
A good contractor is the best guarantee of a good pre-construction estimate of time and expense.
A good contractor is the best guarantee of a job with minimal change orders and delays.