Brief Development + Sketch Design

Developing a client’s brief is the first stage in any project, whether it’s a modest extension or a large-scale residential development.

Proper brief development is the key to a smooth design process and successful project. The brief development and sketch design process will vary from project to project and client to client, and will typically include Stages 0, 1 and/or 2 from the RIBA Plan of Work.  No matter the scale or complexity of the project, the Sketch Design stage always evolves as a discussion about aspirations, aesthetic preferences and how people will occupy the space. Some clients will be familiar with this process, but hopefully the information below will be helpful to those looking to appoint an architect for the first time.

Establishing Site Constraints to Inform the Sketch Design Stage

Our first task is to familiarise ourselves with the site.

  • How big is it?
  • What’s the orientation?
  • How does it relate to other buildings?
  • How does the access work?
  • Is the site broadly level or does it feature a noticeable gradient?
  • Are there particular constraints from services such as overhead cables or below ground drainage?

If you’re planning to keep it, we’ll also get to know the existing property. We’ll get a feel for how the spaces work (or don’t!), how the rooms are orientated, where the services are, and which walls might be load-bearing.

Using a Measured Building Survey as a Base for Sketch Designs

Depending on the size of the building and the site and the amount of work you wish to undertake, we might recommend appointing a specialist survey company to produce a digital set of “as existing drawings”. We can carry out measured surveys ourselves, but it’s often better to get the pro’s in as they have all the latest equipment. This means the surveys will be done faster and more accurately, especially in larger houses and bigger, sloping gardens.

We may also recommend a specific drainage survey, which will plot the routes and depths of your drains around the site if the proposed works will include an element of diversion or a connection into the existing system that is not as simple as tapping into an existing chamber.

Tell us About Your Aspirations

We’ll start off talking about how you currently live in your home; what do you love about it and what are you hoping to change?  Do you need more space, or are you looking to reconfigure the space you have so that it better suits your lifestyle? Some clients will have a clear idea about what they want to achieve and whether they are looking for an extension, a re-ordering or both. In other cases, an important part of the brief development and sketch design process is identifying which route will deliver the best use of space when balancing budget and site constraints.

The discussion will then turn to your ‘wish list’ for the project. What kind of spaces do you want to create? How big are they, and how would you like them to relate to one another? Do you have any preferences with respect to architectural style and materiality?

In the case of a new build or replacement dwelling, we’ll have similar discussions about your aspirations and requirements.

Once we’ve agreed a broad direction for the design and developed your brief, we can begin refining the proposals ready for the next stage in the process.

Then the fun begins!

We think graphically, and we’ll always have pens in our hands. From the very start of the process, we’ll produce sketches to explore ideas in plan, section, and elevation. We’ll talk through the sketches with you to identify whether the initial design is heading in the right direction.

The size of the project and how clear a client’s ideas are will influence how long this initial process lasts. We may hit the nail on the head in the first couple of sketches, or it might take a longer period of back and forth talking through different sketch design options. This stage of the project is important to make sure that we can work out what is most important to you before we start producing detailed drawings and committing to design decisions.

Are you looking for South Devon Architects to bring your dream home to life?

We’d love to hear all about your ideas, so why not get in touch and let’s see how we can help you to realise them.