Architectural Design Phases

Architectural Design Phases: Pre-Design and Starting the Revit Model

Learn the scope and deliverables that architects are responsible for and how the Revit model begins in the architectural design phases.

We’re examining how the Revit model begins during the first of the architectural design phases.

We will also introduce how a database tool integrated with Revit can help project teams achieve greater efficiency. 

What is the Pre-Design Phase in Architecture?

pre design sketch in black and white

The initial phase of the architectural design process is known as Pre-Design or Programming. The primary goal of this phase is to acquire a comprehensive understanding of the constraints of the project. It is also the time to construct a plan for the project’s execution. 

During Pre-Design, the design team will evaluate the site that has been identified for the project. They will also work with the owner to clarify what programs or uses are to be incorporated into the design and perform a comprehensive review of all applicable zoning ordinances or restrictions pertaining to the development of the project.

This initial information gathering effort helps the design team clarify the possibilities and constraints of the project. Initial goals for the design will also be established based on this data collection.

Typical Deliverables for the Pre-Design Phase
Typical deliverables that are obtained or produced at the conclusion of pre-design include:

  • Site Survey (Showing topographic information, existing structures, utilities, etc.)
  • Geotechnical Report
  • Zoning & Preliminary Building Code Analysis
  • Program & Project Scope Verification Document
  • Owner-Architect Agreement (AIA B101, or similar)

Working in Revit during the Pre-Design Phase

Because this is the first phase of a project, you will begin by setting up the Revit model. For a more technical guide to setting up a project in Revit, refer to this tutorial here.

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In Pre-Design, preliminary topographic and site boundary information obtained through a site survey can be linked into the Revit model to establish a basic site plan.

Various zoning requirements – such as setbacks, height limits, or easements – can also be shown graphically within the Revit model. Or, in some cases, these items can be modeled three-dimensionally to provide both the client and design team with a clear understanding of the zoning implications.

If you are working with an existing Revit model, this phase will entail verifying the project’s as-built drawings. This process involves a taking detailed building survey or facility audit to confirm that the existing Revit model is accurate. 

Using a Flexible Database with Revit during the Pre-Design Phase

Flexible databases are digital tools that make it easy to capture and store building data in an organized manner. Revit limits the kind of data you can attach to a model. The main advantage to using a flexible database is that images, files, meeting minutes can be surfaced right in Revit. 

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Here are a few specific ways to make the Pre-Design Phase more efficient:

  • Field Data Collection: Use flexible forms to capture and organize rich field data like photos, notes, and measurements that you can then surface right in Revit. Collecting all types of field data in one channel ensures that it is easily searchable at any time, even in Revit. Learn more about documenting existing conditions.
  • Client Questionnaires & User Surveys: Use shareable forms to gather consistent survey data from users that you can then link to rooms within the project. Reference this feedback anytime in the Revit model.
  • Meeting Notes: Use smart text fields to input notes that allow you to create a room, equipment, and people tags that link directly to that element. Refer to these notes side-by-side with your Revit model.

Layer-App-The-Architects-Guide-to-Project-Kickoff-4-1024x672-1Want more Pre-Design workflow strategies? Check out our article:

"4 Strategies for Simplifying the Pre-Design Phase."


Interested in learning more about Layer App, the mobile-friendly database tool connected to Revit?

We invite you to sign up for a short demo to learn more >

Images courtesy of BVH Architecture.

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