Workflow Guides

The Architect's Guide to Project Kickoff

Learn how to set your project team up for success with The Architect's Complete Guide to Project Kickoff for architects and designers.

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Your firm won a project contract! Now what?

Congrats! But before you start designing or modeling geometry in 3D, there are a few key items to assemble during project kickoff to ensure project success. 

Here’s a helpful guide to project kickoff meetings to help you get started.

What is the Project Kickoff Phase?

The project kickoff phase occurs at the beginning of the project.

This phase is an opportunity for the project team and the client to align on goals, process, schedule, and budget for the construction project in real time.

It's a chance to get the project started off on the right foot by building alignment across team members.

It's also a time for team members to meet one another and the client before diving into actually doing the project. 

Finally, it is fundamental to a project's success.

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Why do I need a process for project kickoff?

Architects could be setting themselves up for failure and chaos by ignoring project kickoff and going straight to designing.

By starting a design without the proper context, architects will make assumptions about the project or what the client wants. This could lead to rework and wasted time once more information is gathered.

Start projects off on the right foot by confirming assumptions with the client and team members. 

The project kickoff phase usually involves a series of meetings (both internal and external). Internal meetings occur without the client and are an opportunity to workshop a preliminary project plan and align on critical pieces of information before meeting with the client.

What is the goal of the external project kickoff meeting?

The first external meeting is called the Project Kickoff Meeting. This meeting typically includes the client, client’s rep, and project contributors, such as the architect, engineer, and GC (if applicable at this stage).

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For New Construction projects, attendees may also include site surveyors, civil engineer, land owner, and a master plan team (if part of a larger development).

And for Adaptive Reuse and Renovation projects, attendees may include the local historic preservation society, base building architect, building inspectors, and the demolition team.

The Project Kickoff Meeting agenda should include time too:

  1. 1. Foster strong team morale and develop cohesion from the start
  2. 2. Align on project goals, schedule, communication style, tools, and budget
  3. 3. Discuss design related decisions that may impact pre-design
  4. 4. Consider lessons learned from previous projects to incorporate into this project
  5. 5. Set a cadence for meetings and client approval during the design and construction phases of the project

Should clients attend project kickoff meetings?

Clients should certainly attend project kickoff meetings as they are the primary stakeholder in the project!

Don’t show up to the first client meeting empty handed. Do a bit of homework prior to the meeting to get the most value out of your client’s time.

It’s common to have internal project kickoff meetings before presenting the plan to the client. As eager as you are to host the external project kickoff meeting with the client right away, don’t skip this step! Going into the client kickoff as an informed and unified front helps you have a highly productive conversation with the client.

Allowing everyone to hear the client express concerns and expectations directly prevents problems from occurring due to misaligned expectations.

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What type of information do I need going into the Project Kickoff Meeting?

Here’s a brief checklist of what information you need to collect going into the project kickoff meeting. You can think of all of this information as necessary to onboard new team members to the project.

1. Project Overview

What are we designing and building?

This is a document outlining the project scope, goals, and parameters, such as square footage targets.

2. Client Overview

Who is the client? What types of projects have they completed before?

This could be a word document or slide deck that describes the client’s background and shows a few sample projects from the client.

3. Roles and Responsibilities

Who is doing what?

This is a spreadsheet or directory of team members, their titles, email, and primary responsibilities for the project.

4. Tooling & Communication

How will we execute this? What information are we exchanging when, through what platform, and to who?

This includes a BIM execution plan that will align teams on standards and protocols for design files.,

A spreadsheet outlining the tools used for preferred communication (Slack, email, etc.)..

A software that tracks project and meeting schedules.

5. Troubleshooting Plan

How should we handle project and coordination issues later down the line?

This could be a set of guidelines for how to handle disputes or coordination issues once the project has gotten started.

6. External Project Kickoff Meeting Agenda

What should we discuss at the external project kickoff meeting?

This could be a word document with bullet points on important topics to cover during this meeting.

Note: some of this information may also be found in the project RFP or the project contract as items specifically requested by the client. Definitely leverage those two documents as primary resources when preparing for project kickoff!

What happens after the Project Kickoff Meeting?

After the first external kickoff meeting with the client and project teams, meeting minutes get circulated either by the client side or primary contract holder (typically this would be the architect in traditional design bid build contracts).

If everyone is fully aligned after this initial meeting, then it’s time to close out this project phase and move onto pre-design. 

If a follow-up meeting is required, then the next step is to schedule and prep for that meeting.

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How do we actually start a project?

For architects and designers, once the project kickoff phase is complete, the next step is to start designing the project. Typically, this is known as the Pre-Design phase

This phase involves the production of several deliverables, such as:

  • Sketches
  • Inspiration and mood boards
  • Retrospective on similar projects completed in the past
  • User interviews
  • Programming diagrams and associated square footages
  • Building code analysis
  • Target unit mix (in the case of residential, commercial, and mixed-use design)
  • Measuring existing conditions (in the case of adaptive reuse or renovating an existing building)
  • Site and zoning analysis (in the case of ground up construction)

Depending on what type your project is, you may also be responsible for coordinating other tasks.

New Construction

  • Project teams will need to conduct site and massing studies (daylight, massing, traffic patterns) to understand the shape of the new building and where to situate it on the property.
  • A licensed surveyor will need to conduct a site survey and produce a 2D site plan.
  • A zoning analysis is important to inform the program and size constraints of the building.

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Adaptive Reuse/Renovation

  • Depending on the scale and scope of the renovation, project teams may conduct an existing conditions analysis to determine what will be demolished vs. reused.
  • Inspectors may be brought in to study the existing building systems to determine if they can be reused.
  • If the client doesn’t have as-builts or construction documents of the current space, the renovation architect will need to measure the existing space and build a 3D model from scratch.

Each of these deliverables come in a variety of formats (paper drawings, digital files, text documents) that contain rich information about the design potential for the project.

To read more about the Pre-Design phase and setting up your Revit model, click here

How can a flexible database tool help with Project Kickoff?

Starting any design and construction project can be extremely overwhelming.

Information comes in various formats from several stakeholders. The design is in a nebulous state and is constantly changing. The client is still deciding on the program for the building. The team is still taking shape.

A flexible database tool like Layer App, can help project teams manage their data and design from project kickoff to project and client hand-off. 

A flexible database tool can:

  • Serve as a single point of truth to onboard the client and new project team members
  • Organize all of your project data into categories
  • Link to your Revit model to allow visibility into the design model

Here are 5 examples of how a flexible database tool can help you during the project kickoff:

1. Company & Team Directory

  • Store contact info and link it directly to a drawing, project data, or product
  • View all data or products associated with a company or contact
  • Tag people or project data within meeting minute documents

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2. Document Storage

  • Store drawings, reports, and documents that you can access with one click
  • Create presentations with document data

Layer App-Project Kickoff-3-Document Storage

3. Meeting Minutes

  • Tag people or project data within meeting minute documents
  • Create and assign tasks directly from the document
  • Share or download documents

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Test drive Layer App's Meeting Minutes template →

4. Existing Conditions Report

  • Capture different types of survey data in one place
  • Link survey data to BIM
  • Create reports from survey data
  • Tag survey data in meeting minutes

Layer App-Project Kickoff-5-Existing Conditions Survey

Test drive Layer App's Room Survey template →

5. Room Data Sheets

  • Organize room data in one database
  • Estimate equipment and furnishings for each room
  • View BIM data in Layer App and vice versa
  • Create custom reports

Layer App-Project Kickoff-7-FF&E Report

Test drive Layer App's Room Data Sheet template →

To Summarize...

You can think of the project kickoff phase as a way to onboard the client and other collaborators to your methodology and preferred workflows, especially if you have never worked with them before. 

Project kickoff sets the tone for the client’s experience for the remainder of the project. 

By dedicating time and effort at this initial stage, teams can avoid miscommunication, project delays, and scope changes down the road. A strong kickoff phase increases client and collaborator satisfaction and reduces risk. 

If you’d like to learn more about a flexible database tool like Layer App, schedule a demo →

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