Architectural Design Process 101: From Concept to Construction

Every building starts with a vision.  Architects bring these visions to life.  But what does the architectural design process entail? How does a vision go from a conceptualized idea to something tangible?  In this blog post, we will explore the steps and processes that an architect must undergo in order to transform a vision into a three-dimensional reality. 

Step 1: Masterplanning (Pre-Design Process)

The first step of the architectural design process involves everything before any actual design takes place.  To put it simply, architectural masterplanning is where the goals, values, and needs of a client are defined.  This is the stage of the process where an architect will meet with his/her client to discuss and refine a shared “game plan” for the project.  Developing a cohesive relationship with a client is a critical piece of the puzzle as it is extremely important for the client and the architect to share the same “vision” before moving on to the subsequent stages.

During this phase of the architectural design process, questions such as: What sorts of features – both functional and aesthetic – does the building require? What is the time frame for occupying your new space? Who will be occupying the space?  How will the space be utilized? What are the indoor and outdoor space requirements? What does the budget look like? 

Once these questions are fully considered and discussed, the next stage of the architectural design process can take place.

Step 2: Schematic Design

Now that the architect and client are on the same page with the overall vision of the project, the foundation and design elements of the building are brought to life through drawings.  The architect evaluates the program, schedule, and budget from the first stage of the architectural design process and prepares a rough sketch of the building schematics to review with the client.  The preliminary illustrations will outline the layout, features, and aesthetics of the space, which work to offer a first glimpse as to how the building will take shape.  

During this stage of the architectural design process, honest communication between architect and client is paramount.  Establishing a clear decision-making process can make the difference between satisfaction and regret.  

Step 3: Design Development

Now that the schematics are drawn out and agreed upon, it’s time expand those illustrations into a working model of the final project.  During this phase of the architectural design process, the schematics from the previous step will be overlaid with far more detailed information provided by team members and consultants. 

The design team will work to solve any coordination issues, while at the same time focusing on enhancing the project in order to mitigate the need for major revisions during construction documentation, or even worse, construction itself. 

At the same time, the architect will put their minds toward scaling floor plans and drawing out detailed elevations for approval.  Here, the design elements and plans that have been decided on along the way will be fleshed out into a three-dimensional form.  This is where things start to get really exciting since the schematics for the building will start to become much more vivid and tangible. 

It is, however, worthy to note that once the final outline is approved and signed off on, any significant changes made after this stage of the architectural design process will result in costly repercussions – so make sure everything is 100% up to par before moving on to the next steps.

Step 4: Construction Drawings

The final step of the architectural design process involves translating the schematics so that they are suitable for construction and permit submittal. The architect will prepare final drawings that fully communicate the design elements to those who will be involved in the construction process of the space. 

Construction drawings take form through large scale, detailed outlines that define the components of the building that need to be assembled and fabricated in order for it to take shape. It is the architect’s task, now, to develop the remaining elevations and preliminary structural analyses before consulting with the team of engineers, designers, landscapers, etc. to ensure a complete and coordinated set for construction. 

Step 5: Bringing the Vision to Life

Once the architectural design process is completed and ready for building, it’s up to the construction team to take those ideas and bring them to life. 

Zeroing in on a Net-Zero Future

Climate change is the fundamental design flaw of our modern-day era.  It’s the elephant in the room we have yet to confront head-on.  While other concerns such as healthcare, education, unemployment, etc. are all profoundly important in their own way, there’s a crisis knocking at our door that we must, now more than ever, answer to.

The threat that climate change poses doesn’t just apply to humans, but all life on earth, and buildings have continued to remain complicit—arguably more so than their ever-roving counterpart, the automobile.  Just this past year, residential and commercial buildings accounted for roughly 40% of the total energy consumption in the U.S.  Due to cement production, greenfield development, and fossil fuel burning, the residential and commercial sectors have also become the culprit for nearly half of the carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S.

It’s not too late to turn things around.

In recent times, the idea of “net-zero” buildings has become the talk of the town – or planet, more like it.  From related news articles, social posts, and blogs (just like the one you are reading now) flooding the internet from nearly every angle, it would seem that everyone is slowly becoming more and more interested in this utopian idea of a “net-zero planet”.

What exactly does it mean?  And how can we achieve this status?  

For those of you who have sought refuge under a comfortable rock, distanced far from the turbulence of today’s current events, you probably aren’t too familiar with the recent net-zero ideologies.

To put it in layman’s terms, net-zero buildings (or net-zero carbon/energy buildings), are structures that generate 100% of their energy needs on-site and/or off-site via renewable energy sources.  This means that an energy utility bill of a net-zero building would be – as the name would infer – zero ($0).

How is this possible? 

As of today, conventional buildings often utilize energy systems that result in emissions of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, etc.  Net-zero buildings, on the other hand, harness emissions-free, renewable energy via on-site/off-site sources such as solar, wind, and/or thermal energy systems.

To increase efficiency and reduce a building’s carbon footprint even further, many buildings will incorporate passive design elements within their build.  Some examples of this include implementing natural desiccants to remove humidity, strategically placed windows and mirrored surfaces to harness natural light, as well as vegetative roofing to deflect heat in the summer and retain warm air in the winter.  For more information on the sustainable techniques of “green buildings”, click here to check out one of our recent blog posts titled: Building a Sustainable Church.

So, what are our next steps?

At this point in time, we already have the technology to make this net-zero dream a reality.  It’s just a matter of convincing the rest of the world to hop on board.  Yes, it’s true that net-zero buildings often cost more upfront than your run-of-the-mill fossil fuel burner, but looking at it from an investment standpoint, many would deem that this choice to go net-zero makes great economic sense.  It’s up to us now to spread the word and help others see the value in pursuing the net-zero future ahead.

A Very Brief History of Bank Architecture

Banks are an intrinsic piece to our timeline—they’ve been around for as long as we can remember—dating all the way back to Mesopotamia. However, even though the concept of storing one’s valuables in a safe, secure environment has more or less stayed the same, the ways in which we’ve grown to interact with banks have changed drastically.  For example, even just a few decades back, sending someone cash electronically via a pocket-sized computer called an “iPhone” would seem like something straight out of a science fiction film.  However, fast forward to 2019, and this “Blade Runner-esque” technology is the reality we live in.

Not only that, but the physical walls that shelter our hard-earned cash have transformed through time, reflecting the progression and creativity of mankind as well as the age-old fundamentals of banking.

Let’s wind back the clock:

Before advanced technology (or at least what we consider advanced technology nowadays), banks took on quite a different form than we are currently familiar with. Around 2000 BC in Assyria, Sumeria, and India, temples and palaces became the storing grounds for grains, precious metals, and weapons. Those that deposited were charged up to one-sixtieth of the total deposit, with re-payment being issued from the harvest.

The emergence of merchant banks and personal bank accounts were then constructed into the mainstream during the Middle Ages, paving the way for counting houses and trading piazzas all throughout western Europe and leading the British to bring over commercial banks to the American colonies.

Banking in the 20th century:

Fast forward several centuries or so (see title of this blog post) to the early 20th century, and banks (being in tune with prohibition) were sober and serious: counters protected by grated wickets like jail cell bars and interiors constructed of traditional materials that lacked personality or any sort of welcoming ambiance. Banks believed that security, and security alone, should be their selling point—no funny business—no dilly-dallying.

That said, austere architecture and rudimentary design ruled the industry for the first half of the 20th century.  It wasn’t until after World War II that banks started breaking out of their shells a little more, trading in the grated wickets for glass panels and the dull, washed walls for lively shapes and colors.

Post-WWII Banks:

These traditional styles inevitably came to a complete halt, and a new client relationship model of the “sit-down bank” was born.  In no time, banks everywhere started shifting their focus from security (or at least in a design sense) to a welcoming environment that attracted customers and, more importantly, made them feel comfortable.  Transparent and vibrant architectural choices became the new norm in addition to large reception areas and fewer enclosed spaces.  Bright colored furniture pieces paired with an excessive amount of floor-standing ashtrays were arranged to exhibit a more “social” aesthetic, replacing the old “get in, get out” model
for one that allowed people to take their time, have a smoke, and think about their money second to their relaxation.

Today, we still see this same sort of humanistic approach being implemented into brick and mortar banks around the nation (maybe with a
few less vinyl cushion covers).  The truth of the matter is that any banking environment that allows people to feel comfortable and welcome in, is the type of environment that will see the most success at gaining and retaining customers.

2019 Architecture & Design: The Newest Trends on the Block

A trend is more than something that will simply be forgotten. Trends are building blocks for progress.  They give direction and work to represent a generation. Many people confuse trends with fads, thinking that they are one and the same.  However, trends have a lasting impact, whereas fads are often dead and gone before everyone can even participate in the initial craze.  

At VanmanAB, we meld together our own unique design elements with that of the latest trends on the block, resulting in a one of a kind brand that reshapes and redefines the way we look at architecture and design. 

So now let’s hop into the 5 architecture and design trends of 2019 that we are looking forward to:

Blending in.  

Who knew that the way to stand out in 2019 was by blending in? Following the commonly sung mantra of “less is more”, mirrored surfaces and reflective materials have gradually made their way into the mainstream as of late. When we think of a building, we often picture a structure that contrasts both the form and essence of its natural surroundings. In short, we can tell what is manmade and what is not. However, by blurring the lines between indoors and outdoors, manmade and natural begin to blend together, resulting in an aesthetic that not only reshapes our perspective on architecture and design but also leaves a lasting impression on all of those who are looking closely.


Staying put in one location for a considerable amount of time means that every corner of your space should be utilized to its fullest potential.  With that, flexible furnishings and installations that serve multiple purposes are starting to find more use in modern spaces.  Some common examples of this today include walls that act as whiteboards, chairs that act as tables, moveable room dividers, etc. The possibilities are endless.


With the growing need to preserve our environment, many have opted for sustainable building models. From solar panels, passive design elements, to organic building materials, new methods of conservation have been finding their way into the living and working spaces all around us. For more information on sustainable architecture and design, check out one of our recent blogs titled, Building a Sustainable Church.

Brick is back. 

It’s about time brick has become the “talk” once again. Being one of the oldest building materials to date, it’s finally nice to see it being implemented in a fresh, modern sense. Having so many feasible and aesthetically pleasing applications, brick will certainly be utilized in all sorts of building projects this year. Keep an eye out for inspiration on your next project.


Making your space your own in this day and age is paramount when it comes to gaining and retaining new customers. Integrating your own unique persona into the very walls that house your environment helps give your atmosphere an approachable and human aesthetic. The truth of the matter is that people crave authenticity. Let your building show it. 

Building a Sustainable Church

God shaped the world so that natural systems render no waste. One organism’s waste is another organism’s food – this is the mystery that we, humans, have yet to crack – a simple yet beautiful order to all things that has allowed us to thrive as a species before time was even a thought.

Though through time we have slowly moved away from this sustainable model of life. That doesn’t mean it is too late to turn things around. In fact, it is our duty now, more than ever, to preserve the divine order of all things that God willingly put in our hands. 

Sustainable Churches? Absolutely. 

What better way to foster the preservation of God’s creations than by building a sustainable place of worship? Here are a couple of ideas to spark something great (and more importantly green) when planning your next project:

Setting matters.

Designing for place is very important when thinking about building a church (or any structure for that matter). Not only does it take environmental, societal, and economic aspects into account, but it also helps free up common roadblocks such as lack of access to local building materials, lack of community engagement, and lack of local economic enrichment.  Choosing the right setting for your project can go a long way toward helping the environment as local materials and labor supports the surrounding economy while mitigating the need for excess resources to be exhausted. 

Mimicking Nature.

This process, also known as biomimicry, can minimize costs and boost efficiency. For example, just as butterflies utilize nano-sized scales to repel dirt and stay clean, building exteriors can be coated with a protective layer that reduces the need for maintenance and extra spending.  Another common example of biomimicry is solar panel technology that converts solar energy into usable energy – the same way that plants utilize photosynthesis to covert the power of the sun into chemical energy. Not only is this type of energy clean and green, but it is also cost-efficient in the long run. 

Passive Design.

By reducing or removing the need for simulated climatic systems such as air conditioning, heating, lighting, etc., this type of design model is the textbook example of sustainability.  Examples of this include harnessing prevailing winds in a way that cools the interior of a structure, integrating natural desiccants to remove humidity, building acoustically efficient spaces to reduce/remove the need for speakers and other electronics, and incorporating vegetative roofing to deflect heat in the summer and retain warm air in the winter.  All of these design elements can work to reduce overall costs and minimize your Church’s carbon footprint.

Take a Stand.

Buildings have been telling God’s stories for thousands of years.  Now, it is our job to preserve the world that God gave to us by incorporating the organic processes that we were created from into the things that we create with our own hands.  By building a church in accordance to the diverse, natural systems that show the balance between life, death, and growth, congregants are more likely to take these practices home with them and realize how invaluable they are to the future of our planet. 

Building a Church: Why Design Matters

A church is more than four walls and a roof. When you enter a church, you should feel something. Something that transcends normalcy. Something that makes you feel closer to heaven. But how is this possible? How can a building have such a profound influence on our faith?

The answer is simple: God is in the details. In the design to be exact. A church’s design elements—from exterior to interior—play a vital role in its ability to attract and retain congregants.

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5 Perks of Using an Architecture Firm With an In-House Construction Team

An architect and a construction manager working together on a construction site

2-in-1 — the simple concept that was developed to make our lives a little easier. The phone case that acts as a wallet. The laptop that can be twisted into a handheld tablet. The washer that turns into a dryer.

You can welcome this type of simplicity to your new building project if you hire an architecture firm with an in-house construction team. Here are 5 perks your project will receive when design and build are coming from the same team.

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Top 3 Reasons Why Construction Projects Fail & The Steps You Can Take to Avoid Them

Construction hats sitting on a work site.

Construction projects fail for a variety of reasons, but more often than not complications can be avoided with proper planning, resources, and the right personnel in place!

Vanman has a 98.8% completion rate for all of our bank, school and church construction projects. In every project, we work to avoid the main issues that cause construction projects to stray from both timeline and budget.

Discover the top 3 causes of construction project failure and their solutions below.

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3 Modern Bank Interior Design Features Your Branch Needs

Two coworkers meeting outside a coffee shop

Modern banks are getting a face lift with added interior design features to improve the overall customer branch experience. Upgrading the in-store banking experience can help increase foot traffic and customer satisfaction.

Take Capital One, a once digital-only bank, for example. They did what no one predicted by opening the Capital One Café, a coffee shop plus bank. The premise? To provide a space where their customers have options to explore their finances or just grab a coffee and go about their daily routine. Despite initial industry skepticism, this out-of-the-box idea is proving to be quite successful.

Learn how your branch can hop on this trend and why adding modern interior design elements is the key.

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A Tour of How Modern Church Architecture Characteristics Can Improve Your Sermon

A church with green and brown siding with a large white cross on the roof

While many of the lessons from scripture apply to our 21st-century lives, classic church designs have fallen by the wayside when it comes to today’s society. Gone are the days of the copy and paste brick and mortar projects.

Today, modern church architecture characteristics are unique to each building due to the array of church sizes across the country. But when it comes to trends in congregation retention, the characteristics are vital, no matter a church’s square footage.
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