The Design Process

Altius Architecture diagram of architecture process


Architecture is an ancient practice. Architects and builders of the past had created a time-tested process for solving architectural problems. At Altius, we’ve taken these principles, infused them with modern architectural practices and developed our own rigorous, thorough and proven way of creating design solutions for our architectural projects. This process is the fruition of many completed projects that bring joy to our long list of satisfied clients. And we continue to get better at it every time. We remain relentless in refining our process with the use of new construction technology, compliance with building laws, and knowledge learned from our extensive years of experience in the business.

Quality design and craftsmanship takes time. Think of it as a journey. We will be with you every step of the way and help you make informative major decisions from the beginning and throughout the length of your project.

Speaking with our architects, Graham Smith and Cathy Garrido of Altius Architecture, I inquired about their overall design process. “Some clients have a really good eye and are very involved in the decision-making process, while others admit they have no taste and place all their trust in us to make the decisions,” Mr. Smith says. Ms. Garrido adds: “It takes an investment in time to work through a problem to achieve a resolution that aims for some ideal target.




During our introduction meeting, we will talk of many things about you and your project in order for us to understand how we can be of most help. Your lifestyle, the property and project itself, a clear understanding of your wants or “wish list”, must-have needs and priorities, and target occupancy date – these are just samples of many items that we delved into in order to gain a solid impression on how your new home or building will take shape.

We will also touch upon some of the more tangible attributes of the project, such as overall aesthetics, material selection and environmental impact. All of these will ultimately affect two important resources: cost (dollar) and time (duration) to build. For example, if you aspire for a green home but are hesitant due to the perceived additional costs associated with it, we can design a green space to your liking to find out if a small push to your budget will still work or not.

We will prepare a proposal that outlines what we talked about in order to define our scope of work and your expectations.

As our team starts interpreting the initial impressions regarding the project in the form of space planning, government-related matters such as review of zoning and other bylaws, identification of government authorities that have jurisdiction over the property and project will take place as well. A physical site inspection of your property will be conducted in order to analyze the potential and determine any restrictions within and around your property. This is achieved by conducting site measurements, collecting site photographs and making field observation notes. All of these will influence the building mass and exterior / interior spatial relationships of the project. It is also during this moment that we will identify any required specialty consultants, such as a surveyor (topographic survey), geotechnical engineer (soil bearing capacities) or an environmental consultant (hazardous materials report, in the case of a renovation).

We will then arrange for a meeting with you in order to present our findings. This will include an explanation as to we arrived at a design concept that will capture what you have in mind and meet known property restrictions in the form of site plan, space planning layout and 3d exterior models. If bylaw restrictions are significant, we will also present a alternate design concept that has the highest probability of getting approved by government authorities.



We will seek and evaluate your feedback a week or two after our presentation. A discussion about your preferences on materials, as well as the level of complexity, sophistication and financial costs of various systems, such as whole home heating methods, automation, audio-video system and water feature will occur as well. The project engineering consultants will be identified to provide solutions to your selected systems.

Architecturally, we will focus on identifying environmental and spatial relationships such as egress, solar orientation, ventilation strategies and viewpoints of interests, in relation to building footprint, massing, height and exterior-to-interior layout flow. From our initial layout, plans will begin to emerge and elevations will start to take shape, all in 3D computer models. An improved project budget will also be coordinated to ensure continued financial feasibility.

Let’s not forget that all our creative work will continue to be developed in parallel with our studies of bylaws and coordination with involved government authorities. As your representative, we will meet with such local authorities and assist you with all required applications, including application for minor variance when necessary.




With your feedback and confirmed sign-off on the schematic design, our team is now on full throttle. Experts in structural and mechanical engineering, audio-video integration and other specialty systems that we have identified in Step 2: Schematic Design will be engaged and coordinated by our team in order to maintain a central hub of information for all these complex but integral components. Decisions on building systems and ideal construction methodology will be made. The overall feel of the project will be more evident – from the exterior appearance, styles of openings, massing, texture, finishes and landscape concepts, up to the interior depth and aesthetics of room layout, stair design, material types, décor style, kitchen and bath layout and specialty rooms (such as theatre room), including the location of the utilities to make them all functional.

A few more meetings will transpire to ensure that all design developments continue to be on point, within reasonable budget allowances and timeline variances. As the last two items become more realistic and detailed, these meetings will give you the opportunity to assess your comfort level on project progress and financial impact, and make timely decisions when required in order to finalize the design. This will enable us to complete the final stages of the design to your satisfaction and expectation. By then, all approvals from required government authorities will be obtained.

During our presentation, you will see your project in its refined form –site and floor plans, elevations, sections, material selections, schedules and primary details. This will empower you to be confident on how the project is progressing and express your final approval.



With your satisfaction to the design development, budget and timing secured, we will finalize all finishes, fixtures, control systems, millwork, architectural details and trims, and other similar items in the form of a set of fully-developed and coordinated drawings and specifications sufficient for a general contractor of your choice to bid and build from. All necessary drawings and specifications from the building experts that are on board will be accounted for and integrated into the drawing and specifications package in order to assist you in applying for the necessary permits to build the project.

We will also provide you with a project construction cost and schedule that will be helpful when you review the tender bids from interested general contractors.

This is also an ideal time for you to consider our detailed interior design services as an add-on to our core architectural design services. While not required, it would be desirable for our team to be engaged with this add-on services in order to maintain the cohesiveness and consistency of the exterior and interior look of your project.

The interior design services will include the design and drawing production of all identified custom millwork, as well as the meticulous research and selection of all faucets, sinks, shower, finishes, fixed accessories, tile patterns, paint colours, special trims, built-in closets and storage. Our team will also assist you with furnishing selections, such as casegoods, light fixtures, lamps, artwork, rugs, drapery and other loose accessories. You will have access to our preferred vendors and suppliers in order to get the best value for your dollar.


With a construction document package at hand and building permit expected to be released, we are ready to select your construction partner. We can work with a certified and licensed general contractor that you already know, help you find one, or engage the services of our sister company who specializes in construction management as a separate allied service.

Whichever direction you choose, we will assist you in negotiating for an unbiased contract with your chosen general contractor, or should you choose our construction management partner, start the construction management contract negotiations. Our goal is to aspire for a smooth, well-managed construction process.


With the first shovel on the ground, we continue to assert our presence to ensure that the project is built according to what we all have worked so hard to achieve. Working very closely with your contractor or construction manager, we will spare no effort in resolving all site and construction issues through shop drawing review, update to drawings, periodic site visits and confirmation of approved equivalent substitutions – within the confines of approved drawings and contracts. We will continue to listen and help you make educated decisions for any changes that you may desire during construction, including revisions that will affect cost, timeline and fees.

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From the first time we met to discuss the project up to the completion of all deficiencies, 1 to 3 years would have passed, and the exciting hand-over and close-out finally begins. Part of our responsibility is to walk you through your completed new home, including the demonstration of the basic operations of various systems, such as lighting controls, heating and automation. All user manuals, warranty certificates and a digital set of drawings will be collected and turned over to you for future maintenance requirements. Principal photography will be arranged as well.

About 1 year after the hand-over, expect us to follow up to get your feedback on the whole design and building administration experience with Altius. If there are warranty claims, we can provide assistance to speed up the claims process as best as we can. Your satisfaction as an Altius Client is paramount to us, and your feedback will help us become better at what we do. We will certainly appreciate your spending a moment or two with a few kind words. These will go a long way in our pursuit for design excellence.