The Methods of Designing House

The work begins with the drawing-up of a detailed brief, with the help of an experienced architect and guided by the questionnaire shown on the following pages.
Before planning starts, the following must be known:

  • Site: location, size, site and access levels, location of services, building and planning regulations and conditions. This information should be sought from the local authority, service providers and legal representatives, and a layout plan to comply with this should be developed.
  • Space requirements with regard to areas, heights, positioning and their particular relationship with one another.
  • Dimensions of existing furniture.
  • Finance: site acquisition, legal fees, mortgages etc.
  • Proposed method of construction (brick, frame construction, sloping roof, flat roof, etc.


Working Process
The sketch scheme is begun by drawing up individual rooms of the required areas as simple rectangles drawn to scale and put provisionally into groups. After studying the movements of the people and goods (horizontally and vertically), analyze circulation and the relationships of rooms to each other and the sun. During this stage the designer will progressively obtain a clearer understanding of the design problems involved. Instead of starting to design at this stage they should, on the basis of their previous work to establish the building area, determine the position of the building on the site, by exploring the various means of access, the prevailing wind, tree growth, contours, aspect, and neighbourhood.

Tryout several solutions to explore all possibilities →① and use their pros and cons for a searching examination – unless of course a single obvious solution presents itself. Based on the foregoing, decision-making is normally fairly quick, and the ‘idea’ becomes clearer; then the real picture of the building emerges →②.

4 site lay out proposals

site lay out accepted

Now the first design stage can begin, firstly as an organisational and spiritual impression in the mind. From this, a schematic representation of the general configuration of the building and its spatial atmosphere is built up, from which the designer can develop the real proposal, in the form of plans and elevations. Depending upon temperament and drawing ability a quick charcoal sketch, or a spidery doodle, forms the first tangible result of this ‘birth’.

The first impetus may become lost if the efforts of assistants are clumsy. With growing experience and maturity, the clarity of the mental image improves, allowing it to be communicated more easily. Older, mature architects are often able to draw up a final design in freehand, correctly dimension and detailed. Some refined mature works are created this way, but the verve of their earlier work is often lacking.

improved design of the house by Neufert

After completion of the preliminary design, →③, a pause of 3-14 days is recommended, because it provides a distancing from the design and lets shortcomings reveal themselves more clearly. It also often disposes of assumptions, because in the intervening time preconceived ideas are put aside, not least as a result of discussions with staff and clients. Then the detailed design of the project is begun with the assistance of various consultants (e.g. a structural engineer, service engineers for heating, water and electricity) firmly establishing the construction and installations.


Following this, but usually before, the plans are submitted to the relevant authorities for examination and permission (which might take about 3-6 months). During this time the costs are estimated and specification and Bill of Quantities produced, and the tendering procedure is undertaken, so that as soon as the permission to proceed is received, contracts can be granted and the work on site commenced.


All these activities, from receiving the commission to the start of building operations for a medium-sized family house, takes on average 2-3 months of the architect’s time; for larger projects (hospitals, etc.) 6-12 months should be allowed. It is not advisable to try to make savings at this juncture; the extra time spent is soon recovered during building operations if the preparation has been thoroughly carried out. The client thus saves money and mortgage interest payments. The questionnaire and the room specification folder will be important aids.


Taken from: Architects’ Data by Ernst and Peter Neufert

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