Our Process

Design Approach

The process we propose is an interactive one. We work with the client, user groups, and stakeholders to create a project that satisfies the goals and objectives outlined in the RFP or project scope definition.


The design team seeks to learn everything they can about the site, program, and context.


The design team creates alternative “solutions” based on the information that has been gathered and analyzed.


Based on the evaluation of alternatives by stakeholders, the design team prepares a “final draft” concept plan and program for discussion and review.


The goal of this step is to create a balance sheet of strengths and weaknesses for the site, program, and context. At the same time, the design team identifies the goals and design principles that should guide the design process. Some of the information that the team analyzes is objective or “hard” data (base maps, previous master plans, existing conditions, square footage requirements, baseline environmental practices, energy use, etc.); some is subjective or “soft” data collected from stakeholders (perceptions, hopes, fears, goals, etc.). All of the information will be used to further a more complete understanding of each of the major issues.


Alternative solutions created by the design team address not only the design of the physical space but also the design of the experience within that space. Solutions are reviewed with stakeholders and compared. Comparison with “benchmark” facilities researched by the design team could be brought into play at this point if the team feels that this would facilitate homing in on the most appropriate solution. Each option is evaluated for strengths and weaknesses based on the agreed goals and design principles.

The design alternatives are accompanied by opinions of probable cost. These opinions are not as detailed as more formal third-party cost estimates, however, these estimates allow the client and core team to make informed decisions about the direction of project.

The Understand and Explore steps are rarely linear or consecutive. As exploring continues, understanding increases, which in turn informs further exploration.


Following the evaluation of alternative solutions, the design team prepares a “final draft” concept plan and program to reflect the consensus input of stakeholders This becomes the basis for further development of the design. During the Decide step, the design team continues to meet every other week with the client group to review the details of the project and make decisions until the bidding documents are complete.

The Process

Schematic Design

After approval of the conceptual design by the client, the project moves into the schematic design phase in which the design team elaborates upon the concept and begins to design plans and elevations consistent with that concept. Typically, we propose that the client organize end-user groups (depending on the size of the client and key stakeholders) and that we establish a weekly or biweekly meeting schedule where these user groups are met with individually. We have found that this creates an investment mentality in the end-user and establishes a framework for conducive, constructive dialog where the best design emerges.

At the conclusion of the end-user meetings, we recommend holding a core team meeting. The core team comprises 4-6 client representatives who are empowered as decision-makers and arbiters of conflicting requests or directions. During core team meetings, this group is updated on the progress of design, end-user group meetings, and outstanding issues. We provide a cost estimate at the end of this phase.

Design Development

Once the schematic design is approved by the client, design development begins. We propose continuing the end-user and core team meetings. The primary purpose of design development is to define and describe all important aspects of the project.

With the end-user continuously engaged, the continuity of the concept has advocates who will hold the design accountable. We provide a cost estimate and a quality control review at the end of this phase.

Construction Documents

The final phase of design begins after approval of the design development by the client. During the construction documents phase, we propose a less frequent meeting schedule with the end-users and core team. This phase is focused on documenting and detailing all the decisions that have been previously made, coordinating disciplines, and establishing a completed biddable set of documents. Some end-user and core team meetings are required as update meetings. We have found that this continues the spirit of cooperation that has been fostered throughout the process and is an outward expression of the respect that the design professional has for this team approach of design and problem-solving. We provide a quality control review and final cost estimate prior to bidding.

Bidding and Negotiation

The IKM team provides a complete set of drawings and specifications in order to obtain accurate and competitive bid proposals from the contractors. We work with the client to review all bids and assist in awarding and preparing contracts for construction.

Construction Phase Services

We view the construction phase as an important part of the process, and we take our job seriously in representing our client’s interests during construction. We are regularly on site for construction meetings and reviews and are available for RFIs throughout the construction schedule. We review the progress to ensure the project is being built as designed and specified in the drawings.