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Architectural Programming

Architectural programming is the precursor to the design phase, and establishes your personal preferences and project parameters which will govern your project’s ultimate design. Outside the U.S. this is commonly referred to as the architect’s brief, and serves as the guiding document for the development and design of your project. During programming, the architect will get to know who you are, understand your expectations, and identify what is important to you.


In preparation for your initial consultation with an architect, be prepared to provide responses to the types of questions listed here. The architect is trying to gain insight into the specific nature of the project and how to tailor it especially for you. Be completely open and honest with the architect throughout the process. The more detailed and specific the information you can provide, the better the architect will be able to design a home just right for you. This is the mission of Expressive Homes—to create beautiful and functional spaces performing as an expression of who you are.


Design Objectives

  • What is your primary purpose behind this project?
  • Do you want more space or less space than your previous environment?
  • What general features in a home are important to you (specifics come later)?
  • What timelines are required for project completion?


Sizing & Scoping

  • How many occupants will there be?
  • What are their ages?
  • How long do you anticipate living in the home?
  • Will the number of occupants be changing over time?
  • What special needs or accessibility options are requisite?


Site Attributes

Refer to the Site Selection, and Site Planning articles for a detailed discussion on how site attributes influence the building design.

  • What attracted you to the site initially?
  • What do you like best about the site? Dislikes?
  • What views do you want to maximize? Which to hide? What makes them important to you?
  • Are there any trees, topographical features, or other natural qualities you would like to keep intact?
  • Are there any issues to consider regarding neighbors or privacy preferences?
  • What opportunities or constraints exist regarding the seasonal path of the sun or prevailing winds?
  • What is your preferred vehicular access to a home?



  • Do you entertain often or anticipate frequent guests? Indoors or outdoors?
  • Do you have pets?
  • What are your hobbies?
  • Do you (or will you) work from home?
  • How will you be using outdoor spaces?
  • What are the daily moments you enjoy the most?


Space Planning

  • Do you want any level changes? How many floors will the home have?
  • Do you want a basement or crawl space? Attic?
  • How many bedrooms will be required?
  • How many bathrooms will be required?
  • What other rooms, zones, and spaces are required? How will they be used?
  • Will you require any specialty rooms (i.e. home office, hobby room, exercise room, media room, library, music room)?
  • What general space requirements will promote the desired functionality?
  • What is the desired relationship from one space to another?
  • Where do you want openness versus privacy? Connectivity versus separation?
  • What are your storage needs?
  • What are your garaging needs?


Unique Requirements

  • Will you be requiring any built-ins (i.e. bookshelves, hidden storage, custom uses)?
  • Do you have any irreplaceable furniture, antiques, artwork, or heirlooms you want to keep or feature in the home?
  • Will you be seeking designs that emphasize sustainability, energy efficiency, and otherwise eco-friendliness?


Style Influences

Refer to the section on Creating an Inspiration Portfolio for good techniques related to organizing what influences your style.

  • How do you want the building to look? Do you have a preferred architectural style?
  • What feeling do you want your home to convey? What about particular spaces?
  • Will you be providing any notes or photos you have been collecting?
  • What styles do you explicitly dislike? What turns you off? Why?
  • Are there any specific materials or design features you would like to avoid? Why?
  • Have you experimented with any preferred layouts? What do you like about them? STOP HERE—let the architect take your requirements and design a truly personal home tailored to you. An architect is trained to come up with unique solutions to address your particular requirements. Avoid putting too many creative constraints on the architect.


Total Budget

The total budget for the project is a sum of each of the following cost components:

  • What is your allowance for fees and professional services (i.e. permits, engineers, architects, interior designers)?
  • What is your construction budget for materials and labor?
  • What is your design budget for appliances, furniture, furnishings?
  • Have you accounted for landscaping in your total budget? How much?
  • How much money will you be budgeting for contingencies?