Architectural Practice Simplified

A Survival Guide and Checklists for Building Construction and Site Improvements as well as Tips on Architecture, Building Design, Construction and Project Management

by Gang Chen, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Architectural Practice Simplified

Architectural Practice Simplified

A Survival Guide and Checklists for Building Construction and Site Improvements as well as Tips on Architecture, Building Design, Construction and Project Management

by Gang Chen, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Published Dec 11, 2009
188 Pages
Genre: ARCHITECTURE / General


Book Details

Learn the Tips, Become One of Those

Who Know Architectural Practice, and

Thrive in Construction Industry!

For architectural practice and building design and construction industry, there are two kinds of people: those who know, and those who don’t. The tips of building design and construction and project management have been undercover—until now.

Most of the existing books on architectural practice are too expensive, too complicated, and too long to be practical and helpful. This book simplifies the process to make it easier to understand and uncovers the tips of building design and construction and project management. It sets up a solid foundation and fundamental framework for this field. It covers every aspect of architectural practice in plain and concise language and introduces it to all people. Through practical case studies, it demonstrates the efficient and proper ways to handle various issues and problems in architectural practice and building design and construction industry.

It is for ordinary people and aspiring young architects as well as seasoned professionals in the construction industry. For ordinary people, it uncovers the tips of building construction; for aspiring architects, it works as a construction industry survival guide and a guidebook to shorten the process in mastering architectural practice and climbing up the professional ladder; for seasoned architects, it has many checklists to refresh their memory. It is an indispensable reference book for ordinary people, architectural students, interns, drafters, designers, seasoned architects, engineers, construction administrators, superintendents, construction managers, contractors, and developers.

You will learn:

1. How to develop your business and work with your client.

2. The entire process of building design and construction, including programming, entitlement, schematic design, design development, construction documents, bidding, and construction administration.

3. How to coordinate with governing agencies, including a county’s health department and a city’s planning, building, fire, public works departments, etc.

4. How to coordinate with your consultants, including soils, civil, structural, electrical, mechanical, plumbing engineers, landscape architects, etc.

5. How to create and use your own checklists to do quality control of your construction documents.

6. How to use various logs (i.e., RFI log, submittal log, field visit log, etc.) and lists (contact list, document control list, distribution list, etc.) to organize and simplify your work.

7. How to respond to RFI, issue CCDs, review change orders, submittals, etc.

8. How to make your architectural practice a profitable and successful business.

You may be interested in other books I wrote:

LEED GA Exam Guide. It is available at:

Click here to view LEED GA Exam Guide

Planting Design Illustrated (2nd edition) . It is available at:

Click here to view Planting Design Illustrated (2nd edition)

LEED BD&C Exam Guide. It is available at:

Click here to view LEED BD&C Exam Guide

LEED AP Exam Guide. It is available at:

Click here to view LEED AP Exam Guide


Book Excerpt

Sample Text from Architectural Practice Simplified

Chapter One

From Architectural Schools to Architectural Practice

A. A Cultural Shock

1. Why Do I Still Feel Like an Idiot in an Architectural Office, Even Though I Just Got My Architectural Degree from a Top Architectural School?

You just spent 5 years of your life in college and two hundred thousand dollars on your tuition, and finally you graduated from a top architectural school. You just got a new job at a good architectural firm, and all a sudden, you realize that what you learned at school does NOT seem to help you at work AT ALL, and people at work talk in a language that you barely understand: Entitlement, RFI, Shop Drawings, CCD, Change Order, Punch List, etc. You feel like an idiot in your office and do not seem to know anything. This is a total cultural shock to you.

2. What Went Wrong?

Well, there is a huge gap between architectural education and architectural practice.

a. When you are in architectural school, design courses mainly teach you conceptual design. In the real world of architectural practice, conceptual design is only a very small portion of the design process. All the real projects will go through many phases, including Entitlement, Conceptual Design/Schematic Design, Design Development, Construction Document, Bidding and Negotiation, Construction Administration, and sometimes even Operation and Maintenance.

b. In the real world, employees in an architectural firm are put in one of three categories: supporting staff (including administrative, marketing, and IT or CADD), designers, and management and production staff. If you are hired as a designer, you will have an easier transition from college to your job because a designer mainly deals with Entitlement, Conceptual Design/Schematic Design, and sometimes, Design Development work. If you are hired as a production employee, you will have a much harder transition, because almost everything you do in the office is what you have almost NEVER dealt with in school before. You will have to learn on-the-job.

c. In college, the knowledge you learned is piecemeal in nature: you learn structure as one course, and architectural history as another, and design studio is yet another, and so on. In the real world of architectural practice, you can be dealing with all these elements in one single project, and you need to be able to integrate the knowledge you learned from different courses and create a synergy. Synergy is defined as the working together of two things to produce an effect greater than the sum of their individual effects.

To help you make a smooth and easy transition from architectural school to architectural practice, I summarize my professional experience and tips in this book, which should be useful to readers.

There are many, many things that you need to learn to work well in the real world of architectural practice, but there are only a certain number of tips that you need to know to be able to function and survive in the daily operation of an architectural firm or in the construction industry. In this book, we shall cover all the basic and pragmatic knowledge to help you handle the daily workload in an architectural office, and we shall tell you where you can find further information.

... Chapter Seven Construction Administration...

B. Addendum and Bulletin

Addenda and Bulletins are similar but they are also different:

1. Both are used to issue changes to constructions documents, including plans and specification;

2. An Addendum is use to issue revisions to constructions documents AFTER bid documents are sent to the contract, but BEFORE bids are turned in by the bidding contractors. Normally, it should be issued at least 8 days before the bid due date to avoid confusions to the bidders. Revisions issued via an Addendum have NO cost impact. So, if a contractor submit a change order later based on revisions issued by an Addendum, you can deny it because it should have already been included as part of the bid price.

3. Changes issued in an Addendum should be clouded, and noted with a LETTER (within a Delta symbol) and a date on the revision block of the sheet. For example, “Addendum A, 11/11/2009.” This is easy to remember: because changes issued in an Addendum have no cost impact, they are noted with a LETTER. Do NOT note the revision (“Addendum A, 11/11/2008”) on the title block of every sheet. ONLY note them on the title block of the revised sheets.

4. A Bulletin is used to issue changes AFTER bid proposals are submitted by the bidding contractors, and probably AFTER the contract is signed between the owner and the successful bidder. Revisions issued via a Bulletin may have cost impact. They may qualify for changes orders.

5. Changes issued in a Bulletin should be clouded, and noted with a NUMBER (within a Delta symbol) and a date on the revision block of the revised sheet. For example, “Bulletin #1, 12/18/2009.” This is easy to remember: because changes issued in a Bulletin DO have cost impact, they are noted with a NUMBER. Do NOT note the revision (“Bulletin #1, 12/18/2009”) on the title block of every sheet. ONLY note them on the title block of the revised sheets.

6. Bulletin description shall include the language for the contractor to provide pricing per proposed changes, and shall proceed ONLY if the pricing is accepted by the client (the owner or the developer or the tenant, depending on who the contractor has signed a contract with).

7. Both shall include the REVISED drawings sheets ONLY and sheet-by-sheet narrative of the changes for each revised sheet.

8. A typical Addendum or Bulletin shall include:

a. Letter of transmittal listing all items sent with the Addendum or Bulletin

b. REVISED drawings sheets ONLY, Not the entire drawing set

c. REVISED Specifications sheets (if any) ONLY, Not the entire Specifications book

d. Sheet-by-sheet narrative of the changes

e. Updated Document Control Sheet

As long as you issue the Document Control Sheet, the contractors will know if they have the latest set, and there is no need to re-issue the entire drawing set or the entire Specifications book every time you issue an Addendum or a Bulletin. You can save a lot of paper and trees by using the Document Control Sheet.

You and the contractor should each keep a record set of the drawings (the “Stick Set” or “Office Record Set,” this is different from the full-size original and CURRENT set that you used to make extra current copies for others) and Specifications.

I prefer to use a half-size set as “Stick Set” because it takes much less space. This set shall have ALL the latest information. Each time an Addendum or Bulletin is issued, this set shall be updated. For example, if you have a revised Sheet A1.0, you should fold the lower right-hand corner of the OLD Sheet A1.0, stapled the corner and then insert the new and revised Sheet A1.0 in front of the OLD Sheet A1.0. This way, you easily track all the history of the changes.

You can file the 8 ½ x 11 portion of the Addendum or Bulletin revisions listed at item 7 above in your project folder.

It is a good idea to make an EXTRA copy of these 8 ½ x 11 pages and place them on the front of your office record set of the Specifications book. You should use a thick 3-ring binder to hold your office record set of the Specifications book. This way, you can easily add 8 ½ x 11 pages to the front of the Specifications book binder and track all the history of the changes.

Each of these Specifications book binder should be clearly marked on the side with the project number, name and city so that it can be easily indentified when placed on your book shelf...

Table of Contents


Table of Contents

Chapter One From Architectural Schools to Architectural Practice

A. A Cultural Shock

1. Why Do I Still Feel Like an Idiot in an Architectural Office, Even Though I Just Got My Architectural Degree from a Top Architectural School?
2. What Went Wrong?

B. The Roles of an Architect
1. Architect as a Specialist
2. Architect as a Generalist

C. Abbreviations and Technical Terms
Sample Abbreviation List for Building and Site

D. Office Libraries & Most Commonly Used Books in Architectural Offices

1. Design Library

Product Catalogs and Samples; the Holistic Design Concept and Several Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Books to Help You Overcome “the Designer Block”

2. General Library

a. Codes, Acts and Regulations

American with Disabilities Act (ADA); Title 24, California Disabled Accessibility Guidebook (CalDAG) & California Accessibility Reference Manual Code & Checklist (CARM); International Building Code (IBC) and Its Local Adaptations;Other International Code Council (ICC) Codes; National Electrical Code (NEC);

Municipal Codes; Building Codes Illustrated

b. Reference Books
The Steel Book; LEED Reference Guides and Documents; Architectural Graphic Standards; Building Construction Illustrated

c. AIA and Commonly Used AIA Forms
A-Series; B-Series; C-Series; D-Series; E-Series; G-Series; Free AIA Documents for Download; Commonly Used AIA Forms

d. CSI MasterFormat, Sweets Catalog, and Various Manufacturers’ Product Catalogs
Comparing Old and New Version of MasterFormat

e. Computer-Aided Design & Drafting & Other CADD Books

3. Commonly Used Manufacturers’ & Various Websites

Masonry (Full Bricks & Thin Bricks); Masonry Institute of America (MIA); Pacific Clay Products, Inc; Coronado Stone; Eldorado Stone; Cultured Stone; Wood and Plastic Fastenings; Simpson StrongTie; Thermal Protection: Batt Insulation and Rigid Insulation; Johns Manville; Roof Tiles: Concrete Roof Tile and Clay Roof Tile; Eagle Roofing; MonierLifetile (MLT); MCA Superior Clay Roof Tile; Membrane Roofing: Bituminous Systems & Single-Ply Roofing Systems; Firestone Building Products; GAF Materials Corporation; Entrances and Storefronts: ¼” Thick Glazing or 1” Insulated Glazing; Kawneer Products; U.S. Aluminum Commercial Products Group; Arcadia, Inc; Special Wall Surfacing: FRP/Marlite; Sweets Network; Portland Cement Association; Fry Reglet Architectural Metals

E. Project Filing System
Administration Files; Design Files; DD Files; Construction Drawings (CD) and Specifications; Submittals and Samples; Flat Files, Storage Tubes and Job Boxes

Chapter Two Clients and Contracts

A. Architecture Is a People Business

Architecture Is a Knowledge-Based and Service-Orientated Profession; No Matter How Good You Are as an Architect, People Need to Like You as a Person Before They Will Give You Their Business; People Can Know Your True Character by Observing How You Treat Your Consultants, Your Subordinates, and Vendors.

B. Marketing and Architectural Business
Provide Excellent Service and the Highest Quality Design; Market Your Architectural Service in the PROPER Way; Increase the Exposure of Your Firm; Be There When Your Clients Need You; People Will Buy from People They Like

C. Contracts
Time and Material Contract, Unit Price Contract, Percentage of Construction Cost Contract, Fixed Fee Contract, and Reimbursable Expenses

D. Additional Service Request
When to Send It and How to Send It

E. Task Log and Field/City Visit Log
Sample Task Log; Sample Field/City Visit Log

Chapter Three Pre-Design, Entitlement, Governing Agencies, Project Program, Planning, and Preliminary & Schematic Design

A. Project Contact List

Sample Project Contact List

B. Pre-Design Items
Survey & CLTA Survey; ACSM; Title Report (Preliminary Report & Final Title Report) & Soils Report

C. Entitlement
1. Definition
2. Your Responsibilities as an Architect

D. Governing Agencies
32-Item Planning Department Checklist & Submittal Requirements; 12-Item Building Department Checklist & Submittal Requirements; 10-Item Fire Department Checklist & Submittal Requirements; 5-Item Health Department Checklist & Submittal Requirements

E. Project Program, Planning, Preliminary Design, Conceptual/Schematic Design, and Color & Material Boards
1. Project Program
2. Planning
3. Preliminary Design
4. Conceptual/Schematic Design
5. Color & Material Boards

Chapter Four Design Development (DD) & Project Schedule

A. Design Development

Definition & Content; Get Your Client’s Written Approval BEFORE You Move On to the Next Step of the Project; Skipping Design Development?

B. Project Schedule
1. Entitlement and Design
2. Design Development
3. Construction Documents: Site; Building
4. Bidding and Negotiation
5. Site and Building Construction

Chapter Five Construction Documents (CD)

A. General Information

Site Development CD Set and Building CD Sets; Raw Shell (Dark Shell), Vanilla Shell (White Shell) , and Grey Shell

B. Building Construction Drawings

1. Setting Up the Drawing Sheet and Title Block for Your Construction Drawings Set

Typical Sheet Size; How Much Space to Leave at Sheet Edge to Avoid Plotting Problems; Defpoints Layer; Title Block; Copyright Notice

2. Organizing the Construction Drawings Set: Building Construction Drawings Set

a. Sheet Index:
Sample Sheet Index for a Building CD Set

b. CD Base Drawings for Consultants

c. The First City Submittal Set

d. Setting up the Construction Drawings Set: What Information Should Go on Each Sheet?

Sheet-by-Sheet Checklists for CD Base Drawings to Consultants; Sheet-by-Sheet Additional Checklists for City Submittal Set

Typical Content and Optional Content for Each Sheet; Typical General Notes; Sample Code Analysis & Qualification of Building: Applicable Building Codes; Energy Code; Accessibility Code; Qualification of Building; Basic Allowable Area & Allowable Area Increase; Common Path of Egress Travel Distance; Occupancy Load; Minimum Number of Exits; Egress Width; Minimum Number of Plumbing Fixtures; Accessibility Requirements

Sample Major Site Technical Data:
Coverage, Land to Building Ratio, Parking Stalls Requirement, Compact Parking Stalls, and Handicap Parking Stalls Requirement

Tips, Dos and Don’ts for CD Sheets; Sample Notes, Keynotes, Materials and Colors Call-Outs and Other Items That Are Difficult for Young Professionals; Discussions and Tips on Room, Door, and Window Schedules and Details Handling the First Round of In-House Review and Coordination & the First City Submittal Set Simultaneously

3. Coordination of Construction Drawings
a. Coordination of Structural Drawings
b. Coordination of Electrical Drawings
c. Coordination of Mechanical Drawings
d. Coordination of Plumbing Drawings
e. Coordination of Architectural Sheets Note: Each item above includes Sheet-by-Sheet Checklists.

C. Site Development Construction Drawings
1. Sheet Index for a Site Development CD set
2. Architectural Sheet-by-Sheet Checklist
3. Electrical Sheet-by-Sheet Checklist
4. Landscape Sheet-by-Sheet Checklist
5. Civil Sheet-by-Sheet Checklist
(civil engineering can be under a separate contract)

D. Specifications
What to Do and What to Look for When Reviewing and Editing a Typical Set of Specifications; Basic Steps and Tips on Reviewing and Modifying Specification Sections

E. Plan Check Corrections, Site, and Building Permit
What to Do when Dealing with Plan Check Corrections; Permit Expiration Date and Pulling Permit.

Chapter Six Bidding & Negotiation

A. Competitive Bid and Negotiated Bid

B. Public Bid Opening and Private Bid Opening

C. Various Bid Documents and Forms

1. Invitation to Bid
2. Bid Proposal: Sample Bid Proposal Form
3. Instructions to Bidders: Major Issues to Cover
4. Bid Tabulation Form: Sample Bid Tabulation Form
5. Distribution List: Sample Distribution List
6. Document Control Sheet: Sample Document Control Sheet

D. Pre-Bid Meeting & Pre-Bid Walk-Through

Chapter Seven Construction Administration

A. Construction Kick-Off Meeting

Project Contact Information; Communication Protocol; Construction Administration Procedure: Dealing with Inspectors; Submittals; Substitutions; Job Site Trailer Plans and “As-Built” Plans; Quality Control; Payment Request; A Brief Discussion of Other Construction-Related Items

B. Addendum and Bulletin

C. Request for Information (RFI) and RFI Log

Sample RFI Log

D. CCD, Change Order (CO), and Change Order Log
Sample Change Order Log

E. Submittals: Shop Drawings, Product Data, and Samples
What to Look for When Reviewing Submittals; Sample Submittal Log

F. Field Observation
Field Observation Report

G. Final Punch Walk and Punch List
Notes Typically Included on a Punch List

H. Certificate of Substantial Completion

Chapter Eight Collections

A. Structure Your Contract to Make It Easier for You to Collect Your Fees

B. What Should You Do if Your Client Is Late in Paying You?


1. List of Tables
2. Definition of Architects and Some Important Information about Architects and the Profession of Architecture
3. AIA Compensation Survey
4. So … You would Like to Study Architecture
5. Annotated Bibliography

Back page promotion
1. Planting Design Illustrated
2. LEED Exam Guides Series (

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About the Author

Gang Chen, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Gang Chen holds a master’s degree from the School of Architecture, University of Southern California (USC), Los Angeles, and a bachelor’s degree from the School of Architecture, South China University of Technology. He has over 20 years of professional experience. Many of the projects he was in charge of or participated in have been published extensively in Architecture, Architectural Record, The Los Angeles Times, The Orange County Register, etc. He has worked on a variety of unusual projects, including well-known, large-scale healthcare and hospitality projects with over one billion dollars in construction costs, award-winning school designs, highly-acclaimed urban design and streetscape projects, multifamily housing, high-end custom homes, and regional and neighborhood shopping centers.

Gang Chen is a LEED AP BD+C and a licensed architect in California. He is also the internationally acclaimed author of other fascinating books, including: Planting Design Illustrated and LEED AP Exam Guides Series, which include one guide book for each of the LEED exams,

If you have any comments or questions, you can send an e-mail to Gang Chen at this link:
Click here to e-mail Gang Chen

The following are some useful links:

The U.S. Green Building Council(USGBC):
Click here to go to USGBC

The American Institute of Architects (AIA):
Click here to go to AIA:

Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD):
Click here to go to APLD

American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA):
Click here to go to ASLA

Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF):
Click here to go to LAF

American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP):
Click here to go to AICP

International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA):
Click here to go to IFLA

Also by Gang Chen, AIA, LEED AP BD+C

Planting Design Illustrated (2nd edition)