Conceptual Design = Value for Developers & Agencies


(Rendering | Courtesy of STEELE Associates Architects)

Perhaps one of the most valuable services provided by a qualified architect or firm is conceptual design. Conceptual designs can be performed for clients for a specific lot and use, or to analyze development options for large tracts of land with multiple buildings and a mix of uses.

Savvy public agencies and developers often want to know exactly what a site or property can support in terms of building uses, sizes and parking BEFORE they purchase them. Architects who specialize in these types of conceptual studies can design site plan options, which their client can then use to analyze construction and operational costs, potential lease rates and ultimately the financial feasibility of the project before acquiring the property or moving forward with development.

This analytical development process often goes through many cycles if the client has a large parcel, is studying a variety of markets or desires a more complex multi-story mixed-use product such as commercial and/or residential over ground-floor retail (sometimes with below-grade parking).

STEELE Associates provides such services regularly and our clients are often pleasantly surprised at the variety of options they have and how useful the data is to them for estimating their ROI (return on investment), and the help they get in making sound development decisions.

Private individuals or developers can reduce risk and make much more informed decisions about land they own or are considering acquiring when they have conceptual design options and data to evaluate. Creative conceptual designs often bring to light opportunities not yet considered, and open up alternate development scenarios. Creative conceptual design and graphics can also be a very valuable marketing tool that may be used to generate interest from potential tenants or buyers by establishing a clear and exciting vision for the future development.

Public agencies such as school districts, cities and counties also benefit from conceptual studies, programming (the research and decision-making process that identifies the scope of work of a project) and master planning. These agencies use such design and information to efficiently manage and maintain existing facilities, determine if they should hold or sell certain parcels and to plan for future infrastructure and facilities. Public agencies often must identify and acquire properties far in advance of actual project design and construction and they must be certain the property will be suitable for their needs. Architects, and other specialty consultants experienced with this type of analysis, can help an agency determine that a site works efficiently for the intended use prior to purchasing it. One site may need to be twice the size as another to support something like a school and play fields due to slope, poor soils or other conditions, and site development costs can increase dramatically from one site to another due to those conditions along with the size and location of adjacent streets, sewer, water and power. Proper analysis, planning and conceptual design can save agencies and tax payers huge sums, and is the smart and fiscally responsible thing to do.

Scott Steele, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP, is the president of STEELE Associates Architects. He was born and raised in Bend, and he and his firm have designed hundreds of public and private projects throughout the western and southwestern states for over 24 years. • 541-382-9867


About Author

Scott Steele is the president and founder of STEELE Associates Architects in Bend, Oregon. His 36 years of leadership in sustainable design has earned recognition in articles and awards including the Environmental Center’s 2023 Enduring Sustainability Award.

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