Architectural programming can be defined as the research and decision-making process that helps to identify the scope of work to be designed and performed. Some of the advantages architectural programming offers are:

  • Involvement of interested parties in the definition of the scope of work prior to design
  • Gathering and analyzing data early in the process so the design is based on sound decisions
  • Efficient use of time by avoiding redesign as requirements emerge during architectural design development

Applying an integrated design approach to the project during the planning and programming phases requires individuals continue to interact closely throughout the design process.  The client is involved to contribute their understanding of how the spaces to be reworked or added are to function once they occupy them.  It is up to the architect to use their expertise to develop the programmatic requirements. There are different purposes and levels of detail that can be requested from a client.  For instance, master planning is more strategic in nature.  It provides information to clients, allowing them to make decisions regarding their current needs and what to be planned for in the future by helping them develop rough budgeting for implementation. Programming at the individual project level provides specific, detailed information to guide building design.

The first step in beginning the programming process of a project is clearly identifying the individuals to be involved.  Open lines of communication must be established and maintained to determine how and when meetings will be held, what the agenda will be, how contacts will be made, and how records of the meetings will be kept.  It is the architect’s role to oversee and guide this process.  The architect will make recommendations to the client when necessary and appropriate. The client must make the ultimate decisions to help keep the process moving forward in an efficient manner.

The intent of following a properly structed programming process is to develop a clear set of project requirements which will be used to help guide the design of the project.  While there are various different programming formats that can be followed, they all incorporate the same essential elements which follow a six-step process:

  1. Research the project type
  2. Establish goals and objectives
  3. Gather relevant information
  4. Identify strategies
  5. Determine quantitative requirements
  6. Summarize the program
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