How to Start Your Project

Your building project may be one of the largest investments you ever make. We all need to work carefully with the budgets we are entrusted with, and our decisions need to return benefits immediately and for the long-run. Moreover, our decisions often have to include the needs of multiple stakeholders.

So what’s the best way to start a project? Whether you have a lot of experience or none, it’s best to start by asking yourself a few key questions. Your answers to these questions don’t need to be completely fleshed out right away. The purpose of thinking about them is to orient yourself to the kinds of communication that will help you choose the best design professional for your needs.

Start by asking yourself:

  1. Why do you want to do this project?
  2. What is the outcome you are looking for?
  3. What is your greatest hope for the project?
  4. What is your greatest fear for the project?
  5. Who will be making the core decisions of your project (Just you? A Board of Directors? Other stakeholders?)
  6. Where will the resources come from for your building project?
  7. When do you need your project to begin and end?
  8. How do you envision this project being accomplished?

These answers—and the thought process they stimulate—help your architect develop a shared vision with you for your project. These questions also serve as the basis for the Predesign services typically included in a Master Plan or Master Facility Plan—a roadmap for the success of your project (see below for more on these Plans).

While each architectural team has unique strengths, there are a couple qualities that are universally important.

Need to talk with an architect about how to start your project?: Call 320-235-0860 or email


A building project is a collaboration, and successful collaboration begins with listening. You are the expert when it comes to understanding your needs. Your architect should listen to you first, then advise you on creative design solutions to meet your needs.


Through active listening, your architect should understand what is most valuable to you. The result is a project that meets your objectives—in enduring quality, cost, and efficiency.

Shared Vision, Innovative Design

We call this process “Shared Vision, Innovative Design.” It’s a time-tested approach that is tailored to your unique needs. This is how it works:

Launching Your Project

Based on the shared vision developed with you, Engan Associates assembles a core team uniquely qualified to meet your needs.  The team includes you (the client), a project manager, a designer, and a construction administrator.  Depending on the nature of the project, a group of technical specialists may also benefit the project at the beginning. This may include structural engineers, mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, civic engineers, acoustical engineers, lighting designers, etc.

During this phase, sometimes called the Predesign phase, we will identify opportunities to fulfill our shared vision through completing some or all of these things:

  1. Review the needs and mission of the project
  2. Complete a needs study
  3. Select a site
  4. Analyze the site
  5. Do an existing building condition survey
  6. Do a historic building survey
  7. Discuss and establish options
  8. Do a preliminary building code review
  9. Do a preliminary cost summary
  10. Discuss and establish a timeframe for the project

The outcome of this process is a vision for your project that is shared by all members of the team. This vision will include answers to the 8 questions outlined above.

Need to talk with an architect about how to start your project?: Call 320-235-0860 or email

Project Design

At this stage, we have completed the Predesign and share a vision for your project. Now the team expands to include engineers and consultants needed to meet your specific needs. They will be brought up to speed so that they also understand and share the project vision. At this critical stage of your project our ability to listen, communicate and bring ideas to the table is key. In the design phase we will use the information gathered to bring efficiency, environmental responsibility and creativity to your project. During this phase we will do some or all of these things:

  1. Create a schematic design
  2. Establish an image for the building
  3. Resolve function needs
  4. Consider sustainability
  5. Consider the effect on the site
  6. Consider the effect on the community
  7. Establish electrical and mechanical systems
  8. Designate furniture and equipment
  9. Comply with building codes
  10. Consider land use
  11. Generate construction documents, plans, and specifications.

This phase produces your project’s innovative design and establishes the quality expected for the project.


In the construction phase, the team again expands to include building contractors, trade contractors and material suppliers. Our project manager will review submitted products and drawings, conduct team meetings, and field questions from all involved.  During this phase we will do some or all of these things:

Procure construction (general contractor, construction management, or integrated building delivery)

  1. Acquire approvals from regulatory agencies
  2. Manage bidding and negotiating processes
  3. Conduct and document preconstruction meetings
  4. Assist building inspectors, fire marshal, etc.

During this phase our goal is to achieve the quality project expected by the owner.

Need to talk with an architect about how to start your project?: Call 320-235-0860 or email


Our goal is happy clients.  We want you to be enthusiastic about your new facility and about how it was achieved.  During this phase, Engan Associates carefully monitors the success of each project.  We will do one or all of the following:

  1. Request input from our client on the success of the project
  2. Conduct any meetings required to resolve incomplete tasks
  3. Conduct any meetings required to resolve warranty issues
  4. Issue a certificate for final payment

In 37 years Engan Associates has served over 700 clients with thousands of projects to serve a wide range of communities’ needs. 500 of these projects have been for 50 of our core clients—demonstrating both our depth of experience and degree of client loyalty. Typically, once a client works with us, they are so satisfied they return many times to work on further projects.

Our process of “Shared Vision, Innovative Design” is what drives this success. Call us and let us show you what we can do: 320-235-0860 or