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A "Plan?" A "Schematic?" What's the Difference?

What is the difference between a "plan" and a "schematic?" A "schematic" is not a plan.

October 2010: Fielding Nair International (FNI) was awarded a $863,114 contract by the BHSD Board of Education, with a 6-0 vote, to provide a "schematic design" of a consolidated high school and to assist the district in persuading voters to approve a new tax to pay for the project.

What did we get for the money?

We got a "schematic," which is not a design, and not a blueprint and not really a plan.

The word "schematic" is both a noun and an adjective. In this case, we'll use the noun form, because the FNI "schematic" is a "thing" that we bought for $863,114.

Here's a pretty good definition of the word schematic: "A schematic represents the elements of a system using abstract, graphic symbols rather than realistic pictures."

RATHER THAN realistic pictures. Further.....

"A schematic usually omits all details that are not relevant to the information the schematic is intended to convey."

What details are we intended not to know about?

Therefore, BHSD taxpayers need to be aware that the pretty pictures generated by FNI may not represent reality. In fact, they may not include those details which the supporters of the new tax and new construction don't want you to know.

Why did the BHSD board of education pay $863,114 for a "schematic" design of a consolidated high school project? You'll have to ask them.

Before I vote to approve any new tax for construction in this school district, I would like to know EXACTLY what we are going to get.

A "schematic" is not a plan, not a blueprint, not a promise and not necessarily reflective of reality.

I think the trustees of the BHSD need to understand that taxpayers here are still wondering what happened to the 2004 sinking fund, and may well be reluctant to approve more funding based on a "schematic."

Architects design buildings and construction companies build them.  No "schematic" necessary.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Art Aisner (Editor) January 10, 2012 at 11:33 PM
A comment on this post was removed because it contained an implied swear word, and swearing is not allowed in our terms of use for the site. We do appreciate the point the reader raised and believe it added something to the conversation. However, we all have to try to keep our comments as clean as possible. Thank You.
J Arch January 11, 2012 at 05:44 PM
Unfortunately Jenny is trying to use semantics and lack of context to misrepresent facts. As a practicing professional architect for 31 years, I can attest to the fact that "Schematic Design" in the architectural industry refers to a stage of development in the overall design and drawing process that ultimately produces the construction documents ("plans" in Jenny's words) that are used for bidding and construction. Schematic Design refers to the stage whereby functional and spatial relationships for a project are determined and the general quality and character of the project is defined in graphic documents. Schematic Design follows the Programming phase of design whereby the actual planning data has been collected. Schematic Design produces a concept with enough definition in terms of scope and scale that an initial project budget can be developed (not formal pricing). This allows the client to understand with reasonable certainty how the project will look and feel and it provides enough basis for cost evaluation that decisions can be made on budget acceptability. Schematic Design is a legitimate and customary step in the architectural design process. Depending on the size and complexity of the project, Programming and Schematic Design services can be expected to cost 1% to 2% of the expected total project cost (continued)…..
J Arch January 11, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Subsequent to Schematic Design is Design Development whereby the specific details of systems, equipment, materials, finishes, etc. are planned out to provide a more exact picture of the project. Typically an updated and more accurate cost estimate (not bidding) is developed at that point. The client gets another chance to determine that the project fits within expectations and make final design decisions. Design Development fees can typically be around 2% to 3% of the expected total project cost. Once Design Development is completed, the project goes into the Construction Document phase involving not only the architect but the system engineers (MEP - Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing) and other supporting consultants such as civil engineers, some of whom became involved during Design Development. This phase produces the detailed drawings to be used for permitting, bidding and construction. For a project of this magnitude, Construction Documents can realistically cost 4% to 5% of the total project cost (continued)......
J Arch January 11, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Thus, the total professional fee cost of a project such as this can be in the range 8% to 10%. Based on a $70 million project budget, those fees can be expected to be around $5.6 million to $7 million and the Schematic Design phase could be expected to be in the range of $1 million. FINI’s fee for an 85% Schematic deliverable at $863,000 appears very much within reason in the opinion of this professional. And while the above process description is somewhat lengthy for this space, it is, in fact, a simplification of the actual process. But hopefully it is an explanation that provides better context on the issue. Jeffrey Wagner, AIA
mdt48302 January 11, 2012 at 05:54 PM
This post and the three-part reply really capture the nature and quality of this debate in a nutshell.

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