SLA’s Workshop Design process results in a building or space that functionally supports our client’s mission.

When we apply our process to building design; the result is a successful project.

How an architect creates a design solution

Smith LaRock and our past clients understand that well-designed mission-critical 24/7 control rooms and control buildings results in lower Operator absenteeism, physiological, and physical ailments typically caused by poor lighting, acoustics, and poor console/video display ergonomics.

The benefits of proper design include improved Operator vigilance, situational awareness, and life-safety processes for the operations staff and plant personnel in general.

SLA’S Workshop Design Process Tailored To Your Needs

Although we highly encourage our clients to follow our design process path, we understand that some companies have their own way of doing things.  We are flexible and can provide our services along with your engineering approaches and standards.

If you have questions regarding general cost range for design services, project estimation costs, or historical unit costs for similar design projects, and/or how we can help your project, please contact us to discuss your needs and we will be happy to provide you the information you seek.


DistanceDesign™ is Smith LaRock’s remote design process, which allows Smith LaRock to immerse the client in a 3D virtual design world, to convey the design concepts. The design process was conceived by Mike Smith in graduate school to increase the communication between the architect and the client.

DistanceDesign™ has been used in projects globally, allowing SLA to have its headquarters in Denver, Colorado and work effectively across North America, Africa, Europe, Asia and Australia. No matter where in the world your project is, SLA can remotely develop the necessary design and keep travel expenses low.

At SLA, we ensure that our initial Workshop Design Process and all subsequent conversations conveys to us a clients’ needs and wants, involves all relevant User-groups, and remains focused on enabling a participatory process to arrive at a shared vision of your facility design solution.

SLA’s Workshop Design Process

In order to replicate Smith LaRock’s past successful projects we have developed a Workshop Design Process to further develop the traditional phases of design: Schematic, Design Development, Construction Documents.

Smith LaRock has been successful in implementing this method in full and hybridized with client’s design process, in order to design a building that will address the needs that initiated the necessity of the building.

SLA’s design process begins with a Workshop where existing control centers are toured and SLA can observe first hand how the Operations culture works, what environmental concerns exists, and how a new environment can help streamline and reduce stress in the control center.  A discussion of goals and aspirations for the project are heard and refined.  Wants and needs of the design are drawn out and discussed, physical performance/image goals are developed, applicable human factors are described and planned, and Owner participation goals are scheduled as Room lists are developed, adjacencies considered, and control center / control building workflow are defined.  The key human factors we have found that enhance Operational performance include proper lighting (ceiling / lighting design, light frequency/color temperature and duration), finish/material colors and reflectivity considerations, passive and active acoustical solutions and application of masking / sound showers, console ergonomics and flexibility, video display wall view planes, and console arrangements; integrating these concepts in a manner that enables the architectural environment to properly support the Operational challenges is our ultimate goal.

To conduct these Workshop meetings, we gather key Users of the new control center to gather critical project planning information. Governing agencies (authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) are contacted for input as required.  Surveys and/or specialized scoping Questionnaires developed by SLA are used to coordinate pertinent information requested from the various Users of the planned project.  Ultimately, a shared vision of the project is formulated as a written control building program, and a preliminary budget and schedule are defined.  Issues to be included are:

  • Types and sizes of spaces the project requires;
  • anticipated relationships between spaces (connection types, adjacencies & proximities)
  • The character of these spaces (volume, quality of light, finishes and textures imagined, acoustical quality, psychological effect on the users, other human factors that we can implement to further promote vigilance and alertness, situational awareness, while addressing operator lethargy through our fatigue countermeasures suite)
  • As well as: Budget, console view-planes, site and building image issues, materials and architectural preferences

Our goal at this stage is to create a narrative of the project goals, analysis of physical needs, a synthesis of spaces that support such needs and describing the characteristics that you as a Client value, and review them with you for approval prior to any drawing.  Concept diagrams and sketches are used to communicate certain items in the early phases of design.  As the design matures, our 3D CAD gives us both 3D computerized walkthrough and Virtual Reality (VR) capabilities.  The success of your project is based on the quality of project information collected, its application to the process, and its use in defining the spaces.

Building Cost Breakdown/Information:  SLA maintains a historical cost database of past projects to aid in our development of likely cost estimates. We also have professional estimators and we also use General Contractors to develop probable project costs for our Clients, as well as participate in SLA’s integrated Value Engineering approach.

Smith LaRock begins our process by visiting your site to get a reference point of what exists. By touring the site with you, we are able to discuss what is working, what is not, and what is needed which begins the triangulation process to produce your projects design. After the tour we discuss the observations we had of the space, hear the users evaluate the space, how they say space functions, how the spaces are organized and adjacent to one another, and any other unique building factors that are pertinent to the development of anew control room.  The control suite is discussed; the control suite is that larger space that encompasses the control room, but includes key secondary spaces adjacent to the control room such as Supervisory offices, Kitchen/Break Area, Operator Toilet(s), Fatigue countermeasure spaces, DCS/SCADA Rack Rooms, Library, Training/Simulator Room, Permitting Areas and so on. (Pictures/Links to examples)


The second day of the typical Workshop includes a wrap up session to review information collected and to acted upon, close out any open items, and to review an initial design concept in the form of a ‘bubble’ diagram (an organizational diagram common the architectural design) and possibly some 3D computer visualization to review with our Client.   SLA takes the information gathered and develops the design concept further and develops a Schematic Design Report to describe the project engineering systems that will be employed, human factors solutions, consoles and video wall solutions, ergonomics and materials/finishes suitable for the 24/7 control facility.

(Pictures/Links to examples)

The Schematic Design Phase is completed when a design concept selection has been approved/authorized by the Client. The 3D REVIT model is released to the engineers to begin their design development scope. Structural, MEP, and any other engineers engaged by SLA for the project develop their information up to the 60% Design Development level where it is submitted for review. It is collected and presented to the Client as a multi-disciplinary set of in-progress design documents (plans and specifications).  Finish/Color/Material Boards are submitted for the Client’s review and selection of colors and finishes. The entire design team gathers to review the 60% Design Development set of documents with the Client’s group.  3D images and walk thorough are shown, 2D plans and in-progress specs are reviewed, and SLA’s proprietary RAIL (Rolling Action Information Log) items is reviewed and open items closed out.

Once authorization to proceed to the Construction Document stage is received from the Client after the DD Review Meeting, the project Construction (working, or detailed design) drawings are developed.  Details are developed to describe the design intent for the builders tasked with creating shop drawings and submittals that demonstrate their methodologies to construct the project in the Construction Phase. Finish/Color/Material Boards are submitted for the Client’s Record and use in confirming actual finishes installed.  Issue for Construction (IFC) Drawings and Specifications are submitted to the AHJ for permitting, and documents are concurrently submitted to the Client’s pre-selected bidders (in the case of Design-Bid Build approach) or, when we are working with the Client’s builder under a Design-Build approach to delivering the project, we assist that General Contractor / Builder with the subcontractor bids that he/she may collect to form his/her full construction team.  Smith LaRock Architecture has performed such design services approaches to construction under both Design-Bid-Build or Design-Build many times.

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