CDI's Project Approach

Listening to and learning from you is where our process begins — together.
We start each project by listening to your facility needs and desires, and by learning how you work and what you do. Nobody knows your business as well as you do; our expertise is in translating those needs into physical form, not in telling you what you should be doing differently.

We take those facility needs (the “program”) and develop them into schematic designs. Depending on the building, we may prepare perspective sketches or study models to help you understand how the parts of the building fit together and what the building will look like in real life.

While the plan layout is primarily functional in nature, we know buildings serve other purposes than just your daily operational needs. Some of those purposes may still be functional, in the sense of conveying an image to your customers or clients or employees. It may, for instance, be important to your marketing efforts for your building to convey an image of technological savvy, environmental consciousness, or classical conservatism.

Buildings can also enhance the work experience and thereby productivity, encourage and facilitate communication, even inspire. As one example, buildings with abundant natural light have been shown to increase learning, productivity, and even retail sales. Whatever your goals, whatever your reasons for having them, we try to translate them into a design which is also affordable and constructible.

Our designs also look to context, as well as to your own tastes, to determine the look and feel of the building. While we have our own tastes, we prefer to design what we believe is appropriate for the situation. In some cases that may mean fitting in with an existing building or neighborhood; in others, it may mean standing out and establishing an independent presence.

Once the schematic design is complete and acceptable to you, we would proceed to develop that design with successive layers of detail, until there is sufficient information for a contractor to bid and build from. We try not to over-detail items that are standardized, but we spend a lot of time trying to fill gaps in the plans to avoid questions and confusion.

During bidding and construction (if you decide to have us participate in these phases) our goal is to work collaboratively with the contractors to ensure a smooth process and a good end result. We are always, however, also trying to verify that the contractors are complying with the plans and specifications, and performing the work appropriately.

Finally, we plan to be here long after you have moved in. If you have questions about how your building operates, what maintenance is needed, or even how to expand it, please connect with us below.

Portfolio Highlight:

Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum
The expansion of the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum added over 30,000 square feet to the museum that was founded in the historic firehouse. The south façade of the expansion was designed using brick and other design elements sympathetic to the firehouse, while the new main entry on the north side uses bright colors and curves to attract attention, and to express the opportunities for fun and learning to be found inside. See more CDI Portfolio highlights here.

Ready to connect with CDI?


Ann Arbor, MI 48103
Entrance is at north end of parking lot off Abbott and Shelby.


David Esau, AIA, President: