Why a Design Matrix Is Essential for Production Home Builders

Do you want to simplify how to design a series of production homes? Consider using a design matrix for your next project. We’re walking through what it is, why it’s important to production housing design, and how it will streamline the design process of your next series of homes.

What’s a Design Matrix?

A design matrix is a working document that describes the positioning, unique selling points, and home plan features for a series of plans. It’s the first step you should take when determining what a home series will look like.

“A design matrix is an important tool for both builders and architects during the production housing design process.”

John Guilliams, Director of Design, KGA

A design matrix is the end result of the collaboration between your team and the architect to decide the essentials of each home plan. These elements and features create the bones of each plan so the architect can begin the schematic design process. Downstream, the design matrix makes a helpful reference tool to ensure the plans’ evolution remains true to the project’s positioning and fundamental characteristics.

Complimentary Design Matrix Template

Take KGA’s design matrix template for a spin. We’ll send you a complimentary PDF template along with an example of what it looks like filled out when you subscribe to our monthly enewsletter.

What’s the Benefit to Home Builders?

An architectural design matrix serves you and the architect in a few different ways. At its core, it’s a reference document so everyone on your team (internal departments and consultants) sings from the same sheet of music throughout each project phase. Here are the major advantages:

  • Confirms the architecture will appeal to and meet the needs of the builder’s target market
  • Identifies opportunities for market differentiation
  • Creates design cohesion
  • Facilitates value engineering dialogue
  • In a master-planned community, it provides a simple visual that helps builders stay in compliance with a developer’s design requirements

How Does a Design Matrix Work?

At KGA, we organize the design matrix similarly for each client project. Let’s walk through the major fields of information we collect, document, and share.

1. Project Fundamentals

Ideally, a builder has finished their market research and shared it with our team. Here’s where we go from there:

Positioning Strategy

Here, we’re looking for hints as to what plan features the target market feels strongly about based upon feedback and trends. This blends with the project positioning statement created by the builder’s marketing team to create the design philosophy for the series.

Target Market

This is a high-level summary of the target market for the plan series based on the builder’s market research. We use this to define product types and diversity so the plan series will align with and meet the needs of the target market.

Design Intent

Then we identify the major elements that differentiate the home series from the competition. 

2. Product Criteria

This field serves as the guidepost of the proposed home plans we design, from project parameters and constraints to pricing targets:

  • Lot Size
  • Floor plan Envelope
  • Garage Orientation
  • Builder Specification Level
  • Current Competitors
  • Builder Projects Nearby
  • Price Range
  • Retail Cost Per Square Foot
  • Construction Cost Per Square Foot

3. Floor Plan Description

The plan descriptions section is where we start working in the weeds on key design and plan details, including primary features and must-haves.

How Plans Are Organized:

We give each floor plan its own column and set of specifications. Target markets for each plan should already be identified. If the builder marketing team created plan names, we’ll include them here.

What’s Included:

From there, we move on to each floor plan’s basics, including total square footage, ceiling heights, and if or how outdoor living spaces are included in the footprint.

Fleshing out floor plan details comes next. We’ll identify specific features to each plan level that align with the project’s positioning, the plan’s targeted demographics, and the design intent finalized earlier in the document.

The Differentiators:

Finally, memory points document what makes each plan special. These features set the homes apart from competitors’ projects, meet a need of the plan’s targeted market, or both. Multi-gen suites, kitchens with informal dining, and flex rooms are examples of what you might see in this section of a design matrix.

Next Steps

A design matrix is one of the earliest collaborative exercises that takes place between our KGA team and a home builder. After we receive matrix approval, we’ll create the initial concept plans for the design charrette, another essential part of the architectural design process where home designs begin to visually take shape.

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