The purpose of programming, also known as pre-design, is to:
- Finalize the project objectives.
- Determine the building and user requirements.
- Establish a total building area.
- Set the scope of work.
At this point it is possible to estimate a realistic project cost, to which yearly escalation factors may be added to account for construction or occupancy delays.
Programming involves gathering information from the intended building occupants and user groups through group and individual interviews. The programmer researches current and projected needs in such areas as information and instructional technology, academic teaching methods, privacy and security.
This results in a comprehensive description of the necessary components of the construction project.
All the issues explored in the study phase are re-examined in detail during programming. This is the time to determine the effect on existing facilities or projects-in-planning and the need for corollary projects, such as parking lots or new utilities services. State of Michigan building requirements or restrictions and all life safety, fire, environmental and barrier-free code issues are identified.
The project program, the end result of programming, describes how the finished project will "work": how it will function for the building occupants and how it will meet all the project requirements.
- Barrier-free code: standards set by federal and state agencies to ensure that the built environment is usable and accessible for all citizens. Barrier-free codes satisfy the requirements of the 1992 American with Disabilities Act.
- Life safety code: a document produced by the National Fire Protection Association. Compliance with the life safety code is required in most jurisdictions. The code applies to all building features necessary to protect life or to minimize the danger to life from fire or the products of fire, such as smoke, fumes or panic.
- Project managers and professional contractors: the University provides project management and oversight throughout the project. The University's project architects, project engineers, and interior designers serve as project managers. A professional service contractor—architect, designer or engineer—may be hired to complete the scope of work for the project.
- Yearly escalation: a multiplier used to adjust a dollar figure to a future value. The multiplier is based on historical increases (or decreases) of construction-related costs. It is usually determined regionally, as construction trends are not necessarily the same throughout the country.