Selecting Your Architect
How does one choose an Architect? This process is similar to how one would select a lawyer, doctor, or other professional. The most important factor is picking someone that you feel comfortable with and can easily communicate with. There should be many conversations between the Architect and the Client. There should be a mutual respect – the Architect respecting the Client’s dreams and desires and the Client respecting the Architect’s knowledge of the industry.
1. Prepare to meet with an Architect.
Prior to contacting your prospective Architect, take some time to prepare yourself. Write down the names of all the spaces you feel you may need. If you have an idea for the size of the room or spaces, or if there are special relationships between the spaces, write it down. This information will help the Architect better understand the scope of their work. The scope will be discussed in more detail as the project goes into the programming phase.
2. Interview the Architect that will work directly with you.
Make sure you are interviewing the person or people you will be working with. Some firms will send in their best Architects for the interviews, and then pass you off to an inferior after the agreement is in place. Interview the Architect who will be directly responsible for your project. This Architect will be your primary contact thought the design process. Ask about the consulting Engineers that might be required. You want to make sure your Architect has a positive relationship with them; they are an important part of the Architectural team.
3. Question the Architect about projects they have completed that are similar to yours.
Though it is not necessary, you may want to find an Architect who has some experience in designing the type, or function, of the building you want. They do not need to work exclusively with this type of building design, but should have some experience. Also ask your potential Architect to provide some back ground information on their firm. This could include the number of projects similar to yours they completed, how much business they receive, the size of their firm, and the number of projects your potential Architect will be handling in addition to yours. A reputable Architect should also be willing to give you contact information from existing Clients with projects similar to your own.
4. Review the design process, scheduling and budgeting with your Architect.
Next, you should talk about design processes, scheduling and budgeting. The Architect should be able to outline the general process of design, although there are processes that you can choose from. For example, one design process allows the Architect to design the facility and then allow multiple Contractors to bid it and you can choose the bid you prefer. Or, you may wish to select a Contractor from the beginning and use their guidance to build a project that meets your budget. Each of these options can affect your Architectural fee, overall budget, construction labor costs, and timeline.
The Architect should be able to give you a rough timetable for design and construction. The selected Contractor will have a major role in scheduling and until they are consulted, a hard move-in date cannot be established. Overall, the schedule needs to be realistic, and the Owner will need to be punctual in providing answers to the Architect to maintain the schedule. In every project, there are uncontrollable factors, such as weather, that may affect the schedule. Setting a Budget for a project is a topic we covered in our last post, so be sure to read that valuable information. In basic terms, once a scope of work is developed the Architect can hire a cost estimator and you can reduce or increase the scope based on how the costs fit within your budget.
5. Hire a local Architect.
Hiring an Architect that is familiar with the geographical area where the project is or will be located is to your benefit. The local Architect will be knowledgeable on the area’s governing authority’s requirements and the reputations of general Contractors that could potentially build the project. These Architects will also be more aware of any unusual conditions that affect structures and/or construction on the proposed location of the project. If after meeting with your local Architect you do not feel they can perform the work, try another semi-close Architect or suggest they hire another consulting Architect. Regardless, having the local Architect involved has proved crucial to the success of many project’s politics, budget, smooth construction process and more.
6. You get what you pay for and you will be required to enter into a contract.
With Architectural fees, you get what you pay for. You will not want bottom dollar Architectural fees if you want a good building where the project runs smoothly from design to construction. If you don’t understand some part of the Architect’s proposal, ask them to restate it in simpler terms. Architects often assume potential Clients know their acronyms. Do not hesitate to ask for clarification. Architects are required by insurance to have each Client sign a contract. This can be a simple in-house contract or can be a contract drafted by the American Institute of Architects, or AIA, and these can be lengthy. The AIA contract is recognized as a “neutral” document that is fair to both parties. The Client may want to ask their attorney to review the document if it is not easily understood. Most in-house contracts are simple to understand and can usually be reviewed without a lawyer but the option is always available to the Owner.
If you have not already, be sure to check out our free guide “How to Hire an Architect”. It is an extensive resource that we created to help you find the right Architect. If you are in search of an Architect, allows us to sit down with you. We are confident that we could meet your qualifications of quality design.
Blog written by Merrill K. Gordon and the Agora Team