How to Choose an Architect?

You have a vision for a prospective project, and have completed initial budgetary financial planning.  Now … How to choose an architect?

Selecting the right architect for your project, from a small scale private residence to a large complex multi-faceted commercial project, can initially seem like a daunting proposition.  The following are a couple of suggested thoughts to minimize the angst as you start the process.

Create List of Potential Architects: There are numerous avenues to create your short list of potential professionals to choose from:

  • Recommendations: Ask friends, coworkers or fellow business owners for a personal recommendation.  Working with a firm that performed well for an associate or friend will give you a degree of confidence in their abilities.
  • A.I.A.: Visit the American Institute of Architects office or website to review a list of qualified architects in your region.
  • Online Research: Perform an internet search for architects matching your criteria in your area or for the proposed project location.

Evaluation for Selection: As there are numerous factors to consider when choosing an architect, a couple of primary aspects to keep in mind and consider include:

  • Local versus Expertise: Consider the need for a local architect.  Having a firm that is local to your vicinity and the project site can be convenient and have definite advantages.  However, don’t overlook the benefits of a firm that may specialize in your building or project type with offices remote and/or out of state.
  • Project Evaluation: Prior to interviewing Architects, do some homework to understand what your projects basic needs are. The benefit of this effort is to match the scope of your project with the skills and nature of the firm to be selected.
  • Degree of Custom Design: Establishing your expectations for the level of customization and detail for the project you want to include is important to understand prior to the start of the project.
  • Self Evaluation: Consider your level of ability in building design and construction.  This translates to how involved you want to be, and therefore how much the architect needs to be a representative on your behalf.

The Interview: Once you have engaged prospective architectural firms to interview, the following are a few key questions and ideas to discuss during the meetings:

  • Lines of Communication: Good communication is paramount to a successful project.  Who at the firm will be your primary contact?  How often do you expect to have updates during the process?  Keeping in mind that time is money establish clear mutual frequency expectations of conference calls, sit-down meetings, work sessions or even concise email status reports.
  • Design Phases: The design process is unique to every project.  While reviewing the vision of your project, request that the architect being interviewed describe the steps and process for how your project might be completed.
  • Finances Matter: Review financial terms.  A clear mutual understanding of your project budget, the proposed design fees for services and the arrangements to administer each are a must.
  • Economy: With a clear understanding of the scope and your vision for the project, a quality architect can provide an economical fee that aligns the scope with the project goals.
  • Look to be Heard: Finally – Look for a good listener and you’ll find a good architect.  Good architects will listen to you and can translate your ideas into a viable construction project.

Design is an iterative and interactive process between you and the architect.   Choose an architect that will make the journey fun and enjoyable.  Chances are at the end of the adventure you and your architect will be pretty well acquainted and good friends.

Given this is a very brief synopsis for “How to chose an architect?”, only touching on a few key points, if there are particular questions or details you would like to understand further, please feel free to contact us.

– Robin Adams

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