HIRING AN ARCHITECT

Architects are more than building designers–they are men and women who create the spaces in which we live, work, and play. Architects are creative problem solvers who translate the requirements of an owner into a three dimensional form by visualizing the design and communicating it, both verbally and in drawings, so that it can be built.  Licensed by the state to practice architecture, the architect is the only professional specially trained to design the places in which people live and work and to manage all aspects of potentially complex projects from design through construction.

Architects must balance multiple requirements in each design: functional, aesthetic, economic, environmental, life safety, and regulatory. Their mission is to deliver great designs in a timely, noncontroversial, and uncompromised fashion, always guided by the best interests of a client and the community.  Architects are the single participant in the building industry most capable of guiding the overall design and construction process to a successful conclusion. They respect the industry's traditions and train themselves to be masters of technology and change. An architect listens to you and serves as your advocate throughout the project.

Licensure as an architect is the result of a special educational process, rigorous training, and completion of a complex series of exams. An architect usually has a minimum of five years of professional schooling and three years experience in the workplace before becoming eligible to take the licensing examination. Only licensed architects may use the title "architect."

YOU AND YOUR ARCHITECT

Architects provide a broad range of services and can provide value at every stage of the design and construction process. By working directly with you and assessing your requirements in great depth, the architect tailors the design to suit your personality, needs, budget, and lifestyle. The architect's extensive study of design alternatives allows you to choose the design most appropriate to your needs.

An architect's knowledge of site-planning and natural energy processes helps accommodate your project to the site characteristics and neighborhood context. By overseeing construction, your architect helps to make sure that your project is built according to design. The architect also saves you money and time. By keeping abreast of the latest construction materials and technologies, architects can recommend materials and systems that fit your budget. Your architect provides documents for the contractor bidding process, which should result in a fair contractor price.

Construction is expedited through an architect's careful planning and complete drawings and specifications. The architect serves as your agent with the contractor, resolving disputes that may arise and analyzing additional costs the contractor proposes.

The design aesthetic of the project is perhaps the most obvious area in which an architect makes a unique and valuable contribution, creating a visually appealing place with pleasing character and style. Ultimately, your property's value is increased through appropriate design, improved functionality, and high-quality detailing.

SELECTING AN ARCHITECT

You will benefit by involving an architect in your project as early in the process as possible. The most popular, and usually the best, way to select an architect is by interviewing several candidates. You can also learn about reputation and ability of architects in your community by visiting completed projects, talking with clients and users, and checking design awards programs and professional design publications.  A brief call to an architect can help determine if his or her expertise is appropriate to your project.

When you find a few with related experience, set up interviews with them to discuss your project and review photographs and other samples of their work. You will then be able to narrow the list and, after more meetings, it will become obvious to you which architect is best for you.  Check the architect's education, training, experience, and references.

Most importantly, however, is good "chemistry" between you and your architect–you will need to feel comfortable with each other and will get to know each other well. Your architect should be a good listener, responsive to your phone calls, clearly interested in your needs, and able to communicate without using jargon. Be patient: This process will take some time and it is one of the most important decisions you will make to shape the success of your project.

20 Questions to Ask Your Architect

1. What does the architect see as important considerations in your project?

2. What are the challenges of the project?
3. How will the architect gather information about your needs, goals, etc?
4. How will the architect establish priorities and make decisions?
5. Who from the architecture firm will you be dealing with directly? Is it the same person who will be designing the project? If not, who will be designing it?
6. How interested is the architect in this project?
7. How busy is the architect?
8. What sets this architect apart from the rest?
9. How does the architect establish fees? When will fee payments be expected? How will you be able to relate fee payments to milestones in the architect's scope of work?
10. What would the architect expect the fee to be for this project?
11. What are the steps in the design process?
12. How does the architect organize the process?
13. What does the architect expect you to provide?
14. Does the architect have a specific design style? Can he/she show examples of past design work?
15. What is the architect's experience/track record with cost estimating?
16. What will the architect show you along the way to explain the project? Will you see models, drawings, or sketches?
17. If the scope of the project changes later in the project, will there be additional fees? How will these fees be justified?
18. What services does the architect provide during construction?
19. How disruptive will construction be?

20. How long does the architect expect it to take to complete your project?