Alright, so you have decided you want to hire an architect, or at least you have considered the possibility enough to do a little research. Now you want to know how you are supposed to decide on an architect, when you don’t know anything about architecture, which is why you need to hire an architect! Whew…
First things first, how do you find an architect to work with? I have a few recommendations, first, ask all of your friends and acquaintances if they have worked with an architect, know an architect, or can recommend one. Word of mouth is the single best way to find someone you are willing to trust with a project as personal as designing your home, building, or space. If your friends are unable to provide you a name or two go on to your local chapter of the American Institute of Architects. Or simply Google: Architect, your location, and whatever you want to build.
How will you know if they can meet your needs and give you everything you want? Maybe you have done some research and you have found, as is often the case, that several architects in your location build beautiful homes or buildings and have great pictures on their website. Maybe some are your style, maybe others are not, but now you are confused because if all architects design beautiful spaces how do you know which one is right for you?
Maybe selecting an architect should be like selecting a puppy. Before you get a puppy you do research, you find out what type you want based on how they look, what exercise requirements they have, what certain personality traits are common with that breed, what size they are or will grow to be, how far away are the located to go pick one out, and then when you finally get there you pick the one the grabs your attention. Maybe it’s the cutest one, maybe it’s the quiet one that plays by itself, or maybe it’s the spunky one that shows off and is very friendly.
Similar to selecting a puppy, selecting an architect that will meet your specific needs is based on a lot of different factors. That doesn’t mean that every architect is for you, or that you can work with every architect. So here are the key points you need to know and consider when selecting an architect to work with.
- Research – just like buying a puppy, the more research, the better the outcome will be. If you are looking to build or remodel a house, try looking for architects that specialize in residential design. All architects specialize in something, residential structures that emphasize energy efficiency, hospitals, schools, contemporary design and so on. All architects are not good at all things, so steer away from the architect who is trying to be all things to all customers.
- Look at the work the architect has done, just because they aren’t showing that mid century modern home you want doesn’t mean they can’t provide it for you, it just might mean that other clients didn’t want that. But you’re selecting an architect who is going to best suit your needs, so you want them to be able to adapt to your style. If you notice that the architect seems to only do hospitals, and you want to design a home, then they may not be the architect for you.
- Find out what are the requirements for working with the architect. Do they bill monthly, or at the end of the project? Are their fees fixed? What kind of contract will they require you to sign? Do they do renovations, or only new construction? Do they work primarily your area? Some of this information will be available on their website, but giving a call to the office will often gain you the information you need. If you are not sure what questions to ask, have the architect explain to you what working with them will look like.
- Ask for referrals. Working with anyone can be a challenge, so ask previous clients what their experience was working with the architect. Ask how the project went and if the architect was quick with responding to questions. Does someone answer the phone when you call, or did you have to talk to the automated system? Did they finish the project on time and on budget? Did they follow the project all the way through from design through completion or did they hand the project off to the contractor after design and permitting.
- And lastly, set up a meeting to introduce yourself to the architect and ask who will be part of the team. Your personality and theirs need to be compatible so you know that you can work together. You will be sharing some very personal information with your architect, so be sure to select someone you feel comfortable with.
Everyone is worried that the architect only wants to design some showpiece and charge a lot of money. This is a very big misconception. Architects are trained to understand space. They spend years developing the skills necessary to provide as much as possible in the least amount of space and make it work so well that you never know how complicated it was to get that last closet in between the bathroom and the kitchen. Architects are often able to find space in your layout or your budget that you never thought of, but you need to know that the architect you hire can meet your needs. Be willing and open to listen to their suggestions, because sometimes they do know better, but be upfront in stating what your budget, timeframe, and expectations are.
If you hire the right architect, at the end of the project you’ll be rewarded with a truly beautiful space that they created with you. It’s like leaving your clients with a sense of “place”. A feeling that the spaces they created not only function, but enhance their lives, allowing them to do the things that matter most to them.
If you’re still not sure about hiring an architect, tune back in over the next couple weeks where we will elaborate more on working with an architect.
Until then, happy planning!