Syllabus / Professionals 101
Selecting an architect
Once you’ve decided to renovate with an architect, there’s still the not-small matter of selecting the right one for you and your project. Here are some important things to keep in mind during the selection process.
What services do architects provide?
Architects see the big picture when it comes to your project. They help you explore your priorities as far as aesthetics and functionality. They’ll coordinate your team of design, engineering and construction professionals; sort through the maze of building codes and zoning requirements; and ensure your project is built the way it was intended.
At what point in my project should I involve an architect?
As soon as you decide you want to build something new, you should start looking for an architect, who will provide important pre-design services like site evaluation, and help you explore building options you may not have considered. Involving an architect early in the process helps avoid costly missteps, and increases the likelihood that you’ll be happy with the outcome.
How do I find the right architect for my project?
It’s critical to find an architect who makes you feel comfortable, and with whom you have open communication. It’s also important to find an architect with experience in your project type. Look at it like an interview process — you’re looking for someone with your design sensibilities, who can complement your aesthetic, has similar tastes, and a personality you gel with. Ask yourself, do you actually like this person? Can you imagine spending time with them? (Since you will be.) And most importantly, can you see the work he’s done in the past? Their portfolio will let you know if his design sensibility matches your vision – you’ve got to look at their work and be confident that they’ll be able to realize your vision for your home.
A key question to any potential architect is, how does your design philosophy translate into the needs of my home, family and lifestyle? Some more good questions include: What do you need me to decide in the design process? What information do I need to give you? And what will be your role during construction? (Generally, the bigger the better.) Also don’t be shy to ask for a list of references.
Is My Architect Green?
If environmental sustainability is important to you, ask the architect questions like, do you have a sustainable design education? Is green design something your practice has experience in? Do you know sustainable work methods? Do you know renewable materials suppliers and do you know how to source them? Do you focus on waste reuse, and will you send discarded or removed materials to a waste exchange as opposed to throwing them in a landfill? What about sustainable design principles, local products and energy efficiency? Does your practice have a green certification such as LEED? Focus on the most important elements to you, and be sure your architect is ensuring they’re included in the construction.
Don’t architects add substantial cost to a project?
While it’s true that architects’ fees are an additional project cost, hiring an architect can actually save you money in many ways. Architects can monitor your budget and negotiate to get the best materials and workmanship at a good price. An architect’s design can reduce energy and maintenance costs, plus they can turn a difficult lot into a successful building site. And they spend time planning and fully developing your ideas to avoid changes once construction is underway.
How are architects compensated?
An architect’s compensation can be based on time, a stipulated sum, a percentage of the cost of the construction, the project’s square footage or unit cost. Time-based compensation and stipulated sums are most common. Unlike contractors, architects’ fees don’t vary all that much — they won’t submit competitive bids, and most will charge you a flat fee for your project. A standard architect fee is between 10% and 20% of the total cost of construction – the lower the overall budget, the higher the percentage they’ll charge. It’s really important that you share your complete budget with your architect, so he has a full sense of the project, and where the money is going.
What’s my role in the design process?
Your architect will depend on you to communicate about your design preferences, functional requirements, and budget. Your timely response to questions and design submissions will help keep the project on track. It is also important for you to raise any concerns you have as the project proceeds, so they can be addressed in the earliest stages. Working in partnership with your architect, you’ll help ensure the best possible outcome for your project.