Deciding to build or remodel a home can be a nerve-wracking experience. Hiring a licensed Architect can make the process run a whole lot smoother. Architects are highly skilled, professionally trained individuals whose job it is to guide you through the design, planning and construction process. It’s also important to note that some jurisdictions require a licensed Architect in order to obtain building permits, so be sure to check with your local permitting office to determine whether or not this is the case for you.
Prior to hiring an Architect
Before interviewing Architects, create a list of project goals. Focus on what you want to achieve, noting down all your requirements and highlighting any problems that need solving. Think in terms of how you would like to use the space, ideally, in the future. Don’t worry about solutions…that’s what the Architect is for. You should also try to establish your overall budget. This will help you discuss costs upfront with the Architect and avoid disappointment at a later stage.
Now you’re ready to interview Architects. Most Architects offer initial consultations for a small fee, so meeting with a few is a good idea. During the initial consultation, you should discuss project goals, your budget, and learn about each Architect’s individual process.
Look for an Architect with experience of your type of project and one that shares your values. Architects should be good listeners. This is a relationship that you’ll have for some time, so make sure it feels like a good fit. Check references, too.
Hiring an Architect
Once you’ve made your decision, the first thing to do is tell your chosen Architect and notify any others that you interviewed. You and your Architect should agree on the scope and cost of architectural services (Architects may charge a fixed fee, dollar amount per square foot, percentage of construction cost, or hourly fee) before any work starts. It is important that this agreement is in writing, setting out the services to be provided and outlining the obligations of each party.
The first thing your Architect will do is ask questions, listen, and understand what you are trying to achieve. They will work with you to cement your goals. A good Architect will develop efficient solutions and propose ways to reduce costs while coming up with a design that satisfies most, if not all, of the project goals.
Phases of the Project
Projects will typically be separated into different phases, the number of phases depending on the size and complexity of the project. Here we’ll look at some key phases, keeping in mind that your project may be structured a bit differently.
Schematic Design Phase
During this phase, the Architect reviews the project goals with the homeowner, then creates one or more design options, which may be sketched by hand or utilizing a CAD (computer-aided design) program. The homeowner and Architect will meet in person (if possible) to review the design sketches and make design decisions. The homeowner’s honest feedback (what they like, what they dislike) is key. This process continues back and forth until the homeowner is satisfied with the design and is ready to move on to the next phase.
These drawings will then be sent out to potential General Contractors (CGs) to obtain preliminary cost estimates. The homeowner, sometimes along with the Architect, will then interview potential GCs. The homeowner will select a GC based on an acceptable cost estimate and whether they feel that they are a good fit for the project. Again, it’s very important that the homeowner check references to be sure that the GC they choose has proven to be of utmost quality.
Throughout the pre-construction and construction process, the Architect, GC, and homeowner will work together as a team. So it’s pertinent that everyone communicates well and works well together in order to achieve a successful project.
Construction Documents Phase
Schematic Design drawings will be further developed into drawings that will be used to submit for both permitting and construction. Structural drawings (created by a licensed Structural Engineer) may also be needed. The Architect will help coordinate this effort. Once applicable permits are received, construction can begin. The GC, not the Architect, sets the construction schedule.
Construction Administration Phase
During construction, the Architect will make periodic job site visits to observe the quality and intent of construction. The Architect also acts as the homeowner’s representative to ensure that the project is being built per the Architect’s specifications. Throughout construction, the Architect should be available to answer any questions that the GC has, and to provide the GC with information and details as needed.
There are a lot of qualified Architects out there, but finding the right one for your project is key. Look for someone who listens and communicates well, someone who shares your project’s vision, and who is trustworthy. Avoid Architects who put their own agendas ahead of yours. An Architect can bring so much creativity to a project, and guide you through an otherwise confusing process, so open yourself up to the countless possibilities that an Architect will bring to the table!