Hiring an Architect

How to Avoid Hiring the Wrong Architect

Architecture is a fast changing profession, especially in the field of software. Many firms have to make the substantial investment to be at the first position of their industry. This job is equilibrium of art and science and needs communication and organization competence. Although it is difficult to understand whether a particular architect will satisfy your needs, here are advices that may help:

1. Architect’s office.

Any architect’s office can tell you a lot about their design aesthetic and creativity. Though, first meetings with a client will be at their project site, so you have very small chance to see the architect’s office. Visit the office of an architect before the initial meeting.

2. An organization of the architect’s office

Good architect has to classify any kind of information he gets, and a disorganized office might be a problem. Though you have to distinguish an artist creativity with disorganization. Forms or model building supplies, trace paper and sketches can be a sign of real creativity, but information about projects should stay in binders and filing cabinets. Mass of unsorted paper is possibly not a good sign.

3. Ask your architect if they are using 3D software and BIM

BIM or Building Information Model is the latest architectural software. It is used by highly developed architects. BIM project is totally designed in three dimensions (3D). In many cases the software can help to reduce errors in coordination of drawings since the two dimensional pictures are all taken from the 3D model. The software also keeps track of things like sizes of each door and window, and when a size is modified in one drawing, it is automatically updated in another. This can really decrease errors.

4. Education is the foundation of each architect’s experience.

While attending a good school can guarantee your architect has a good basis to build upon, usually the best sign is how an architect studied in the school they attended. Many architecture trainers will tell you that only10%-20% of students will be talented designers and few students who weren’t got considerably better as they went through discipline. To get an impression of how an architect was presented in school, ask about design awards they won or exhibitions they participated in. If you are going to check academic performance, distinguish between design studio classes, and non-design studio classes.

5. Know a team you are going to work with.

If you are hiring a multi-person firm, find out who will work on your project. Often the person you had interview with does not actually work on your project. If you didn’t see that person you are going to work with during the interview, ask to visit the architect’s office and meet the person or people who will be in your team. Check  all documentation of that team and license.

6. Architects communicate with drawings as well as words.

Look at the architect’s drawings and ask any questions. It may be quite challenging to read or understand drawings especially if you haven’t done this before, but if you cannot understand them after an architect’s explanation, then either the drawings are not very good, or the architect has a hard time communicating.

7. A complete set of construction drawings should include specifications.

Not all architectural information is presented within drawings. Plumbing fixtures, electrical fixtures, finishes, expected quality levels, and any other information that easier to say in words than in drawings are presented in written specifications. If your architect doesn’t prepare specifications, then most probably you’ll be answering many questions during construction and may be affecting with large change orders.

8. Browse your architect’s website.

A well organized and designed website can show you that your architect is organized and can assemble information in a clear format. If his website is out of date or he does not have any, this might warn that they are behind the times.

9. Check how well the architect works with building departments.

When you or your architect approves drawings for your project to the building department, they are usually reviewed and a revision/correction notice is issued. A good architect can easily get approval for a residential or small commercial project without revisions or one round of revisions. Since each cycle of revisions takes time to complete, fewer cycles of revisions means you get your authorization sooner. Documents that were not complete properly could hold up construction. If you’re trying to have your project framed and weather-tight before the rainy season will start, this might push the project into a season with disadvantageous construction conditions.

Hiring an architect is difficult because you cannot check the end product during the interview. You will only know how the project will be at the final stage. So to spend the time choosing a good architect is not so worth. Find architects, interview them and see who do you think is capable to make this project and a good personality fit for you. It will take a lot of time to choose the best architect!