Posts in "Programming" category

How to Hire an Architect in British Columbia – Part Two: How to Find and Interview Potential Architects

Finding an Architect

Choosing the right Architect is likely the most critical project decision you will make. Once everything is completed and your building is fully occupied you will measure its success against the criteria that you define with your Architect early on in the process.

Your Architect will guide you through the design and construction phases of the project. They will focus their efforts on realizing your stated objectives while helping you steer through regulatory approvals and the intricacies of your construction contract. They will serve as your advisor, coordinator, technical resource and artist. In order to fully meet all of these obligations you will need to make sure that your chosen Architect has the necessary education, experience, talent and capacity to help you achieve a high quality project within your budget and on schedule.

So how does one find the right Architect?

First of all, in British Columbia an Architect must be registered with the Architectural Institute of British Columbia. In order to practice they must also hold a current Certificate of Practice. The AIBC keeps a current list of all Architects registered to practice in British Columbia. It is a good idea to check whether your prospects are included in this list.

The process of finding an Architect will take some time… perhaps a couple of weeks to a month. During this time you will need to focus your efforts on researching possible leads. Approach your friends and colleagues to see if they know anyone who recently had a positive experience with an Architect. You may also approach home or building owners of comparable recently completed projects. Contractors are a very great resource as they will know many Architects. The internet is a very useful tool. You will likely be able to connect with a few Architects through your extended networks on sites such as Linkedin or by contacting them through their websites. Above all else, search for Architects with portfolios that align with your project goals. Pay particular attention to the complexity, attention to detail, and style of their past projects.

Once you have narrowed down your list of contenders to three or four individuals (or firms) you will need to interview all of them. Keep in mind that they will also be interviewing you so go prepared with as much information as possible.

The Interview Process

The interviews will include discussion, raising awareness, review of information, acquiring preliminary understanding and articulating characteristics of the project. The purpose being a full understanding and agreement on a responsible scope of services, under mutually acknowledged terms of reference, for appropriate professional remuneration.

Your discussions will cover issues such as:

  • Whether other Architects are or were previously involved with your project. This issue is important because Architects are not allowed to supplant another Architect on the same project.
  • The broad understanding of the type, size scope and complexity of the project. Owners will often retain an Architect to perform Pre-design Services which help them define the project requirements. This is normally considered a separate service because the outcome forms the basis of understanding of the overall project’s scope of work. Often owners will hire an Architect to complete the pre-design work and then ask them to compete against other Architects for the remainder of the project.
  • The Architect’s applicable experience and review of past projects.
  • Whether the Architect has the ability to provide professional services for the project including: their professional competence; availability; and access to appropriate resources.
  • Whether they carry the required level of professional liability insurance (if applicable).
  • Required Zoning and Development approval requirements. Other potential requirements of authorities having jurisdiction over the project.
  • Project budget, financing and funding issues.
  • Project economics and feasibility.
  • Social and community issues.
  • The environmental impact.
  • Possible heritage designations.
  • Required appropriate professional (architectural and other) services, including sub consultants such as structural, mechanical and electrical engineers. Who will retain them and how the team will be structured.
  • The anticipated method of construction delivery and in turn the appropriate type of professional services agreement.
  • How professional fees will be calculated. How fees and expenses will be handled. The mechanisms for invoicing and payments.
  • Copyright issues, ownership and use of the design and project documents.

Assuming all required information is available at the conclusion of the interview, the Architect will be able to prepare the professional services agreement for your review and approval. It is important to note that the process of retaining an Architect is complex and your ultimate decision will be influenced by many factors. You will need to assess all of your options and select your Architect based on whether they fit your needs and are able to provide the best overall value.

Past Tips:

Part One: What do you need to build?

Coming up:

Part Three: Make sure you get what you pay for!


AIBC Bulletin 90: Minimum Scope of Architectural Services

AIBC Tariff of Fees for Architectural Services

Orientation Centre at the Martyrs’ Shrine, Midland, Ontario. I was involved in the design of this project with Joseph Bogdan Associates Architects in 2004.

Orientation Centre at the Martyrs’ Shrine, Midland, Ontario. I was involved in the design of this project with Joseph Bogdan Associates Architects in 2004.

How to Hire an Architect in British Columbia – Part One: What do you need to build?

Typically your working relationship with an Architect will begin with a process of identifying the required services to successfully complete the project. Here all available and missing information should be identified, and only once the overall picture is understood will it be possible to fully determine the required scope of professional services, and in turn, to determine the terms of your professional services agreement.

In my “How to Hire an Architect in British Columbia” series we will focus on the information that needs to be gathered in order to define the scope of professional services. In this first part, we will look at the Functional Program (also known as the ‘Brief’) which is the research and decision making process that identifies what exactly needs to be designed, as well as the inter-relationships between these elements.

While sophisticated institutional Clients have their programatic information available before they seek architectural services, most Clients need their Architect’s help in order to define the Functional Program. In such situations the Client and the Architect will need to enter into a short term agreement that covers what is known as the Pre-design Phase. Given that the extent of work involved is nearly impossible to quantify upfront, such agreements are usually based on per diem (daily) or hourly compensation.

Clients who commit to a complete functional programming exercise know that this is a very good investment toward virtually eliminating large cost overruns due to the inefficiency of redesign in later stages of the project while also assuring that the final building fully meets their needs.

Steps in the Programming Process

Step One – Organizing: It is very important that the end users are involved in the is process. On large projects the Client and the Architect will list and invite stakeholders in order to assure that all relevant input is included. Clear lines of communication are also established and points of authority are made clear to everyone.

Step Two – Project Typology Research: This step is necessary only if the team is working on a project type with which they do not have previous experience. It involves the study of precedents and literature to establish comparable norms for consideration by the team.

Step Three – Establishment of Goals and Objectives: Here the team works to agree upon and establish broad goals which will serve to guide for the detail programming process. They look at factors such as Organizational or Owner Goals, Form and Image Goals, Function Goals, Economic Goals, Sustainability Goals, Return On Investment Goals, Time and Schedule Goals , and Management or Circumstantial Goals.

Step Four – Gathering of Relevant Information: Based on the previously defined Goals, the team outlines categories of information to be researched in detail. These often include Facility Activities and Schedules, Necessary Equipment to Facilitate the Required Activities, Future Phasing Possibilities, the Space Area or Volume criteria, other design criteria such as Daylight and Acoustic Requirements, Licensing or Policy standards, Energy Usage Criteria, Code and other Regulatory Criteria, Site Analysis, as well as a study of the clients existing facility.

Step Five – Strategy Identification: A common method of outlining a functional program strategy is the depiction of the program by means of a relationship bubble diagram. These diagrams show relative areas and proximities of all program components. Access restrictions and Connections can also be identified through bubble or matrix diagrams.

Step Six – Quantifying the Requirements: In this step the previously identified program areas are further evaluated to determine true gross building size. This involves adding percentage values for ‘Tare’ components such as  circulation, walls, service spaces, etc. At this stage the team will refer to previous projects or precedents to determine the correct level of tare increase. Also,  the scope and quality of work is compared against the available project budget as well as the schedule. The owner needs to prioritize two of these factors at the expense of the third.  For example opting to pursue quality/scope and schedule at the expense of cost, or cost and schedule at the expense of quality/scope.

Step Seven – Program Summary: In this final step the team compiles a complete Functional Program Report which outlines all of the findings from the previous steps. This document serves as a solid starting basis for the project and assures that all efforts during design and construction focus the true and proven requirements.


Coming up:

Part Two: How to Find and Interview potential Architects



ExAC Reference to the Canadian Handbook of Architectural Practice

WBDC Architectural Programming

Kwantlen First Nation Schwanee-st Cultural Community Centre Functional Program

Kwantlen First Nation
Schwanee-st Cultural Community Centre Functional Program, prepared with ABBARCH Architecture


Kwantlen First Nation Schwanee-st Cultural Community Centre Relationship Matrix Diagram

Kwantlen First Nation
Schwanee-st Cultural Community Centre Relationship Matrix Diagram, prepared with ABBARCH Architecture