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