Choosing an Architect

Posted by on Dec 3, 2012 in Blog, How to/ Tips | No Comments

You’ve spent years dreaming, watched countless episodes of Grand Designs imagining it was you. The time has come, it’s now your turn to make that dream home a reality. But first, the single most important decision you need to make to successfully realise your project: which architect will be right for you?

To make the right decision, you must first understand the full role an architect plays in your project. An architect takes your dreams and wishes, adds their creativity, knowledge and experience, to create the design of your new home. Once the design is complete they produce the construction drawings, these are literally the instruction book from which the builder will build your home. They then assist you to choose the right builder for the job, based both on price and ability. Finally your architect supervises the construction, keeping a close eye on quality, helping you to avoid unnecessary costs, and ensuring the reality matches the design. ­­

I’ve compiled the seven criteria to consider in choosing the right architect for you:

1. Architectural style
You don’t walk into an Audi dealer and say I like the way your car drives, but can you make it look like a BMW? Similarly architects have a particular style that runs through all their work. You must trust this aesthetic will work for you. Architects are designers, their reputation is first and foremost judged by the look of their work; they must after all put their name to it. It’s imperative you love their style, for you to both get what you want.

2. Personality
This is a long-term relationship, lasting anywhere from 18 months to two years. Like on any first date, first impressions count. It’s not just about looks… of their work. Many make the mistake of ignoring that all important factor, personality. Ask yourself: Is this a person you will enjoy working with for the next 18 months or more? If you’re not feeling it straight away, walk away now, and avoid that nasty break up later.

It’s also wise to ask for testimonials or to speak to previous clients. This will give you added confidence of what they are like to work with.

3. Their Process.
–     How will they go about identifying your wants and needs?
–     What is their time frame for your project?
–     Do they feel your budget is sufficient to give you the sort of building you liked and approached them for?
–     How will they ensure your budget is not exceeded?
–     Do they have builders they can recommend to you?

4. Their design approach.
–    Will they allow your input? Whilst the architect is designing your new house, are they open to your feedback so aspects you don’t like will be re-designed until you are both happy?
–     How will they present their designs to you? Sketches, models, computer drawings?
–     If you struggle to read architectural drawings, do they work with 3-D computer software?
–     Do they offer interior design as well? Dealing with one office is both easier, and preferred for design consistency.

5. Their experience
Are they experienced in the type of project you want done? Ask to see similar examples to your project, so you can feel safe in the knowledge they aren’t out of their depth. I for example don’t do commercial work, just residential work on difficult sites.

6. How will they manage the process?
A good architect is both a good designer and a good manager. The building process is a complicated one; your architect must do their utmost to ensure your interests are met, and the project runs on time and budget. This includes co-ordinating all the other consultants involved, such as engineers and surveyors. You should at no point feel out of your depth, only the excitement of watching it all come together.

7. What are their fees?
Fees should not be the primary criteria in choosing your architect, they are however an important consideration. Base your decision on this: the higher the fee, the more work and experience goes into your design and the better the final result. Go with the best architect you can afford, to get the best house for your budget. Ask the following:
–       What are your fees and how often can we expect to be billed?
–       What do your fees include and exclude?
–       What happens if we make a change to the design?
–       What happens if the quotes from builders exceed our budget?   

After discussing all the above, you must lastly consider: did the architect communicate well with you, and did they listen and answer your questions? Were they responsive and return your calls and emails promptly? To avoid your dream becoming a nightmare, you must hear all the answers you want to hear.

Good luck, and enjoy the journey to living in your dream.


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