You're probably evaluating the wrong things when looking for an architect. To choose the "right architect", you must understand what "right architect" means. How do you choose the best architect for your remodel / renovation or new house? In this article, you'll hopefully learn a few critical things to check for when comparing candidate architects.
Many people will choose an architect based on a quoted fee or on referral and only check to see that there's nothing about the architect that puts them off. The biggest risk in hiring the wrong architect is not getting the outcome best suited to your needs. This equates to wasted money, ongoing disappointment (or resentment), and maybe delays and cost overruns.
Most literature online will tell you the top things to consider when selecting an architect are:
Assessing the architect's portfolio to determine style and talent
Reviewing the architect's experience with projects similar in type and size
Requesting references or testimonials from past clients
Interviewing at least a few architects
Using your gut instincts when first meeting with an architect to assess compatibility of your personalities.
Those common suggestions are a good start since not every architect is created equal.
For starters, having an architect who is local is *generally* preferable. An architect will typically charge for travel time and expenses both during the design phase and during the project's construction, and this cost can add up over the course of the project. For example, someone living in the British Columbia interior usually wouldn't hire an architect from the Lower Mainland.
However, people living on the North Shore (North Vancouver, West Vancouver) or Burnaby where there are few architects will often choose an architect from Vancouver. Additionally, you may live where there are no architects; hiring one from elsewhere would be unavoidable. Last, you may simply prefer an architect from another area because the work ethic aligns better with your expectations.
Beyond location, area of expertise is a natural filter. One of the requirements in an architect's training is to understand the scope of one's proficiency and to offer only services that the architect is confident he or she can provide well. Some architects design schools. Some architects design cultural buildings. Some architects design shopping centers. Some architects design houses. You need only ask the architect if the project you're considering is within the skillset of that architect.
Advanced Selection Criteria
Beyond the typical recommendations, I offer the seven tips below to helping ensure that the architect you choose will be the right one FOR YOU.
#1 Diverse Architectural Experience
Choosing an architect with a blend of broad knowledge and specialized expertise offers the best of both worlds. While it's crucial for the architect to possess a strong grasp of and proficiency in designing your particular building type and style, an overly narrow focus can be restrictive. An architect should not be a 'jack of all trades,' willing to tackle any project, but rather a master of the specific domain you're interested in, while still maintaining a broader, adaptive knowledge base. This duality leads to a design that not only excels in its own category - for example a house - but also leverages strategies from other building types, thereby opening up the project's design possibilities.
#2 An Architect Can Guide You
The architect you choose should not merely exude talent and skill but should also instill confidence as a leader whom you feel good about following through the development of your new home. Any construction project is already a complex exercise, but if you're pursuing a non-standard result such as a Passive House home, you'll need someone capable who can lead the design and construction team to generate clever solutions
#3 The Architect "Gets" You
The selection process isn't about dollars There are very expensive architects who do wonderful, beautiful buildings but don't really make the effort to understand their clients' point of view. There are very inexpensive architects who do good buildings but don't charge a high enough fee to take the time to understand their clients' point of view. The architect can't really hear where you're coming from if ego is in the way or if the design process is hampered by inadequate fees or a rushed schedule.
You could move into a house that looks great in magazines, but it won't truly feel like it's yours - like it was made specially for you. It looks amazing, but it doesn't feel right; You don't feel that strong connection. That's why you have to go with your gut and the if the architect feels right then your home will feel right.
#4 Communicates Clearly With You
To achieve a truly transformative architectural experience, it's essential to establish open and honest communication with your architect. Feeling comfortable enough to share your aspirations and concerns is pivotal for steering the architect's creative output to fulfill your vision. This not only impacts the design but also ensures a complete understanding of the scope of services, associated costs, and the respective responsibilities of both the client and the architect.
#5 Communicates Effectively With The Builder
An architect who knows the properties of construction materials brings a level of pragmatism essential for long-term durability and reliable functionality. Understanding construction sequencing isn't merely logistical; it's crucial for ensuring the building process can be cost-effective and can produce a solid building. An appreciation for how craftspeople assemble elements on-site prepares for the human aspect of every project - the construction crew who can make or break your project. Furthermore, taking into consideration the cost and schedule impact of products, as well as the availability of materials and labour, ensures a project that is not only visionary but also achievable.
#6 Fully Engaged
Can you feel that the architect you're talking to is fully engaged - excited to see you get the best possible outcome? You're not hiring someone simply to deliver the items on a shopping list that you want in your house. You're hiring someone to generate a design that will captivate you, capture your soul, and provide a truly connecting experience to your home.
#7 Has A Process
An architect who employs a rigorous process for research and planning is a cornerstone for the project's success. This includes scrupulous attention to rules and regulations as well as a nuanced understanding of your needs and wishes. Without a structured design process, you risk unexpected setbacks and inflated costs that could have been preempted. Moreover, the design phase serves as the arena for you to see your ideas take a more tangible form and make adjustments accordingly. The freedom to change one's mind is vital but should be exercised during the design stage - not in the middle of construction, to avoid costly disruptions.
The tips above apply to a project of any kind, but if sustainability, durability, and similar topics matter to you, one other thing you want to look for is an architect who understands what will make it last for decades to come. The climate is changing and the building code will not be adequate. If your house doesn't take advantage of new building technologies and concepts borrowed from other building types other building systems and technologies you are being limited in what can be delivered. If you're investing a lifetime's savings, your house should perform wonderfully for at least one lifetime. This is the aim of the UltraHome - my recipe for outstanding performance.
An Alternate Strategy, A Superior Result
You want architect with a diversity of technical experience as much as an aesthetic sense. The diversity of priorities, objectives, and frames of reference of the wide range of clients whom I've served while working on an equally wide range of projects has taught me how to connect with a client's thought process and guided the development of my process for starting, developing, and completing a project.
My SAPPHR Strategy™ is a comprehensive and methodical process that first ensures that I correctly understand your needs, objectives, projects constraints, and available resources. It then ensures that the design performs in all metrics that matter to you by incorporating design features and industrial-grade materials and systems found in larger and more complex buildings.
Settling on an architect simply because he/she was a referral or was less expensive often brings extra stress during construction and frustration with the final building whether it's a house or an office.
On the other hand, working with the right architect through the design and construction of your project is almost certain to leave you completely satisfied and incredibly grateful for your new home.
When you're ready to discuss applying the SAPPHR Strategy™ to get a superior new or renovated home that is tailored to your needs and prepared for the future climate, book a Diagnostic Session - your free 30-minute call with me - using the button below.