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How To Find The Right Architect

Updated: Feb 10

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.

photograph of a man smiling, beard, white-framed sunglasses, white short-sleeved collared shirt, cedar siding house behind, bright sunny day, blue sky

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.

Typical Recommendations

Most literature online will tell you the top things to consider when selecting an architect are:

  1. Assessing the architect's portfolio to determine style and talent

  2. Reviewing the architect's experience with projects similar in type and size

  3. Requesting references or testimonials from past clients

  4. Interviewing at least a few architects

  5. 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.

Steelpunk architect wearing a tailored suit, closeup of face imagining the future, sketching by hand with digital stylus on a large Apple ipad pro, stepping out of a classic car onto a rural waterfront property. Golden hour lighting in autumn, highlighting a tranquil lake and rustic dock; 1967 Jaguar E-Type convertible. A few locals in the distance, gathering firewood for a bonfire. Mood: Harmonious convergence of tradition and innovation

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

collage art closeup of Seasoned architect salt-and-pepper hair, in architect's glasses, holding smart drafting tools, standing before an interactive holographic model of a sustainable home :: design studio blend of classic and modern elements, Soft ambient studio lighting gentle highlights and shadows :: architectural blueprints, hand sketches, and digital renderings in the background :: Mood Pioneering expertise, style tapestry of architectural epochs from Neoclassicism to Hypermodernism :: Slightly low camera angle looking up to subtly elevate the subject grandeur

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

Layered Paper Art, Architect in contemplative pose, brass compass and open blueprint, standing on floor transitions broken concrete to wild garden path :: split lighting, harsh and soft, Mood Guiding through complexity to clarity :: Bird's-eye view camera angle

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

 in the style of Chiaroscuro oil painting on canvas :: modern professional female architect design office meeting, two clients married couple :: blueprints :: tidy modern background books and models from varied styles and epochs :: attentive posture, focused eyes, leaning slightly forward in chair, holding a blueprint unrolled on a walnut table :: split lighting, client's family photos and sentimental objects artfully arranged nearby, soft daylight through sheer curtains :: style Steelpunk, low camera angle :: Chiaroscuro oil painting on canvas

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

digital vector art, architect standing at a translucent digital touch screen, mid-presentation, touching key design elements :: split lighting, sharp contrasts and bright accents emphasize speaking and gesturing architect :: dynamic architectural house graphics transition from hand sketches to CAD on screen :: mood articulate, style modern with Retrofuturistic elements, camera angle slightly high emphasizing architect's reach towards screen

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

black-and-white film photograph in the style of cinematographer Roger Deakins :: Architect and home builder :: two men leaning over intricate 3D architectural model, split lighting illuminating intense gazes :: each holding construction blueprints, worktable cluttered with architect's blueprints and builder's tools :: low-angle camera shot to emphasize authority

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

watercolor painting in the style of painter Andrew Wyeth, Architect at desk intently scrutinizing 3D digital model on large curved monitor, warm lighting casts glow on face :: Architect's hands poised over keyboard and mouse, notepad full of handwritten notes and sketches beside :: windows behind reveal a nighttime cityscape, contrasting the lit interior :: eye-level camera angle to capture engagement and dedication

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

vector art in the style of filmmaker Wes Anderson, overhead camera angle :: Architect at modular workbench, systematically arranging magnetic tiles on a whiteboard representing different project phases :: organized workspace :: annotated checklists, flowchart :: soft studio lighting casting minimal shadows clarity efficiency of the process :: countdown clock in background to project completion

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.

Your Future

digital vector art in the style of filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki :: architect reviewing augmented reality blueprints :: climate-resilient cottage structure with integrated green technologies :: anime suburban skyline in the background evolving into a sustainable city, accented by wind turbines and vertical gardens :: lighting sharp and high-contrast, illuminating innovations like hydroponic systems :: camera angle bird's-eye view

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.

SAPPHR Strategy™

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.



The information included in this article is to an extent generic and intended for educational and informational purposes only; it does not constitute legal or professional advice. Thorough efforts are made to ensure the accuracy of the article, but having read this article, you understand and agree that Daniel Clarke Architect disclaims any legal liability for actions that may arise from reliance on the information provided in this article. Readers are recommended to consult with an architect before making any decisions or exercising judgement base on information in the article.



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