How to choose an architect

Your project’s success depends on an effective working relationship between you and your architect. Every architecture firm offers a unique set of skills, expertise, and value. The challenge is to find one that aligns closely with your needs. Take the time to choose the right team and create an effective partnership. 

 

Start by thinking through what you know or understand about your project. Don't worry if you don't have it all figured out. It will be helpful however if you can identify your priorities. The Consulting Architects of Alberta offers a companion document, Before Choosing an Architect in this suite of documents to help you.

 

Choose an architect who understands and appreciates your concept of the project. Select someone you are comfortable working with and can communicate with effectively. You are going to be spending a significant amount of time together - your consulting architect should fit well with your personality and style. The firm you choose should understand your goals, respect your budget, and offer a reputation of success through the eyes of their clients.

As you browse through our database of member firms, begin your search by following these steps:

 Begin your search for an architect by following these steps:

  1. Make a list of potential firms. Ask colleagues, acquaintances, and others who have worked with architects about their experiences. 

  2. Solicit information from the architects or firms on your list. Request qualifications and references.
  3. Evaluate your list and narrow it down to a short list of a few firms and request each of them to submit a written proposal.
  4. The Consulting Architects of Alberta offers a template you can use to request proposals (coming soon); it will be particularly helpful on commercial or community projects.
  5. If you are preparing your own request for proposals, be sure to ask each of your candidates to describe:
  • Their understanding of your project
  • How they plan to undertake your project; the steps ahead and the schedule
  • How they see your overall project budget
  • How they suggest that you hire a construction contractor
  • Their track record and direct experience with projects similar to yours
  • How they charge for services and about additional expenses that could occur as the project moves ahead
  • What form of agreement they would suggest for your project

6. The Consulting Architects of Alberta offers a guide to the scope of services architects provide and to appropriate fees for each size and type of project. We strongly suggest that you choose your architect based on the best fit of qualifications and agree to pay them based on the CAA guidelines. Your investment in their services is a small part of your overall project cost, but their services are very important in getting the best value for your investment in your project.

 

7. Interview the final candidates. For a guide to questions to ask, see our Top 10 Questions to Ask when hiring an architect.  Pay attention to how your personalities and concepts for the project mesh. Obtain answers to any questions you have about the proposed schedule, fee structure, and other concerns. Narrow down your choice by considering relevant experience, technical competence, budget considerations, and time frame.

 

8. Try to visit some of the projects designed by your finalists. Seeing the actual work of a candidate can be very helpful in determining whether you are a good fit with each other.

 

9. By now you should have a very good understanding of the architects and of their firms. Review your priorities and take confidence that you are about to  make an informed choice. How will you know when you find a good fit? The ideal architect will listen to your concerns, help you set your goals, and suggest ways to translate them into an effective building. If you have any remaining questions, ask them of your selected architect.

 

10. Be sure to start your project with your architect by reviewing and executing a written contract so both parties are clear about the terms of your agreement.

 

(Content adapted with permission from the American Institute of Architects)