Hiring an Architect for a building project is appropriate for any type or price range of project because of the advantages availed through competitive bidding. The most advantageous circumstance however, would be when an Owner is also interested in custom design, authentic and expressive architecture and does not have a working relationship with a builder. If these factors are not applicable, the advantages of having an Architect involved are lessened.
Upon selection of an Architect a meeting is held to review the Owner’s objectives for the project. These objectives, known as a building program, include all of the desired spaces and functions. It is reviewed for completeness, adequacy and feasibility with respect to the budget identified for the project. The Architect then commences design work. The design is developed in an interactive review and revision process with the Owner until all of the design issues are resolved to the Owner’s satisfaction. At this stage, the Architect then prepares complete construction drawings including all required engineering and specifications as needed for permit submittal, bidding and construction. The Architect then assists the Owner with securing and review of bids, negotiation with the Contractor and award of the construction contract. During construction the Architect remains involved until completion, reviewing the progress of the work, reviewing and taking action on submittals, payment applications and changes in the work and finally, assists the Owner in the close-out of the project.
Some firms charge for work on an hourly basis for at least part of the project while others link their fee by a percentage to the often fluctuating construction cost. We have always provided our clients with a flat fee at the beginning of the project, usually following the initial project interview. This gives the Owner a known, fixed quantity at the beginning of the project and eliminates the variable nature of the percent of construction cost approach.
Our design work does not have an affinity towards one particular style. Our design philosophy is best described as “contextual”. Every project is an opportunity for a unique and original creation and expression of built form. Our approach is to develop the design in response to the numerous factors that may influence a building project. These include the Owner’s stylistic preferences, the character of the site, the neighborhood and historical context, and climatic conditions, to name a few.
The Owner must begin by furnishing a legal description of the property and any relevant survey and regulatory information. He must then prepare a building program to determine the required spaces and functions of the proposed building and a project budget and meet with the Architect to review these. He must be available throughout the project to review and render approvals as the design evolves and to respond to inquiries and correspondence throughout the project.
1. Projects involving Architects typically entail competitively bid construction. Because of the comprehensive bid documents they produce and the close involvement with the bid process, working with an Architect is by far the most effective way for an Owner to realize the value and cost savings of a competitively bid project in the construction of a building.
2. In a typical Architectural service contract, the Architect not only provides comprehensive design services but also represents the Owner’s interests throughout the entire construction phase. This total period is typically greater than one year.
3. Architects are responsible for and have authority in all design disciplines involved in the design of a building including structural, electrical, and mechanical engineering design.
4. Architects are responsible for the preparation of all documents required for compliance with and obtaining of all construction related permits.
5. As an integral part of an Architect’s services, the Owner’s budget is reviewed and consultation is provided as to its adequacy. The design work at each phase is undertaken in accordance with the established budget constraints. Estimates are provided by the Architect at every design phase.
6. The Architect typically assists the Owner in the identification of prospective bidders for the project and coordinates the entire bid phase operation including solicitation, bid opening, selection, notice of award, composition and execution of a construction contract.
7. The architecturally designed building is typically an original creation. The character and configuration of the home originate from nothing other than the Owner’s needs, the project site and context, and the studied interpretation of the desired architectural style.
8. The scope of the Architects design involvement is complete. Incorporating the Owner’s input, the Architect designs, selects and specifies every finish, fixture, color, texture and piece of equipment and hardware in the building down to built-in furniture if so desired. This completely eliminates the burden on the Owner of having to make timely and difficult decisions during construction or leaving the selection to the Contractor.
9. Architects offer the highest level of training available in the area of architectural style.
10. Typical architectural fees are a relatively small percentage of the overall project costs. When all costs are considered including land, commissions, furnishings, contractor fees and the like, a review of the impact of the architect’s services on the outcome of the project highlights its exceptional value.
An Owner should do a thorough background check before hiring an Architect. This is both appropriate and advisable. Architects should supply information on past projects that would enable the Owner to contact these former clients and interview them regarding the Architect’s performance on their projects.