How to Choose an Architect
Once you have considered all of your options and decided to hire an architect for your project, there are a number of things to consider when selecting which specific architect you should work with.
Trying to find an architect who suits your needs, and those of your remodel project, can be daunting. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of qualified, local, licensed architects who are capable of designing and assisting with the permitting of your project. A remodel (or addition/ new construction) is an important personal and financial decision that deserves serious consideration. In order to make an informed decision, it can be helpful to consider and weigh the following factors.
Before opening their practice, all licensed architects must get a degree from an accredited university. Different architecture schools have different focuses and, therefore ,offer a wide range of experiences that can shape an architect’s way of thinking and designing. For example, some architecture programs are more engineering focused, whereas others put a greater emphasis on cutting edge design. Find out where each architect went to school, and ask about how they think this shaped their way of working.
Before being issued a license, an architect must complete several years of internship under a licensed professional. During this time architects may begin taking a series of licensure exams that test their knowledge of design, construction, and ethics. Even after obtaining their license, most architects continue to work for a larger firm before going out on their own. The sum of these experiences impact how an architect thinks, designs, and conducts business.
Experience can have its benefits and its drawbacks. While experience can hone talent and increase efficiency, experience can also create stagnancy. The field of architecture is rapidly evolving and young architects often emerge from school with fresh ideas. On the other hand, more complex projects and more traditional design styles typically have a greater number of details and considerations that can take years of practice to perfect.
Selecting an architect who is familiar with local building codes, or even the specific people in charge of approving projects, can have enormous benefits. This may mean that the architect is local, or has simply done a number of projects in your city. This familiarity can expedite the approval process. Although building and zoning codes are fairly uniform from one city to the next within a state, how they are enforced can vary.
For projects where style is a primary concern, finding an architect who is interested in, or capable of, designing in your preferred style can be crucial. Some architects specialize in one style (often those who do contemporary design or historic renovations), whereas others are versed in multiple styles. A quick look at an architect’s online portfolio should give you a sense of their style preferences and range. A talented architect interested in expanding their repertoire, and continuing to learn, should be capable of taking on and learning about projects of all styles. Architecture is first and foremost about space planning and the details that give a building its style are often secondary.
Architect fees can be calculated in a number of different ways and often vary widely. Knowing how much an architect charges, and what services and deliverables you will receive, is an important consideration. However, people often put too much emphasis on the cost alone, without fully considering the other factors.
This is the most intangible, but possibly most important, of all the factors. The only way to accurately assess this quality is to meet with the architect in person and get a feel for whether or not your personalities are a good match. A brief interview should be sufficient to determine whether or not you could effectively work with them. Design and construction is a lengthy process and you will be spending many hours working with and communicating with your architect. Ensuring that your personalities fit is critical.
Different factors can have varying importance to different people. Knowing what the factors are, and weighing them based on your project and personality, will help you make the right architect selection.