The architecture profession is critical to the built environment but choosing one is difficult. There are more than 11,500 members in the Australian Institute of Architects.
A quick online search will present to you with hundreds of home designers to choose from. How do you hire the right one? Read on to learn how to hire an architect for your project.
How to Hire an Architect
Hiring an architect can be intimidating. If you have no experience in the building industry the technical aspects of a building project can seem bewildering. Architects are professionals with many years of training so you may feel out of your depth trying to choose the right one.
There’s no reason for you to be frightened. Choosing an architect is like choosing any professional service. It’s just the same as if you were to hire a lawyer, a motor mechanic or a tennis coach.
The key is to have appropriate criteria to help support your decision making. Do your homework and stay objective and you’ll find that you can find the right architect for your project.
Why Do You Need an Architect?
It’s wise to start by being clear about why you need an architect. Understanding this will help you find the right architect for your needs. So, what do architects do?
An architect can turn your vision into reality. Starting with your brief, they can interpret your ideas and present them back to you in the form of a design. The design may be presented as drawings or plans.
The architect’s design can form the basis for more discussion. It’s during this stage that the practicalities of your vision can be explored. The discussion can start to explore your needs and wants, building feasibility and costs, and planning implications.
An architect may pilot the design through the process of securing planning approval. They can be involved in finding a suitable builder and even manage the project. Managing a building project includes monitoring the work on-site, checking the standards and quality of work, and keeping it on track, on budget and on time.
Decide how much or how little you need your architect to do. If you have some relevant skills you may undertake the project management yourself or you may already have a builder in mind. Be clear about what you need from your architect.
It’s easy to get distracted by a fancy list of services. If you just need someone to draw up a design then focus on their design services. On the other hand, if you need a full-service architect, some impressive plans don’t mean that they’ll be able to deliver the whole service you need to deliver your project.
Criteria for Selection
Start with a list of possible architects. You can generate the list by doing an internet search, asking friends and family for recommendations, and asking other professionals for recommendations.
Builders will often work with architects and will know which are effective and which are not. If you already know the builder you will use for your project, by all means, ask them for their suggestions.
Be cautious about any cozy relationships between builders and architects. An architect can be your best ally if a builder is not performing. You need them to be on your side and not on the side of the builder.
Assess your list of architects against these criteria.
1. Professional Credentials
Not everybody who can make a drawing of a building is necessarily an architect. If you want a professional architect to work on your project, check out their credentials.
Ask a prospective architect about how they got their qualifications as an architect. Ask them about whether they are registered with a professional institute. It’s possible for you to verify this by checking their registration with the institute.
Their membership of a professional body will require them to abide by professional standards. You can also ask them for evidence of their professional indemnity insurance. This will provide you with some assurance that if their advice is found to be wrong, you have some recourse to compensation.
2. Range of Services
Once you understand what services you need from an architect, assess each prospective candidate’s service. Do they offer the services you need? Discount any architects who do not offer the service you require.
Bear in mind that splitting responsibilities between different parties can create problems. It may be better to allocate responsibilities to as few professionals as possible.
You may have an architect draw up a plan. A building firm could do the construction and another party may manage the project. If a dispute arises over the design you can find yourself at the center of a three-way blame-game.
Having an architect do the plan, manage the project and be accountable for delivery on budget and on time, means they’re responsible for resolving the dispute. If this is not your preferred option, then at least be clear about how disputes are to be resolved.
3. Relevant Experience
Qualifications and credentials are important but so is experience. Check whether the architects have relevant experience.
For example, Hampton Homes are designed to meet the needs of Queensland’s climate. The materials and construction methods are suitable for that environment. Make sure you choose an architect that has experience in the specific situation you are in.
Architects tend to have specializations. Some do more commercial work while others specialize in residential buildings.
4. Charging Methodology
Architects don’t all use the same charging methodology. Some architects charge a fixed price. Others will charge an hourly or daily rate.
Much will depend on the complexity of the project. Ask for clarity about costs and compare the responses from architects. The best architect may not be the cheapest but rather the one with the most credible explanation.
5. Track Record
If you need an architect to arrange planning permission, ask about their track record. Ask to look at the work they have done and how successful they have been at securing planning approval. Previous success is the best indication of their capability.
Ask for references from other clients. Ask if you can talk to previous clients and talk to them about the service they received. Stay clear of any architect who is not prepared to provide references.
Your Best Architect
Working with a professional architect is not just a nicety. It means that they have undertaken a serious course of study covering all aspects of the industry and they know how to deliver your vision. Hire an architect only after a systematic assessment of their knowledge, skills, and experience.
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