Congratulations, your business is growing and you need a new workplace to allow your employees to thrive. Whether you build a new building, move into a lease space, or renovate the one you are in, you will need an architect to make that happen. Now how do you find one?
Chances are you will Google search “architects near me” and found the inevitable result of “Top 10 Best Architects…” or any number of other lists. But these are lists of often random business names and nothing more. What about their qualifications and experience? What about their capabilities and past work?
Better Sources to Find Architects
Ask other businesses – Have you been in an office or restaurant you particularly like? Ask them who their architect was. You already know they can produce an aesthetic you like.
Search the AIA (American Institute of Architect) database – AIA maintains a database of firms around the country (and some international) that employ AIA members. AIA members are required to meet annual continuing education and uphold ethical standards so you can have some level of confidence of their competence. The list also provides links to their websites which will allow you to peruse their portfolio.
Ask your broker – If you are using an agent to find land or space, ask for recommendations. They often work with architects or know the players around town.
Pick a Handful of Options
Use the resource above to search through websites and publications. Find a handful of architects that have experience in your project type and aesthetics you like.
Next step is to interview, formally or informally, each firm on your short list. You want to get a feel for who they are, their communication style as well as get their credentials. Some things you will want to know…
- Make sure the lead architects are licensed in your state
- Verify they are insured
- Ask about projects like yours. They can expound upon what was shown on their website
- Ask about their design process. This gives you an idea of the steps they use to get to your final product and what to expect from them
- Ask about their workload as compared with your timeline. You want to be sure they have time to commit to your project
- Ask for references and follow up on them
- How do they generally calculate their fees for your type of project. This can always be negotiated, but it gives you an idea of what to expect
- How they will stay on budget
[Another option here for large projects is to develop an Request for Qualifications (RFQ). But that’s an article for another day!]
At this point you may already have a clear winner. Like a perfect first date, things just clicked! Lucky you. You can just get an official proposal from them and move forward. If not, then let’s get proposals from everyone.
You want a proposal to include the architect’s understanding of the project, the official scope of work that the architect will be responsible for, and the fee they will charge. Be aware that different firms may structure their fees differently. This can make it difficult to compare apples to apples. For this reason, you might do some further research and decide on the type of fee structure you want or don’t include it. Instead choose the architect based on capabilities and project understanding, then negotiate the fee.
In order to get a proposal, the architects need to know what your needs are so it is their turn to interview you. They will ask you a lot of questions about your company and your needs along with things like…
- What type of spaces do you need? (e.g. open and closed offices, break rooms, conference rooms…)
- How much space do you need or do you even know?
- What level of finishes are you expecting? (e.g. marble and brass vs. laminate and nickel)
- Are there specialty needs such as commercial kitchens, clinical areas, theaters, or the like? This will determine if certain consultants need to be included on the design team.
- What is your expected timeline?
- What is your budget? This is important for the Architects to know because often fees are based on the construction budget. But more importantly it is an indicator of your expectations and if they are realistic. For example, will your square footage needs and finish expectations fit within your budget or does it need to be reconsidered before moving forward. It varies on whether clients share their budget at this point. Some don’t because they don’t want architects to try and spend every penny. (For the record, this should not be an issue if you are finding ethical architects!) Some clients give a budget range.
Generally speaking, you want to choose your architect based on best value. I didn’t say cheapest! And what you “value” may be different than the next person. So, what does that mean for your pile of proposals?
Chances are you can eliminate one or two immediately. Maybe they were difficult to communicate with; maybe they were late in getting you information; maybe it turned out they didn’t have as much experience as you thought. Whatever it is, you just know, so set those aside.
The best criteria is their level of experience with your type project and references. If they create amazing spaces but clients don’t like working with them, then they may not be the firm for you. You want an architect that is qualified, experienced, communicative, and has a track record of satisfied clients.
Get it in writing! The architect will create a contract that lays out all the work and deliverables they will be providing. Read it, understand it, and negotiate it. Anything you ask them to do above and beyond that could incur additional fees.
Now let the exciting work toward your beautiful new space begin!
Give us a call to chat about your upcoming project. 504-586-9303