When selecting an architect it is important to evaluate not just the technical capabilities of the architect, but also the key factors of compatibility with the firm. Keep in mind that a good architect will engage with the client and evaluate them as well.
All architects are different; so how can a client possibly know all it needs to know about potential relationship between them and the architect for a successful project? The answer: It cannot. There are some issues that are unavoidable until the project is underway and the problems have been presented. However, a client can and should gain a basic knowledge of its architect before signing a contract. What follows is a starting point when evaluating an architect for your project:
History. What is the architect’s background within the industry and do they have adequate knowledge to deliver the project? How many projects has the architect designed recently adhering to current building codes? Are there any peculiarities or specific issues facing the firm and their ability to handle the scope of the project? Is the architect licensed in your jurisdiction or able to become licensed easily?
Industry Serviced. Does the architect design one particular type of building, a few specific sectors, or is willing to take any project that comes their way? Are the past projects of the architect comparable to the project and are knowledge and skills learned transferable?
Firm Stability. How much authority does your architect have in the industry, or connections to figures of authority in the industry? How secure is the architect and the company? How much trust and confidence do others have in the architect?
Experience. How often has your architect been involved personally in a design or building project? What were the results? How much or how little will the architect be involved with this particular project?
Answering Questions. Does the architect answer your questions in a direct and relevant manner? Or does the architect use a lot of technical and complex phrases to try to sound as though they are more knowledgeable and impressive?
Staff. What support does your architect have? Do you need a firm that is large and has a lot of resources (where blame can be passed and issues lost in the shuffle, but the project can be expedited), or would you prefer a personal touch from the architect and direct attention to the project? How experienced and/or capable are the typical consultants in design and construction in general, and this project type in particular?
Available time. How much time can your architect devote to this project? How will the time be used? When is the architect able to start?
Contracts. Does the architect use a direct and comprehensive contract that protects all parties? What is the tone of the architect’s contract or procurement procedures? What authority, duties, and responsibilities are assigned to the client and to the architect by the terms of agreement? Are the contract terms and allocation of responsibilities equitable?
Other responsibilities. What other projects is the architect working on? Where does this project rank in order of importance to their firm?
Personality. After considering all of the above, give some thought to your architect’s character traits, interests, and preferences. Though you may not become friends during the project’s timeline, liking the architect and feeling comfortable with them is important to be able to keep perspective for the project’s duration.
Ultimately, both the client and the architect will need to be able to adapt to the needs of the project, but the topics discussed provide an evaluation guideline to allow the client to efficiently determine if a particular architect is worth selecting.