How do I go about selecting an architect?
Choosing an Architect is one of the most important decisions to be made in starting a new building. Architect selection should be made based on a variety of factors. Firm experience, familiarity with the project type and size, availability of personnel, design and technical capabilities as well as personal compatibility are all factors that should be considered. When searching for an architect contact others who have designed similar facilities and find out who they contacted and why. Contact the local AIA offices and ask the director for the names of firms suitable for the project. Find out who designed any buildings that you find appealing to you. You may also want to talk to family, friends or business associates for referrals. Once you have assembled a list of names contact a few of the firms that seem most appropriate and find out how they would approach your project. Ask to see previous work, discuss the particulars of your project and ask any additional questions that you may have. Based on this information you can come to a final decision on which firm to work with.
When is the right time to get the Architect involved with my project?
Ideally it is best to get the Architect involved in a project as early as possible. The Architect can help evaluate building sites, provide information on existing zoning and code requirements, give preliminary ideas on construction costs, answer general questions pertaining to the project, and possibly identify advantages or drawbacks associated with various options associated with a given project.
Are there any projects that are required by law to be designed by an Architect?
Yes. Basically any apartment or multifamily dwelling over 16 units or 2 stories in height, commercial buildings over 20,000 square feet or 2 stories in height, public buildings (in Texas) exceeding $100,000 initial construction cost and any institutional residential facilities are all required to be designed by a licensed architect.
Why should I use an architect for my project? Why not use a plan service, Designer or General Contractor to provide plans?
Plan services and designers may have standard plans or various degrees of custom plans that can be modified for each project. Their services usually begin and end with the design and drafting of constructions plans. For Owners who have a typical site or may not be interested in spending the time, money and effort it takes to design from scratch this is the approach to take.
On the other hand, General contractors are in the business of building. If they provide plans they typically have in-house designers or will hire an Architect. The disadvantage is that the Owner has no one to independently evaluate the work done under the Builders direction. There may be some initial cost savings but these are realized at the expense of quality control.
By using an architect you have flexibility to bid the job to a number of qualified builders or negotiate with the builder of your choice. In addition, Architects are specifically trained to evaluate individual factors and come up with solutions that are unique and appropriate to different projects. The Architect can also help the Owner by providing a wide range of services in addition to basic design and drafting.
What types of services can an architect provide?
Basic Architectural services consist of the following:
Initial or schematic design, design development, construction document preparation, including both drawings and written specifications, bidding and negotiation assistance, construction administration and overall coordination of the design team including structural, mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineers. Smaller scope projects such as space planning or custom home design may involve only some of these services.
Additional services that the Architect can provide include site evaluation and selection, project programming, documentation of existing facilities, accessibility compliance, color and material selection, model building and rendering. Independent consultants may be brought to the team by the Architect as required to work on Interior designer, Landscape Architecture, Civil engineering, and others.
How do I decide which of these services I need my architect to provide for the project?
To decide which services are required for a particular project you should begin with the basic services listed above. Discuss the particular project with your architect and design team and decide if any additional services are needed initially or, if some of the basic services are not required. Use this list as a basis for your initial agreement realizing that as work progresses the needs may change and that this list can be modified during the course of work.
As the Owner, what do I need to know to get the project started, what are my responsibilities during the Design process and what information do I need to provide to the Architect?
The more information that you can provide to your Architect, the better. A word of caution related to this is that you should think in terms of standards, quality levels and functionality. Do not try to impose rigid criteria and possibly prevent the design team from coming up with new ideas that may significantly improve the project. You should be prepared to discuss project criteria including space requirements, special functional and equipment needs, future expansion, and budget.
Items such as a site survey and legal description, soils testing report, and environmental study are appropriate items to provide the Architect if available. In addition you should be available to review plans, meet on site and make required decisions as needed during the course of the project in.
What are my responsibilities for providing accessible facilities for the disabled?
All new construction must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA) and in Texas the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) Guidelines. In Texas all projects exceeding $50,000 construction cost must be submitted for review to the State. Your architect is the best source of information in specific requirements of these requirements as they pertain to building design requirements. There are also a number of web sites devoted to this topic.
How do I select a general contractor and at what point in the project do I need to make the selection?
The General contractor can be selected in a couple of ways. The construction documents can be prepared and the Architect can assist the Owner in conducting a competitive bidding process based on the information contained in the construction documents. This will be done upon completion of plans and specifications and is typically used on public projects, and larger scale work or where the Owner specifically wants to maintain a competitive bid environment.
Alternately, a Contractor can be selected early on as part of the design team and used as a resource in providing initial cost estimates or alternate construction methods, which can serve to contain cost or increase quality before plans are completed. Both methods have advantages and should be discussed at the beginning of the project.
How much will it cost to hire an architect and how do architects charge for their services?
Fees for architectural services will depend on the types and level of services provided for a specific project. There are a few ways in which Architectural fees are calculated. Some of these include a Fixed fee, fee per unit such as square footage, hourly fee, percentage of construction cost or a combination of these examples. In general hourly fees are used for smaller projects and projects or project phases where the scope of work is difficult to define. Fixed or per unit fees are used for projects of very definite scope. Once you have met with and discussed the project scope with your architect a specific proposal for compensation can be determined. In addition to the fee, reimbursable, or out of pockets, costs incurred during the project are charged to the Owner. These may include printing costs, long distance travel and telephone, and surveying and soils testing if required. Bills are typically submitted monthly based on the percentage of work completed.