Thursday, December 27, 2012

Selecting an Architect

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) offers some helpful guidance on selecting a professional architect. Selecting the right architect could be vital to the success of your building program whether you are building a home or designing a commercial building. AIA is a good place to start because it is the leading professional membership association for licensed architects, emerging professionals, and allied partners. It has been since 1857. Today AIA has about 300 state and local chapters and serves as the voice of the architecture profession.

Architecture firms come in a variety of sizes and types. The average firm is made up of 9 or 10 people. Many firms are smaller. Of course, there are also very large firms with staffs of 100 or more. Some firms specialize in one or more project or facility types. Some firms include structural, mechanical, and/or electrical engineering expertise in-house. Disciplines, such as planning, urban design, landscape architecture, interior design might be a firm’s focus. Architecture firms bring their own combination of skills, expertise, interests, and values. All good architects will listen carefully and translate ideas into a viable construction project. So naturally it is important to look for a good listener in your search to find a good architect.

Architects help define the projects in terms that provide meaningful guidance for design. They do site studies, help secure planning/zoning approvals, help work out financing and a variety of other services. As you review alternatives among architects you should ask to see projects the firm has designed. You may want to see projects that are similar to yours or that have addressed issues such as siting, functional complexity, or design aspiration. Confidence in the architect is paramount. Seek also an appropriate balance among design ability, technical competence, professional service, and cost. Once you've selected the best firm, enter into detailed negotiations regarding services and compensation. The AIA Contract Documents-the industry standard-offer an excellent starting point.

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