How to choose the perfect architect for your project

How to choose the perfect architect for your project

Whether you are considering a renovation or an extension to your current home, or the construction of a completely new house, choosing a professional to help you is one of the most important considerations that go into this project. This can literally make or break your project - pun intended!

The professionals in an architecture project are many, and they start with the architect. Therefore, the relationship between you and your architect is extremely critical, and a click is essential. The architect should be someone who understands, supports and nurtures your vision while elevating it with their own ideas of what could be ideal for your space.

Here, what mainly matters is that the overall ideology of you and your architect match, without them imposing their own ideas on you. Instead, they need to bring an added value to your idea by improving it and working with you harmoniously to achieve the best possible outcome from your initial ideas and vision.

It matters if the overall vision of you and your architect are aligned, because otherwise everything that follows - such as planning procedures and sorting out building regulations - would get (unnecessarily) complicated. The process of selecting your ideal architect might take some time and could require a bit of effort on your side, but it is less complicated than you might think!

Here, we have noted down a few tips for you to help you with choosing your "perfect-fit" architect.

1. A personal click between you and your architect

Make sure you and your architect click. Check your gut feeling and ask yourself if you trust this person to have your best interest at heart. You do not have to have all the same ideas and visions for your space - in fact, a good architect will implement your vision but a great architect will challenge, enrich and elevate your vision, to make it even better, without putting their vision ahead of yours.

A click with your architect is essential since this sets the tone for the entire nature of your work relationship throughout the whole duration of your project. You could meet a couple of them, have a conversation and discuss what you have in mind for your project. See what questions they ask you, how constructive their feedback is, and how willing they are to not only create what you want but to add value to what you want to do.

2. Flexibility with ideas, not stylistically stubborn

It always helps to have an architect who understands your culture and shares the same ideas for your future space. An architect who is willing to work with you harmoniously, and approach projects with the willingness to incorporate your ideas and needs would be a better fit than one who thinks only of the ideal designs for space, independently of who you are and your specific needs and preferences.

Style is another big question when choosing an architect, so try to find an architect that is not “style-stubborn." Many architects have their own styles and will work with that regardless of your own preferences. However, you may want an architect that understands you and can create the perfect style to express your personality, rather than make your house into a generic interior, like one out of a magazine.

You could also ask some of the architect’s previous clients for their experience. Some architecture firms might also have these testimonials featured on their websites, these will give you a better idea of how the relationship between the client and the architect might have been.

3. The architect’s fee

While it is pretty common for architects to calculate their fees as a percentage of the project cost, you should not go for such a model. When the fees of the architect are tied to the project’s costs, the fees increase with a more expensive project. This is not aligned with your own interest of keeping your budget on track, and may create the wrong incentive for some architects.

Another model may be architects who charge per hour, and while that is completely fine for specific tasks, an hour-based fee for the entire project is tricky. On one hand, you cannot know how fast or slow the architect’s team is going to be. On the other hand, working on an hourly basis may not give you a good idea of the total to expect, upfront.

Instead of a percentage model or an hourly model, look for an architect whose fees are estimated based on the scope of work and responsibilities they take on during the project. Find an architect who can agree on a lump sum at the beginning of the project, in relation to a specific scope. The fee only changes if the scope changes. This would make sure that your architect has your best interests in mind and that their interests are aligned with yours.

4. Qualifications and experience of the architect

When trying to select your architect, do your research regarding the different qualifications they have. This will help you understand the scope of services they can provide for your project. This is especially important if your vision incorporates a special focus, such as energy conservation, heavy construction or structural changes.

Make sure you choose architects (and contractors for that matter) who have experience in carrying out similar projects. This would ensure they are aware of the requirements (such as permits for example) and risks associated with the task. Relevant experience and qualifications are a solid foundation to ensure the project is carried out correctly and no surprises are encountered later on.

5. A well-connected architect

Having an architect who is well connected to contractors, sub-contractors, engineers, and the suppliers’ market will pay off well for your project.

First of all, this will allow the architect to quickly find the right experts needed to support your project. Furthermore, it allows them to be able to get more than one professional to bid for your project. This will allow you to compare different offers and get the best quality / price solution.

Another hidden benefit to a well-connected architect are discounts. A well-connected architect will be able to negotiate substantial discounts on your behalf for materials, finishes, and furniture for example.

While not every supplier offers discounts, some do either because the architect is a repeat client to them, or because they are hoping the architect will become a repeat client. Discounts are a normal part of the industry and if your architect can get you one or a few for you, every bit will help keep your budget on track!

One of the most important steps

Choosing your perfect-fit architect is one of the most important steps of the project. Keep in mind that the five aspects listed above are some of the basic things to consider when choosing your architect. Ultimately, a lot of factors go into deciding who your architect will be. Experience, qualifications, location, process, design style, and costs are a few important factors, but what is of utmost importance is the connection you and your architect share.

Before starting your project, make sure to research well and consider all these points. Though there isn’t one way to determine the right architect for you, we hope these points above will offer you some perspective and help.

Stephanie Akkaoui Hughes


Stephanie Akkaoui Hughes

Architect, author, international speaker, Founder and CEO of AKKA Architects, Stephanie is part of a new breed of young visionary architects who operate beyond the nowadays restrained realm of architecture....

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