How to Choose an Architect

by Washington Federal Team on August 18, 2011

When considering building a new home or addition, you must know how to choose an architect who will help design and implement your ideas. Building projects involve an extensive number of steps, regulations and contractors, and this can sometimes make it easy for your vision to become clouded by different interpretations and suggested changes. This is why architects are critical to keeping your dream design a top priority during the complex building process.

How do you choose an architect that has your best interests in mind? Here are four tips to help you choose the right architect for your project:

1. Understand your search criteria first.How to choose an architect

Before you begin evaluating architects, buy some home design magazines. What styles appeal to you?  Are you looking for a modern home, or something more traditional?  Will you be building in an established neighborhood, or on acreage?  Write down the name of the architect who worked on the projects that you find most appealing.

2. Use your network to ask for suggestions.

Know a friend or neighbor that has recently built a home that you admire? Ask them to evaluate their experience with a specific architect or firm.

3. Look for the AIA membership credentials.

The AIA, or the American Institute of Architecture, is an important distinction among architects. AIA members have the proper licensing and additional schooling necessary for complex projects.  Often, your local AIA office can provide you with the names of architects who meet your criteria.

4. Research the firm

Once you’ve found a firm or architect you like, ask for recent references to get a better idea of their clients’ experiences. You’ll then need to ask the right questions to gain insight on your potential architect’s experience and skill level. You’ll also want to make sure you can relate to each other on a personal level, since you’ll be sharing how you live day-to-day and how you want your home to function for your family. Here are five important questions to ask:

1. Do you have past examples of similar projects?

Your architect should be more than happy to share their portfolio and show their knowledge and success with similar projects.

2. How long will my project take?

Establish an estimated timeline before the building process breaks ground. Your architect should be able to predict the average timeframe and any possible complications for your particular project.

3. What are your expected fees for this project?

Your architect should be upfront about the cost of your project. Usually, their fee will be a percentage of the overall project cost.  Also ask how he or she plans to stay within your budget and how any additional fees will be handled.

4. What is your role during construction?

Will your architect organize the hiring of contractors and oversee your project? Determining his or her involvement will help you manage your expectations and evaluate the architect’s cost.

5. Do you have experience with any specialties?

If your project will require a specialized skill, such as sustainable building or historic renovation, you need to make sure that your architect has extensive experience with this type of project. Building a green home or doing a large addition, for example, each require a specialized skill set, so your architect should be well-versed in the necessary techniques and technologies.

Finding a high quality architect can be a difficult undertaking, but by using references, looking for an AIA designation, researching the firm and asking the right questions you can be confident in your choice. The right architect will work with you, your builder and your budget to make your dream design a reality.

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