Choosing an Architect

choosing an architect

Working with an architect is a new experience for many people. But it shouldn’t be a daunting one if you follow some basic rules.

Because building a new home, or the renovating an existing one, is very likely one of the biggest investments anyone will make in their lifetime you need to feel confident about the process… and that means you need to have the right architect involved from the outset.

So let’s start at the beginning. What do you need to tell an architect? What does he/she expect from you and vice versa? Can architects do a better job than a spec builder or, indeed, do a better job than you could do yourself if you were working with an experienced draftsman and project manager?

Architects are well-trained and highly competent designers who have usually had five years of university study followed by at least 3,000 hours of supervised architectural practice. They are trained to interpret what their clients want. Architects are also required to sit registration exams, attend regular professional development courses and to carry professional indemnity insurance to protect their clients from complications that could arise if the job is particularly complex. Those are all big pluses for you, the client. They are also there to make sure you get the best possible design to meet your needs and to maximise the opportunities that the site presents whether you are intending to build from scratch or renovate – opportunities that builders or draftsmen may not have the experience to see.

If you are planning a new home, the trouble with the ‘off the plan’ houses offered by major building companies is that one size fits all. There is no allowance for the idiosyncrasies of the site – or the owner!

So here are some of the dos and don’ts and processes that are involved with working with an architect:
Allow enough time
A well thought out house design doesn’t happen overnight! On top of that, the planning and building approval processes with your local Council and other authorities can really slow things up. So allow between 9 and 12 months for the design and planning phase. It may sound like a lot but it is actually a realistic assessment.
The design process usually involves a number of consultations between you and your architect. Allow enough time for a thorough consideration of your requests and the subsequent proposals your architect may put forward to ensure you arrive at a great result.

Take advice on what you want to do – early
There is real value in hiring an architect to review a property you’re thinking of buying. He or she will be able to advise on opportunities or problems that might affect your decision to buy including planning restrictions, site orientation and service connections. For the sake of paying for a few hours of an architect’s time, their advice may end up saving many thousands of dollars trying to rectify an expensive oversight!

Write a brief
An architect should be given freedom to design the best possible solution for you based on their professional experience and expertise. But it should be based on information that you supply. It’s a good idea to prepare a written brief identifying what you want to ensure you get the best out of the design process with your architect. That brief can cover anything you would like to include in your project from the number of rooms, their size, heating and cooling, flooring, finishes etc etc.
Deciding on the things you like and don’t like is an easy first step to giving your architect an insight about your tastes. Flip though magazines and websites and keep a scrapbook or an ‘Ideas’ book to keep track of what you find. Discuss ideas with him because your architect will be aware of the latest in design developments and technologies that could save you money and give you a more sustainable outcome.

Be realistic about the cost
‘Off the plan’ houses are cheaper because they work on a ‘one size fits all’ principle. They don’t take into account clients’ differing requirements. By its very nature, bespoke building using an architect is more costly. But the results should speak for themselves and you should see a healthy return on investment.
When hiring an architect, you may get less actual house for the money than if you bought a spec home or employed a design and construct type builder, but what you do get is of a much higher quality. It has been tailored to exactly what you need and will almost certainly present superior overall value – value that lasts!

Set a budget
You need to be open about your budget from the outset because money is an issue that often crops up in relation to building and renovating.
Be truthful! It’s dangerous to tell an architect that you have more money to spend than you actually do because that’s bound to end in disappointment but it’s equally unwise to take the attitude that you won’t disclose your full budget because he’ll just go off and spend the money. It gets the relationship off to a bad start! But do remember to make it clear whether or not your budget includes the architect’s fees. If not, make sure you understand what those fees will be and Minute it.

Keep communicating
A successful partnership creates successful architecture – and good communication is the cornerstone of great partnerships. Be clear about your budget and the desired time frame from your first meeting, and be quick to update them if anything changes.

Keeping Minutes of meetings and discussions may sound rather formal but they ensure that all the issues are covered and nothing is forgotten. Confirm by email, all that you have discussed and agreed upon.

Working with an architect can be a very rewarding experience. There’s no scientific way to choose the perfect match for you. But, if you like their work, they’ve understood your brief and you feel that you could deal with the personality concerned, that’s a good start. It will very likely result in a great design and building outcome for you and a connection that you’ll both value for years.

If you’ve got any questions or a topic you would like us to explore in future blogs just let us know. You can email us here.

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