Architects have the ability to understand and conceive solutions to your desires and project constraints and they can do it more efficiently than most other professionals involved in the design and construction industries. Architects focus on an extremely wide range of project conditions, from the location of your project on the site to product selection to budget analysis, and they work hard to bring all of these individual items of conflict into one harmonious project. Because this process is complex, hiring an architect who is technically competent and with whom you work well is the most important first step an Owner can make in their efforts to realize their anticipated project.
Personal references, professional organizations such as the American Institute of Architects (AIA), and Google searches (among many other methods) may yield dozens of reputable options, but finding someone that will take the time to both listen to you and communicate well with you will potentially serve you best over the life of the project. In interviewing a short list of potential architects, the first interview is an opportunity for both parties to learn about each other and decide if working on your project together is a good match. Make sure you evaluate everything from their attitude, design philosophy, portfolio of completed works, and to their schedule and office / production capacity. Pay particular attention to how well they listen to you and your concerns. Become familiar with the architect’s own personal taste in materials,finishes and textures so you are comfortable knowing both parties have similar design preferences. As your interaction continues, consider how they follow up on your meetings and how they treat you as a client and as a person, and also whether or not these particular points of behavior affect you as a client. Many clients want to know they have secured the best designer possible, but are ultimately unhappy when they are not treated well as clients during the process of design and building. Conversely, a client whose project’s design and quality are important enough to compromise the service part of their relationship with the architect may be a good fit for some firms. Being honest with yourself and with the architect(s) you talk to will ultimately produce the best team for the project as a whole.
Not everyone has the opportunity or ability to build new or substantially remodel their existing home, and not every business can construct their headquarters in a new custom commercial building. Small projects represent both the heart of home improvements as well as the vast majority of contractor-designed and built work. We welcome all project types and sizes in our office, however most offices (including Grouparchitect) cannot proportionally scale down parts of their architectural fee structure for some projects which are very small in terms of size / square footage. It is advisable to discuss in detail with your architect their anticipated scope of work for these types of small projects so that you may ascertain what the fees will be providing as a minimum, particularly if you are obtaining permits or other approvals.
Architectural fees range depending on the firm and their preferred method of project delivery and billing. No matter how or when a firm bills you, it’s most important that you fully understand how you will be billed, what you are paying for with each invoice, have the opportunity to ask questions, and that you feel you are getting a good value for the services you receive. A few typical ways firms may bill are listed below:
Grouparchitect typically performs architectural services on an hourly basis, with estimated costs depending on client’s requested levels of service, anticipated project scopes of work, and jurisdictional requirements. We feel that the hourly basis allows the client to better control the scope of desired services while giving Grouparchitect the flexibility to perform as needed when needed. It also ensures accountability with the client because services are being performed and compensated on a 1:1 basis.
When firms bill for their services also varies by architect. It is not uncommon in percentage-of-construction contracts, for example, to pay a percentage of fees based on project milestone rather than actual number of hours and/or performed. Firms that bill hourly, typically send bills on a monthly basis, with varying payment terms and late fee clauses.
It is important to note that is common in remodel projects, especially small residential additions, for fees to be higher by percentage than new construction or larger remodels. This is often due to the fact that there is a minimum amount of time required to design, document, permit, and coordinate the project so whether the project is a 100 s.f. sun room or a 1,000 s.f. master bedroom and bath, those minimums may be similar. Nonetheless, we always strive to keep our fees in proportion to the projects and work with our clients accordingly.
The minimum amount of work required for most projects is the “permit set”. It represents the minimum amount of information presented in a set of drawings to which a given jurisdiction will issue a land use and/or building permit. These types of drawing sets are enough to get permits but they fall far short of the full scope of information that is necessary for a contractor to build a project particularly so in custom residences and commercial construction. “Full” design services typically will include the design and coordination of interior elements such as cabinet layouts, mechanical ducts, and material finishes and layouts, as well as writing specifications for all selected materials and workmanship, bidding and negotiation support for the Owner, and observation by the Architect during construction of the project to verify conformance with the intended design shown on the plans. While it is not uncommon for Owners and contractors to take a permit set and start building from it, these types of projects rarely produce the finest quality of work possible. Grouparchitect recommends the level of service on a per-project basis depending on the client, the selected contractor, project scope and complexity, and overall project schedule. We tailor our services to meet the needs for each client by avoiding the pitfalls of using an economized permit set, while controlling the costs approaching “full” service rates by avoiding unnecessary or undesired services.
Architectural work usually employs the use of several primary consultants in preparing their designs. Most project sites must be documented by a licensed land surveyor, if the property has not been recently surveyed; and almost every project will involve a structural engineer for everything from structural framing to retaining walls and foundation designs. Depending on the complexity of the project, it is typical to also involve civil, mechanical, electrical, and acoustical engineers as specific conditions arise. The services of these consultants are typically directed and managed by the Architect, but it is also common for the Owner to pay these consultants directly. Consultants who are exclusively contract-bound to the Architect would be billed to the Owner as a reimbursable expense by the Architect.
Many clients come to an architect after already meeting and/or selecting a contractor, especially for small residential projects. If a contractor is not yet selected, Grouparchitect recommends that the process for selecting the contractor begin early in the project, usually during the schematic design phase. Once the overall scope of work has been established, contractors will be better equipped to answer questions about construction schedules, price estimates, and their own availability. Choosing a contractor is often influenced by cost if the project is put out for competitive bidding but when possible the Owner is encouraged to enter into a negotiated contract with a contractor who is both competitively priced and with whom the Owner feels comfortable working. Regardless of the bidding / selection process, it is also common for products and materials when bids cannot be obtained or when plans are insufficient for accurate bidding.
The best filter for help in selecting a contractor will be ultimately your Architect, as they are most familiar with both the design of the project and also its particular conditions and assumptions. Sharing all available information with the contractor(s) will ensure the most accurate and competitive cost estimates for the project. Keep in mind when comparing contractors that formalized bids are accurate compilations of bidder prices, while estimates often only include allowances for subcontractor bids and may not be as accurate. Grouparchitect can assist in your selection and interview process or we can recommend contractors with whom we’ve worked in the past.
Communication is key between any two parties, but it is paramount in the relationship between the Owner and the Architect and the Contractor. Grouparchitect strives to be in constant contact with our clients during all phases of their projects because we believe that clients should be kept informed about the process as well as the progress. We encourage clients to ask questions, make inquiries, or discuss concerns. Challenges arise during every project. Most often, these challenges can be easily resolved by openly communicating with your architect, but many are avoidable or easily addressed if the concerned parties communicate in a timely manner.
All of this sound a little much? The importance of having a good architect is all the more underscored by the complexities one faces when undertaking a project of any size and scope. Grouparchitect provides free initial consultations so contact us to set up an opportunity to discuss the particulars of your project together.
Have a question you can’t find an answer to? Contact us.