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How to Choose an Architect

Choosing the right architect for your building project may seem like a trivial decision in light of everything else you have to do. But it's one of the most important choices you're going to make for the project, and requires a lot of diligence. Knowing how to choose an architect that fits your requirements can spare you a lot of trouble with your project.

There's more to choosing a suitable architect than raw skills alone. You have to ensure that you get along well with them and that you are on the same page with regards to your budget and other constraints.

1. Be clear about your requirements

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Before you begin your search, you should compile a list of all requirements you have for the project. The more detailed, the better. Make sure that you're clear about your vision for the final result and leave nothing that can be open to a wide variety of interpretations.

If this is your first time contracting professionals for a construction project, you will have a lot of work ahead of you. A detailed plan involves more than you'd expect. Even when you've reached a point where you feel confident about your overall plan, expect some back and forth with the architect until you've reached an acceptable middle ground.

Try to have as much as possible arranged in advance too. For example, if you already know basic details about the project like the area you're going to need and the specific location, you can apply for planning permission early. This will help reduce the amount of work required once you've contracted your architect.

2. Ask your project manager for a recommendation

If you don't know where to start your search for the right architect, your project manager can probably provide you with some useful references. If you can work with someone recommended by them, that's generally a good idea as it will reduce any potential friction between these parts of the project.

In some cases that won't be a suitable approach. For example, when your project differs significantly from previous projects your manager has worked on. They might still have some connections that are worth checking out, but be prepared to do your own research on the side as well.

One benefit of working with an architect recommended by your project manager is that they will already be familiar with each other and will be able to deliver the kinds of results you're looking for with less effort. This can cut down on meeting times and make the whole project run more smoothly.

3. Focus on finding someone experienced with your desired style

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Architectural styles vary a lot across the board. It's important to find someone who's not only experienced as an architect in general, but also understands the specific style you're going for. Architecture is a mix of technical and creative work, and you should make sure that you align with your architect on the latter part.

While it may be possible to execute your vision with an architect who's doing this type of work for the first time, it carries a significant risk. If this is a large investment, you should take the time to find someone with specific experience in the type of project you're going for.

This will be more challenging if you want your project done in a newer style that not many architects have experience with. Even if you find someone, it can cost more than you would expect.

4. Agree on a specific budget

Understanding your budget is another important part of finding a good architect that you should never underestimate. If you've already made a detailed plan for the project and have an overview of its requirements, you should have a good idea of the cost breakdown as well.

But you must always keep in mind that construction work frequently goes off budget for various reasons. Between unexpected issues with building regulations, communicating with your local planning authority, ensuring all contractors are available when you need them, and various other potential issues, it's almost impossible to execute a project according to an exact budget.

This makes it important to have some flexibility and be prepared to pay more. But on the other hand, don't let yourself get taken advantage of. Have a hard upper limit and make sure the architect is aware of that. Be prepared to turn down a proposal if it goes above what you're prepared to pay.

5. Be prepared to adjust your plans

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The same applies to every other aspect of your planning. Sometimes it's not about budget issues but rather the general feasibility of what you're planning to do. Due to the way architects work, they won't be able to catch all potential issues with your planning during the initial discussions.

It may turn out that some parts of your plan are either not possible or will require a lot of additional work that you did not anticipate. This happens often and you should be prepared to deal with it accordingly.

Things can get messy if you've already obtained planning permission for those parts and need to adjust your application in the middle of the project. You should understand that this is usually not the fault of the architect, but rather just a normal part of how these projects typically go.

6. The importance of a good personal connection

It's important to always have at least one in-person meeting with your architect before you've committed to working with them. Due to the creative nature of this job, ensuring that you get along on a personal level is more important than it is for other professionals like your project manager.

If you're a more communicative person in general, this will be easier for you. You might also have to make some compromises with your expectations to accommodate for that aspect of finding a good architectural firm.

Never underestimate the importance of this factor though. Finding an architect that's on the same page as you with regards to the overall approach to the project will make everything smoother and more predictable.

7. Start searching as early as possible

Architects are busy. This is especially true for the best ones. They tend to be perpetually booked for months ahead, which can make it difficult to find someone on short notice. You should start your search as early as possible to avoid any scheduling issues.

Don't be surprised if architects turn you down if you need them to start working in just a month or two. Planning ahead and starting your search early enough will maximize your chances of finding the right expert for the job.

This makes it especially important to ensure that you align well with the architect you choose in the end, because it will be practically impossible to replace them on short notice. If it turns out that you want to work with someone else in the middle of the project, be prepared to deal with delays that can span over several months.

8. Where do you find an architect

Now you have a good start in choosing a suitable architect for your project. At this point, you're probably wondering where to find one who offers architectural services. Where should you start? Here is a list to get you started.

  • Local directories
  • Local Chamber of commerce or local network meeting
  • Recommendation from your project manager
  • Ask friends who have undertaken construction work
  • Take to social media - post in relevant groups and publicly announce you're searching for an architect

If all else fails and you are still looking for an architect service to help you, Proficiency can help you. Here is why you should hire Proficiency over others:

  • In-house RIBA certified architect so you can speak directly to the architect, which means builders will be able to build by your plans. Many plans look good on paper but can't be put into practice.
  • London-based architect. You can meet in person to view your 3D virtual walkthrough, which means you will be able to see a visual preview of how your project looks. That way, you can save money early by making changes if required before it gets built.

Finding the ideal architect is going to be a lengthy ordeal, even for a relatively simple project. Be prepared to talk to multiple people until you've found one that fits your requirements. Even then, it's possible that you might not be able to work with them due to scheduling issues. The earlier you start this kind of search, the better your prospects will be.

Clara Annesley

Writing about construction, Interior design and renovation.