- Published on Tuesday, 23 February 1999 19:04
- Written by Town Crier Staff Report
Finding the right architect is the single most important decision you make after deciding to build your dream home. The American Institute of Architects represents 58,000 licensed architects and associated professionals, worldwide, and offers the following guidelines for selecting the right architect for you:
1. Build a list of possibilities. Ask around. Find out who designed projects in your community that you like. Get recommendations from friends, relatives and acquaintances who have worked with architects. Check to see if the architect is a member of the American Institute of Architects (AIA). Membership in the AIA means that the architect subscribes to a high professional purpose to advance standards of practice and service to society. This includes having a code of ethics and access to a variety of professional and technical resources.
2. Contact your local AIA chapter. Many have lists of member-owned firms that are interested in doing various types of projects.
3. Call each firm on your list. Describe your project and ask if they are available to accomplish it. If so, request literature that outlines the firm's qualifications and experience. If the office is unable to handle your project, ask if they can recommend another firm.
4. Interview each firm. Interviewing a firm gives you a chance to meet the people who will design your project and to learn if the chemistry between you is right. You may be working with your architect for a long time, so look for someone with whom you feel comfortable. Allow at least an hour for the interview, preferably at the architect's office where you can see where the work will be done. Some architects charge for this interview; ask if there is a fee.
5. Ask questions. How busy is the firm? Does it have the capacity to take on your work? Who will handle the job? Insist on meeting the person who will actually design your project. What is the firm's design philosophy? Talk about a project budget and the range of fees that the architect would anticipate for your project. Before you select an architect, ask to be taken to at least one completed project. Also, ask for references from past clients. These are invaluable.
In addition, obtain an Architect's Qualification Statement (B431) from your local AIA chapter. This standardized document may be used to verify an architect's credentials and other information prior to selecting an architect for a project.
6. Making the final cut. Unlike buying a car or a new appliance, you can't see the product and test it out. The architect provides a professional service, not a product. The right architect will be the one who can provide the judgment, technical expertise and creative skills -at a reasonable cost - to help you realize a project that fits your practical needs as well as your dreams.
In general, an architect helps you determine if renovating makes sense; thoroughly analyzes what you want and need; determines if zoning and other restrictions will affect your project; helps you understand how you use space; helps you visualize the design possibilities in a number of ways - using rough sketches or computer programs; helps prepare your construction documents; helps you select a reputable contractor; schedules the work; and visits the job site and administers construction.