Advice for Working with Your Architect

Designing a structure is no small task; it requires the commitment and enthusiasm of both the client and the architect. To foster this atmosphere, the client-architect relationship must be based on mutual trust, respect, and effective communication. In working with their architect, many clients make the mistake of treating the architect as an employee rather than a collaborator. Architects are highly trained professionals who need enough freedom to fuse their creative vision of the project with yours. Communicating with your Arizona architect and working as a team to achieve your mutual goals are essential for a successful building project. In what follows, we’ll provide you with additional advice on how to work with your architect effectively and productively.

Identifying Your Needs

You probably already have a general idea of what you want out of your Phoenix area building project, but most clients prefer to hear their architect’s input before finalizing their vision of the project. Once you have the project’s concept in place you will need to decide on the services you require. Architectural services are usually broken down into schematic or preliminary design, design development, construction document preparation, the negotiation and bidding process, and the administration of contracts between the client and the contractor or builder.

Have a discussion with your architect to determine the services you need. Remember that even when a specific number of services are agreed upon initially, additional services may be needed once the project is under way. One important service that you might request is the administration of construction contracts. Even the most brilliant architectural designs turn out poorly if the construction work does not implement the architect’s vision correctly. To prevent this, you can ask that your architect oversee the construction work, approve products and materials, and deal with contractor requests to change the design.

Working out the Agreement

A good client-architect agreement will plainly state what you and the architect will bring to the relationship and what the client can expect from the architect’s services. A client-architect agreement will give you the opportunity to ensure that you and the architect have the same vision, expectations, and requirements for the building project. The five steps of negotiating this agreement are listed below.

  1. Set the project requirements. You should write a statement detailing your requirements for the project, making sure to address the scope of the project, the site, the level of design quality, the project’s role, the scheduling constraints, the target completion date, an estimated budget, and any pertaining codes and regulations. Remember that all major Arizona cities, including Flagstaff, Tucson, Phoenix, and Scottsdale, have different building codes and restrictions, so choose an architect who is familiar with the area.
  2. Articulate the tasks of the project and assign each task to a specific party.You will need to specify the predesign, design, construction, and post-construction jobs that must be completed to achieve the objectives of your Arizona building project. You and your architect can collaborate to identify these services and select a responsible party for each of them.
  3. Make a first-cut schedule. With your architect, put your project tasks on a time line and approximate how long each task will take. Make a note of the tasks that will delay the project’s completion if not performed on schedule.
  4. Determine if your time line is reasonable. A common mistake architects and clients make is failing to allow enough cushion in the project’s time line for various small tasks and decision making. For instance, does your time line leave you enough room to evaluate your architect’s proposals, get approvals from regulatory agencies, make decisions about construction issues, etc.
  5. Use the agreement as the foundation for determining your architect’s compensation. Ask your architect to come up with a compensation proposal using the schedules and tasks outlined in the client-architect agreement as the basis.

Paying Your Architect

Compensating the architect appropriately is in the client’s best interest because it helps ensure that the quality and type of service delivered will meet their expectations. How much you should pay your architect will depend on the level and type of services provided. More elaborate or complex services will require more skill and effort from the architect, which warrants additional compensation. The most common architect compensation methods are listed below.

  • A lump sum based on the architect’s proposal for compensation
  • A specific sum per unit based on what you want built (for instance, you might compensate your architect by square foot, number of apartments, or number of rooms)
  • A portion of the cost of construction
  • Hourly payment
  • Some combination of the above methods

Staying on Track

To achieve your scheduling, quality, and cost goals for the project, you and your architect can take specific steps as a team. Remember to acknowledge and perform your duties as a client. Specifically, you are responsible for design goals, budgeting, approvals, and notifying your architect promptly when you notice any defects in the project or deviations from your agreement. For assistance in further articulating your role as a client, talk to your architect. Additionally, when you bring the builders into the project, involve your architect in the process. He/she will know how to handle the bidding and selection process efficiently to keep your project on track. Your architect can also probably recommend quality builders in the Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tucson, or Flagstaff areas for you to consider. Most importantly, take the time and effort to maintain the professional relationship you have with your architect. Your architect’s work does not end once you have your construction contracts. You and your architect should oversee the construction work and regularly communicate about your satisfaction with its progress.

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