What to look for in an architect.
cristinachaparroDecember 23, 2013
Im in the process of building a home. I want to get some guidelines to select my architect. I'd appreciate any tips and best practices that can make this process enjoyable.
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PRO
Lampert Dias Architects, Inc.
You need to be comfortable with your architect's personality since they will be spending time with you and getting to know your likes and dislikes.

You want them to be knowledgable about construction and good with staying within your budget

You also want them to be very creative and to be able to "think outside of the box"

Check their references.............ask their former clients if they would hire them again if they had to do it over...............that is the best question because it really says it all.........

Also go to see several of their projects and look at their portfolio. Do you love their work?
A good architect may have a style that you like, but every project should be very customized for the clients tastes............Each project should be unique, but with the "flair" of the architect.

Depending on where you are located, you might want to check with the local regulating agency (the state board if you are in the USA) to see that the architect is truly licensed and has no complaints with the board.

Good luck....the process of designing your own home with a talented architect is wonderful and so much fun...........with a bit of stress, but well worth it.
3 Likes    Bookmark   December 23, 2013 at 4:51PM
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Lampert Dias Architects, Inc.
One more important item.
Make sure that you have a written contract between the two of you that spells out everything............What they are doing, what they will be providing, what is extra, and the cost to do the design.

Also find out about the other costs such as permit fees etc.
2 Likes    Bookmark   December 23, 2013 at 4:53PM
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mfwolfe
I would be interested to know what the previous commenter thinks about this: Our contract stated that we could stop the process at any time and we would not pay any more than the last payment. Any designs that had been created would be our property at that point as long as we had kept up with monthly bills. I am not sure if this is standard but it certainly gave us peace of mind.
2 Likes    Bookmark   December 23, 2013 at 8:22PM
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John James O'Brien - Design for Inspired Living
Lambert Dias offers good advice. I'd like to second the observation about the project reflecting the architect's flair but meeting the client's needs. This may seem obvious, but it is not.

On a major project, I was brought in a year after the start to represent the client's interests and facilitate the outcome because the architect and contractor were, in the eyes of the client, imposing a style that fit their needs, not the client's. In my view, the client had ample opportunity to understand where the project was heading, but did not fully understand the process, how to read documents or recognize the stepping stones of approval that the architect laid out in process. Ask about how the process will unfold, how concepts will be explored and what form ideas will be presented (#d drawings, physicall model?). Communication is everything and, as already stated, you will need to spend a great deal of time over a long period with the personality before you. Be clear on your own foibles (impatience? easily changed minds? stubborn?) and consider the match.

Don't forget to explore very thoroughly with your spouse or partner how relationship will be maintained during what can be a stressful experience--that ultimately brings great reward. Build in fun!
3 Likes    Bookmark   December 23, 2013 at 11:38PM
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Lampert Dias Architects, Inc.
Totally agree with the previous comments... Plus mfwolfe noted that you should be able to step out of your contract at any time without penalty as long as you pay for the work to date....
1 Like    Bookmark   December 24, 2013 at 1:52PM
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jn3344
I just went through the process. We break ground at the end of Feb.

First we decided which style of home we wanted to build, and then we listed on paper a few things that were important to us. For us it was modern but livable style. Energy efficient. Respectful of the land. Efficient use of space. Age in place. Things like that.

I did a funnel search. I cast a wide net. I started on the AIA website for the city I am building in. They had a search tool and I came up with dozens of names. Maybe 50. Since we are moving to the city I had no referrals. I figured if they were members of the main respected professional association that was a good start.

Next, I went to each of their websites. This eliminated some from consideration. If their pictures were all of 25K square foot Mediterranean villas I moved on. You need something to narrow down the list! Did that for all of them. Some architects don't have websites. Or bad websites. I passed on them. I had to keep moving and I had plenty left on my list to consider.

So then I narrowed it down to a list of about 16 names that did work that we liked that appeared to be somewhat within the budget we had to work with. We drafted a simple, straightforward email to each of them saying something general about what we were looking for and giving them an idea of the budget we had to work with.

Almost all of them responded. A couple wanted phone interviews to start. Our intuition is that those who wanted phone interviews were a bit cautious given our stated scope and budget. They wanted to know if we were serious or just messing around.

So we ended up with 12 that we interviewed in person. Since we were doing this remotely all the interviews were packed into a 4 day trip. We chose two to interview a second time. Prior to the interviews we looked up references online, we read over Houzz reviews if there were any, we reviewed their work, we did complaint searches, etc. We did not find anything negative on the ones we were interviewing.

Advice: Be clear yourselves on your goals. Be sure you know what you want. Be sure you have thought about what's important to you. For the start of the process, don't get too involved in the details (I want an appliance garage and 2 dishwashers in the kitchen etc) The selection process is about who you want to work with, and determining if they really want to work with you. You need to mesh personality wise.

Be upfront about how much money you want to spend. Some architects are busy and they only work on very high end stuff. Others do a range of projects. Both parties want to quickly determine if they are a good fit and not waste time.

Some architects you will know are not a good fit for you and your project. That's OK don't feel bad. They have to go through this process over and over again to get jobs. They can handle rejection!

We chose the most experienced team. They had done many projects like ours. The principal had a great creative vision and he seemed to want to help us realize our dream of a fine home within our budget. We felt confident that he could help us get things done the way we felt most comfortable. No doubt everyone's experience is different. But you will know if you are making the right decision!

Let me know if you have further questions. We are very happy with our selection so far.
7 Likes    Bookmark   December 24, 2013 at 2:31PM
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cristinachaparro
Thanks everyone great advice!
1 Like    Bookmark   December 25, 2013 at 5:04PM
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