HOW TO SELECT AN ARCHITECT
This article is taken from information that I have shared with clients and potential clients. You might find a use for it in your work. Feel free to modify it to suit your needs.
Selecting an architect should be a lot different from the competitions, RFQs, RFPs, and presentations that are used most of the time. These selection processes obscure what's really important; and they distract you from your criteria for quality, schedule, and budget. These processes have their basis in trying to correct abuses in the selection process for public projects. If you are familiar with the level of satisfaction with public projects, you will know that this process guarantees absolutely nothing. This is a shame, because finding the right architect will determine your project's real success. Any architect can design you a building, but not every architect can give you the building that you need and that you can afford.
First, form your selection committee, which could be just one person or a small committee of four to six (the fewer the better). The selection committee should be key members of the building committee that has set the goals for the project. Once you form your selection committee, the process described here has four steps.
A. Select buildings you admire and talk to the owners about their architects.
B. Ask acquaintances who have used an architect for their suggestions and their level of satisfaction.
C. Check the Yellow Pages listings of Architects for names that ring a bell.
D. Contact the firms whose names keep coming up. Request a list of projects that are similar to what you intend, the building owner's contact person, and basic information on the firm. You will already be getting a feel for which firms are appropriate. Contact as many as you wish, but six is plenty.
E. Weed out the firms who haven't much experience in your type of building or with your type of organization. These are two critical qualifications. Also consider if the size of the firms is too big or too small. No matter the size of the firm, there will only be two to six people working on your project. The smallest firm you are comfortable with is a good measure to keep in mind.
F. Visit several buildings of each architect you are considering and talk to the owners. Ask whether they are happy with the results; what works, what doesn't, would they hire the architect again. This should be three or four firms. This could be delegated to a staff or committee member.
G. Allow about two months for this research.
2) INITIAL INTERVIEW
A. Make appointments with two or three firms you are feeling the best about. Go to their office for the interview. Do not ask for a presentation.
B. Informally interview them. Ask all the questions that are important to you (see samples). Ask why you should consider their firm. Ask what they would like to tell you that hasn't come up, and listen for compatibility between what is important to you and what they want you to know about them.
C. This will take two to three weeks.
3) FOLLOW UP INTERVIEW
A. Select the one or two firms that you really like. If you can't say this about any, repeat the research and initial interviews.
B. Meet with them to discuss your needs, schedule, budget and any hurdles you must address. Ask for their feedback on your plans. This kind of meeting will tell you a lot; but it will take several hours.
C. Ask your favorite one or two firms for a detailed proposal of services - what do they propose to do to get you where you want to go. Include fees now or discuss later. Bear in mind that the difference in fees between firms will probably represent less than one percent or so of the entire project cost. Getting a building that is a good fit for you is more important than getting the cheapest fee.
D. Let them propose however they want - in person, in writing, both. When you see this proposal, it should feel "right" to you.
E. Select the firm that you feel most confident in. Make sure you have seen plenty of the people you will really be working with - not just the sales team that will soon vanish when you have been 'sold'.
F. This can be done in two to four weeks.
A. Negotiate a fee and contract with the firm you have selected.
B. Authorize them to proceed.
This process usually takes more effort on your part, but the success of your project requires it. Think of it as 'due diligence'. You are about to make a major expenditure!
orig post date May 2013
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