The American Institute of Architects (AIA) works to advance our nation’s quality of life and protect the public’s health, safety and welfare, as it has done for 160 years.
Each day AIA members create the places where people live and learn, work, and play. We create next generation energy-saving buildings to make our communities healthier and safer.
Architects look out for your interests and find ways to make the process go smoothly and help you find a qualified and reputable contractor. They visit the construction site to help verify that the project is being built according to
the plans and specifications.
Architects can assist you through the maze of design options, building codes, zoning laws, contractors, and permitting requirements. The architect is the one professional who has the education, training, experience, and vision to guide you through the entire design and construction process, from helping you define what you want to build to helping you get the most for your construction dollar.
Architects can save you money.
Architect services are a wise investment for the money, not an added cost to your project because a well-conceived and designed project can be built more efficiently and economically and increase your property value. Architects avoid oversized rooms and wasted space and can help you select materials within your budget and at a fair price.
Whether you are building, renovating or remodeling your own home or designing a commercial complex, choosing the right architect is vital to a successful project. Architects can make your life easier.
How to select a design professional?
How do you select a design professional for your building project which is not yet well defined and for which the scope of professional services is therefore not yet established? Whether you have extensive experience with design and construction or are coming to both for the first time, it can be helpful to ask yourself a few questions before interviewing prospective architects. You do not need firm or complete answers at this point. Rather, these questions will help to ensure that your initial communications will be clear and productive and enable you to select the design professional best suited to your needs.
- How will your project be used?
- Do you have specific ideas on how to translate these activities into spaces and square footage?
- Do you have a site? Or will this also be a subject of discussion with the architect?
- Have you decided upon a schedule and budget?
- What are your overall aspirations for the project—aesthetic and emotional as well as practical?
- Who will be making the critical decisions—you alone, your family, or a committee of some sort?
- Where will the resources come from to create and operate your project?
- Are you willing to pay a little extra up front on systems that will save energy or bring other operations savings and pay back over time?
- Do you have previous experience with design and construction? If so, in what ways were you successful, and was the experience in any way disappointing? A good architect will listen closely to your answers, help you solidify your goals and desires, and translate them into an effective building. Look for a good listener, and you’ll find a good architect.
Finding the right firm
Architecture firms come in a variety of sizes and types ranging from sole practitioners to very large firms with staffs of 100 or more. Some firms specialize in one or more project or facility types. Others have very specific specialties. Some firms include in-house engineering (structural, mechanical, electrical, etc.). Each architectural firm brings its own combination of skills, expertise, interests and values to its projects. All good architects will listen to you and translate your ideas into a viable construction project.
Introduce an architect as early as possible into the project
Architects can help you define the project in terms that provide meaningful guidance for design. They may also do site studies, help apply for planning and zoning approvals and offer a variety of other pre-design services.
Interview more than one firm
An interview addresses an issue that can’t be covered by brochures or a firm’s website – the chemistry between you and the architecture firm. Unless you have a special relationship with a particular firm, it is recommended that you interview three to five firms. Talk to firms that have designed buildings or projects that you have particularly admired or that seem appropriate. Contact other owners who have developed similar facilities and speak to them about their experience working with their architect. Be frank. Provide the architect with as much information as possible about what you know and what you expect. Choose your architect as carefully as you would your dentist or doctor.
Request the appropriate information from the firm
Ask to see projects the firm has designed that are similar in type and size to yours or that have addressed similar issues. Ask them to indicate how they will approach your project and who will be working on it, including consultants. Ask for the names of other owners you may contact. Your architect can help you analyze your project’s requirements and select the appropriate services.
After a selection has been made
Yours will be a business relationship. The more on the table at the outset, the better the chances are for a successful project. Once you have selected the best firm, enter into detailed negotiations regarding services and compensation.
Use AIA Contract Documents
AIA Contract Documents offer an excellent starting point for negotiations. These standard forms of agreement, first developed in the 1880’s, have been carefully reviewed, court -tested and modified over many years of practice. Even the simplest of projects can be very complex. Each situation is different, including people, needs, site and financing and regulatory requirements. Many of the owner’s needs and expectations come into focus only in the process of design. As the owner and architect mutually evaluate alternative approaches to the project’s design, priorities are clarified and new possibilities emerge. A good relationship with your architect will ensure that this process will progress successfully.
This information was originally written for the American Institute of Architects by AIA Honor Award recipient David Havilland, professor of architecture at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and is updated periodically to reflect industry practices
Resources and Help
Publications are available through our office to help you understand the design and construction process and working with an architect. Please contact AIA Connecticut at 203-865-2195.
For help in selecting an architect for your school, library, hospital, police or fire station, town hall, you may use the FREE services of the Qualifications Based Selection (QBS) facilitator, whose services are paid for by AIA Connecticut and other design professionals’ associations. The facilitator will guide your building committee in a selection process that is objective, open and fair. It is the same process used by the State of Connecticut, the U. S. Government, and most municipalities. For more information about the free service and the QBS process, call 860-635-5522, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the QBS website for more information.
The Practice Of Architecture And The Use Of The Term “Architect” And Similar Terms By Persons Not Licensed As Architects (PDF)