- The Architect’s Unique Perspective
- Architects Work with You to:
- The Design Process: A Healthy Give-And-Take
- When To Hire An Architect
- How Architects Practice
- Project Delivery Methods
1. Separate Contracts for Design and Construction
2. One Contract for Both Design and Construction
- How Architects Charge for Their Services
- Practical Details: Contracts
- Phases of Design: An Outline
- Programming: Deciding What to Build
- Schematic Design: Developing Initial Design Concepts
- Design Development: Refining the Design
- Preparing Construction Documents: Drawings and Specifications
- Bidding or Negotiation Phase
- Construction and Construction Administration
Building projects are complex and expensive undertakings loaded with critical decisions. You can’t afford mistakes. Hiring an architect to help you through the process is one of the best investments you can make.
Architects are trained to analyze your functional needs, long-term company goals, corporate culture, and budget. Using this analysis, the architect designs a building that helps meet your current and future business needs. When designing a building, an architect seeks to balance several often conflicting elements:
And the architect must balance these elements within the context of building code and zoning regulations.
As in a marriage, both the architect and building owner bring something to the relationship that the other needs. As the owner, you have a building goal and the financial resources to realize that goal. The architect brings extensive professional training and experience, creativity, and project management skills.
Designing a building is exciting and creative. Be open to new ideas. Be frank about how you want the end result to feel and look. It is important that you or someone from your company be very involved with the project, asking questions and providing information to the architect. At the same time don’t control the project to the point that you unnecessarily restrict the architect. Otherwise, you may not get the full value of the design services. top
The best time to bring in an architect is as early as possible in the project. Long before plans and specifications are developed, there are many crucial decisions to be made.
One key decision is the selection of the site, which can determine the form the building takes as well as its cost. A site with steep topography, for example, can be more expensive to develop. A site with specific zoning constraints may limit what you can build on it. Working with a preliminary evaluation of your needs, an architect can help you find a site that presents the best opportunity to construct the kind of building you envision. Other predesign services architects offer include economic feasibility studies, assistance in developing project budgets and schedules, and help in obtaining project financing.
There is a wide range of architecture firms, from one-person operations at one end of the scale to firms employing hundreds at the other. Some firms have in-house engineering, landscaping, graphic design, interior design, and other capabilities and services that complement their architectural experience. Firms may have a generalized practice or specialized experience designing interiors, hospitals, corporate headquarters, retail spaces, and so on. The right kind of firm will depend on the demands of your project and what you are looking for in an architect.
There are a variety of ways in which architects and contractors deliver their services. The choice of a delivery method depends in large measure on the nature of the project and time and budget constraints. An architect can advise you on the method most appropriate to the needs of your project. The most common ways are:
There is a wide range of architecture firms, from one-person operations at one end of the scale to firms employing hundreds at the other. Some firms have in-house engineering, landscaping, graphic design, interior design, and other capabilities and services that complement their architectural experience. Firms may have a generalized practice or specialized experience designing interiors, hospitals, corporate headquarters, retail spaces, and so on. The right kind of firm will depend on the demands of your project and whYou hire the architect and the contractor, signing separate contracts with each. The architect is usually hired first to prepare construction documents, which include drawings and specifications. When these documents are completed, they become the basis for soliciting contractor bids and negotiating and awarding a construction contract. During construction, the architect serves as your representative administering the contract and helping check that the contractor’s work is in accordance with the drawings and specifications.
This separate contracts system is the most widely used in the United States.
Some owners find it cost effective to involve a contractor during the design phase, to advise on construction costs and scheduling and market conditions. At completion of the design phase, the contractor will negotiate or bid on the project. The advantage of this team approach is that the contractor is available during the design phase.
To shorten project duration, the design and construction phases can be overlapped. Under this arrangement, called fast track, construction contracts for some portions of the work are awarded before fully developed construction drawings and specifications have been prepared. Fast track can be beneficial when there are rigid time constraints or during inflationary times. However, a fast track project requires careful management by a professional knowledgeable about all aspects of construction. One disadvantage of fast-track is that you commit to construction without knowing what the cost of construction will be until the project is completed.
Under this arrangement, often called design/build, you hire a single firm to both design and construct the project. The architect does not work for you but for the design/build firm. You may not deal directly with the architect but with a representative of the design/build firm.
One variation of the design/build approach is “turnkey.” Under this arrangement the design/build firm also provides initial financing and site procurement. While this arrangement reduces your risks, it also limits your participation in and control of decisions regarding your project. You do not assume ownership until the project is completed and accepted by you.
Every project, every architect, and every owner is unique, and so there is no standard fee or fee arrangement for a particular type of project.
Architectural fees are typically calculated using one or a combination of the following ways:
In addition, there are also reimbursable expenses that are generally billed as they are incurred. These expenses typically include reproduction of drawings and specifications, engineering, and other consultant fees, long-distance travel, and telephone calls. How you pay for architectural services and what they cost are a matter for you and the architect to decide together. Architects are completely free to charge for their services as they see fit, and you are free to request fee proposals in whatever manner at whatever time you think best. Generally, the better defined your project is, the more reliable an architect’s quotation is likely to be.
It is best to put the terms of your written agreement in the form of a written contract. The American Institute of Architects has developed a variety of standard form contracts that are used widely. Written and approved by organizations representing architects, engineers, contractors, attorneys, owners, and insurers, these contracts reflect a consensus of current industry practices and legal precedence and are not biased to any one interest.
In the contract, be specific about project scope, location, schedule requirements or constraints, budget estimates, codes, regulations, required design reviews, extent of the architect’s services, architectural fees, and so on. Review your budget and schedule carefully. Sometimes disagreements and disputes arise on projects. A good contract should include provisions for how to manage and resolve disputes in a timely manner to help cut down on delays.
The following outlines the phases of design when there are separate contracts for design and construction. Because every architect is different, as is every project and, for that matter, every owner, you may find on your project some variation in these roles and steps. Your architect can explain the process further.
Note: This phase is extremely important. Complete an adequate program for a more efficient project with fewer surprises.
The architect’s involvement in the project does not stop at the completion of design. After the bidding and negotiation process, architects can also assist you in managing the construction of the project.
This information is excerpted from "Building Relationships: A Guide for Working with an Architect." Copyright 1990, The American Institute of Architects. Printed with permission.