10 Unorthodox Thoughts on Choosing an Architect

1. Figure out who you are before you start figuring out what architect you want. Realize that you are going to be an integral part of the team, and its success is as dependent on you as it is on the architect and contractor.

2. Understand the complexity of what you are about to undertake, and the importance of the person who will guide you and your project through the process. process. Decide if you are looking for someone who will do whatever is necessary to make your dream a reality, or someone who is committed to a good building first.

3. Pick your architect first. No one who will be involved in your project will bring more to the table than an architect. Period.

4. Forget about the architect's fee as a deciding factor. The difference between the cheaper guy's fee and the more expensive guy's will end up being about 2 percent to 3 percent of the overall project cost. The difference between their work product will be priceless.

5. Take client recommendations with a grain of salt. The act of building a house is a multi-year, multidisciplinary, multi-personality undertaking. When projects go well, it is because everyone, for the most part, performed as expected. When projects don't go well, it is usually because of several factors, which may or may not have included the architect. The point is that you just don't know.

6. Professional recommendations for architects are more accurate than those of former clients. Contractors, suppliers, building officials, etc. have a more accurate perception of architects, and can give you a better idea of the architect's value to your project.

7. Experience counts. Most architects with 10 years of experience as a lead architect have only completed about 15 projects of meaningful size, clear through from start to finish. This equates to a passable grasp on the complexities of the practice.

8. Beware of quantity. If an architect boasts of having 15 or 20 jobs going on, it means he is a salesman, not an architect. It means that you are hiring someone other than the person you are interviewing.

9. Do not confuse your working relationship with your architect with the personal one that may or may not develop. While it is true that you will be involved with your architect for two or three years, the cumulative hours of actually being together are minimal. It is best to keep yourself in a professional position vis-à-vis your architect until the dust has finally settled.

10. Speed counts. Life is short, and periods of our lives that relate to the relevance of a remodel, addition, or new house is even shorter. Pick an architect with a sense of urgency about his work. You will reap the benefits.

In conclusion, these thoughts should be taken holistically. It is impossible to rank them. Taken as a whole, they will give you a very good grasp of the realities of what separates architects from each other, and how to find the one that is right for you.

Lester Tobias, principal of Tobias Architecture, possesses more than 25 years of experience in the practice of architecture. visit http://architectsla.com/ for more articles and information.

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