Construction Project Management

How to pick an architect

A very savvy businessman once advised me:

"If you want people to do what's expected of them, the very first thing you have to do is tell them what is expected of them.”

The second thing you have to do is determine if they are capable of doing what you expect of them. So how do you go about selecting an architect when you really don't understand the intricacies of the profession?

In another article I spoke about creating a written description of the project you are contemplating and provided some key questions that you must address. The next step in the process is to turn that information into a Request For Proposal or RFP as it is called in the industry (see construction software) . I always advise my clients to avoid turning their RFP into a form that leads the respondents into filling in the blanks. You are almost always better off allowing them to express their understanding of your project and their approach in a free-form manner. What you should do is issue a plain English description of all the information you have compiled and thought through about your project and then ask them how they would address your issues and what services they would propose. It is very reasonable to ask them how they would price their services. See Schematic design for additional architecture first steps.

After receiving their proposals it is advisable to create a spreadsheet which lists each service that the architects have proposed and their pricing. At this point it is very unlikely that you will have an “apples for apples" comparison. Next you circle back to each firm and ask them to provide information that will allow you to fill in the blanks so that you do have an "apples for apples" comparison.

The two or three most responsive architect firms are invited to come to an interview. It is always beneficial to send them a copy of the agenda prior to the meeting so they know exactly what you are asking them to address. The first few minutes are reserved for them to introduce their firms, expressed their interest in your project, and make a presentation as to why they think they are well-suited to the task. The agendas should then address a series of questions about how they will approach your project and execute the work of the various phases. The goal here is to gain an understanding of the working methods of the firm, the level of flexibility they offer, and to get a sense of the chemistry of the team on the other side of the table you will be working with. This is a very subjective process.

If this seems to be a daunting process we can offer support services to help you reach your goals. Please visit Construction Methods for more information or to contact us.