Many Owners needing to revamp their office space or build an addition will ask themselves this. The short answer is yes. Many view architects as “an unnecessary expense” and don’t see what paying an architect will do for them. Let’s try an answer this simple question.
What is an architect?
A true architect is more than a draftsman or designer, they are building and construction specialists who should be able to understand the aspects of your business and how they will work with you or your team. In the legal sense, to call yourself an “architect” you have to graduated with an advanced degree beyond the usual B.S. degree, you have to go through the Intern Development Program (IDP) and you have to pass a licensing exam. Most states are in a common format now using the NCARB test which has greatly simplified the process to become an architect.
Are all architects the same?
No, while we have common training, design, knowledge of the engineering components of a building, construction experience, like doctors and lawyers, we tend to specialize in certain fields. Some architects focus on residential projects of all sizes, some have built up practices with most of their work in a specific construction type, educational facilities, religious buildings, healthcare structures or retail spaces. Some architects are able to work across a wide variety of project types. The most important question to ask related to experience and your unique business that the architect will be interfacing with is “Can the architect effectively communicate and understand my business”. If he can, then it will probably be a good fit.
What are some of the steps I should take to hire an architect?
A first important step is to get referrals from others you trust, if your friend had a good experience, it is probably a good bet that you will too. Once you have an architect in mind, get some references from them or go on-line and see what they have done. It is especially important that you talk with others who have worked with them. With larger firms, especially, you are going to want to know who is the person who will actually be doing the work for you, like any company, they have some people who do a better job or are a better fit for your needs and personality.
Shouldn’t I just hire a builder?
No and Yes, let me explain. If the builder provides comprehensive “design-build” services, this could be a great fit. When I say comprehensive “design-build” services, the builder needs to have a professional architect on staff or have teamed up with an architectural firm to provide the architectural related services. If the builder doesn’t have the staff or relationship, you are probably going to be disappointed.
Our firms, studiozONE, llc and Integrity Building Group, LLC provide comprehensive “design-build” services. studiozONE, llc performs all design and architectural related services and Integrity Building Group, LLC manages the construction. In our organization, the lines between the two groups are very blurry as we move between the two disciplines. The big advantage owners get with “design-build” is a single source of responsibility for the Scope, Schedule and Budget for a project. Early on in the process, the owner will have an idea of what he wants to do will cost and often a Guaranteed Maximum Price (GMP) contract can be entered into. This allows the owner to set the maximum budget and define the quality and the architectural/construction work together to achieve this.
We have used “design-build” on a number of projects, the Grand Army of the Republic renovation in downtown Detroit, the Myst Nightclub renovation in Southfield and the University of Detroit Mercy Titan Hall renovation also in Detroit. With all these projects, the owners have a much tighter control of their budget and quality. This will ultimately provide the owner the highest value.