1. KNOW YOUR OWN REQUIREMENTS
It is important that you know what you need. So, list out the essential things to be achieved for the project to be deemed worthwhile for you. These are your success criteria. Imagine yourself in the future in the completed building and list the critical things you have achieved. These can be diverse and can overlap.
For example you might simply need to create more space or to achieve value for money or speed, beauty, light, budget control, thermal efficiency, etc. These criteria will vary hugely from person to person. It might also helpful to list your fears in relation to the project.
An architect can help you with the overall process, from A to Z, not just with for example, a planning application. So decide if you need a full range of service from design, to project management, through to handover, or if you just need particular stages.
2. HAVE A NUMBER OF SOURCES
There are many sources from which to search and it is a good idea to search a number of different sources. It can be a good indicator when an architect appears via a number of sources. Use some of the following to compile your list:
the RIAI listing of registered architects,
friends or colleagues who have carried out similar projects,
buildings that you know and like, research who were the architects involved,
architects awards listings, eg RIAI or AAI annual awards,
RIAI conservation accreditation listings, if you are planning work to a period building,
publications, from books to design magazine to newspaper articles,
specialist directories, e.g. Irish Georgian Society, Sustainable Energy Authority,
local architects in your area,
trade shows, design expos or
site notices outside a property usually list the architects involved,
your local authority, their websites can be great to search for planning applications and who prepared them
local authorities also often prepare planning guidelines with imput from exemplary architects,
local authority, weekly planning lists,
and obviously the web.
3. COMPILE A LONG LIST
Ok, so now that you know what you want to achieve and where to search, the next thing to do is to compile a list of potential architects. Before you start, it will help to have a number of filters to help you edit candidates. For example:
-your success criteria: your list from 1. above should give you a good indication as to the appropriateness of a potential architect for you.
-registration: check if a candidate is registered. It is now illegal to call yourself an architect or to offer your services as an architect, if you are not on the national register of architects.
-relevance: it would be wise to choose architects that do work with your type of project, e.g. residential, or commercial, new build or refurb, etc..
-experience: architecture is a broad, technical and slow profession, buildings take years to realise. It would be wise that your potential candidates have years of experience.
-expertise: if your project requires particular expertise, eg planning expertise, this can be a simple yes/no filter to assess potentials for your list
-practice size: there are pros and cons to the size of an architect’s practice. Generally, large architects practice can produce more, faster and may have broader expertise and better management. Small practices can be more innovative, give more attention to detail and give a more personal tailor made service.
-insurance: it is important that your architect has adequate professional indemnity insurance in place. So again, this can be a simple yes/no criteria to assess candidates.
4. EDIT IT DOWN TO THREE
This is where the web can be really useful. Before meeting anyone, you can have a very good sense of their operation from their web presence. You can normally check if they are registered or their expertise, size, awards, quality systems, testimonials, etc. from their websites The essential thing to review, though, is their work and work experience. Use web research to edit your list down to three.
5. GO AND MEET THEM
It is really helpful to meet with your candidates. A build project can be a long process and a good relationship with your architect will be important. So meet them to see how you would work together. Structure the interview to get the information you need to make your decision. Ensure you get across your requirements for the project, including your fears.
It is very helpful to have a check list of factors you wish to cover during the interview, e.g. experience, cost, timetable, attitude, etc.
Ask about their work process. A good architects practice will offer a clear and structured breakdown of their process, explaining each of the steps from research, through to the design concept, design detail, and construction management. Be up front about the fact that you are talking to other candidates. Ask who will be the team on your project, who will you be dealing with? Ask for references.
Give the architect opportunity to ask questions. These will be indicative as to their thinking.
6. GET THE COSTS OUT IN THE OPEN
Get the issue of costs out in the open early. Give your candidates as much detail as you can on your requirements and ask for their charge. Request that all terms and conditions are set out in writing. The architect’s response should offer a clear outline of their process and their charge for the work. Ask about any additional services foreseen, other consultants required or any extra charges which you could incur over the lifetime of the project. This will give a true picture of the overall fee charge.
7. DO YOUR DUE DILIGENCE
After the interview, take time to reflect and assess each candidate. Create a check list of factors that are important for you, e.g. experience, ability, cost, references, attitude, alignment, time, etc. Other more subjective issues are also important to note. For example: Did you like them? Did they listen? Did they get your objectives for the project? Are your objectives aligned? Listen to your gut. It is important to complete your research by checking their references. At the end, score each candidate according to your check list.
Total your scores and hopefully, at this stage, you should have a preferred candidate.
You should have found the right architect for you.
Good luck with your project!