Choosing an architect: 10 things you need to consider

Aug 12, 2021 | Thought Leadership

When you want to embark upon a building project whether a sustainable building for a municipal complex or a custom home remodel or a new pub, you need a design architect. While architects receive the training and education to craft any type of building design for you, specialties do exist.

Your sustainable building for a new municipal complex requires a community center architect. Your custom home remodel or renovation deserves a design architect specializing in residential design. Your pub requires a brewery design architect. You can easily find all of these types of architects, but you need to know where to look, how to look, and what to ask.

Finding Potential Architects and What to Ask

A great place to start looking is the American Institute of Architects (AIA)’s website, where they maintain a searchable database of US architects. Membership in AIA requires a degree and/or a certain level of experience in architecture, AIA architects also must maintain continuing education hours to continually update their skills. By searching this database you can find a list of potential architects in your area with the specialty you need. Next, you need to interview each one to determine how they meet these ten criteria.

  1. Ask for and check their references. You might love the designs of one community center architect, but if every municipality that worked with them had a terrible experience, you need to know that. Hiring an architect comes down to much more than just the architectural designs they have created.
  2. You need an architect who forges professional relationships and behaves in a well-mannered way. You need them to be easy to work with on the project.
  3. Determine the architectural fees for the project. A brewery design architect and a residential project architect will differ in costs. A municipal design project will also differ in cost. Since some architects take on multiple project types, you need to learn the fees for the type you need. Also, which costs does the contract or flat fee not cover?
  4. Ask what insurance the architect carries. You also need to know about any open claims against them. Rather than just believe what they tell you, check the insurance validity. You can verify their policy with the insurance agency and find out about open claims. You need to choose a solvent firm that will remain so.
  5. Get an estimate on the length of time the design process takes. Also, ask about the construction processes timeline. Be wary of any architect who claims they can bring in your project in far less time than the others you contact. If four architects say it will take four months and the fifth one says two months, they are cutting corners or lying. Have a realistic outlook on the required timetable.
  6. Inquire about any potential challenges to your project. Your architect should be upfront about any homeowners’ association requirements, zoning ordinances, unique lot shapes, etc. If you want an unusual design or green building materials that could be tough to come by, they should tell you this upfront.
  7. Who would the architectural firm contact be? Will you deal directly with a project architect or a project manager or an assistant? Does your point of contact have direct access to the designer?
  8. Ask what builders the firm recommends. While you may know a general contractor, the firm may have someone it works with regularly. If you do not know anyone, the architect provides a strong source for finding someone experienced in the type of project you want to build.
  9. Which of the building contractors does the architect have a good relationship with? If you hire an architect for a custom design, you need them to be able to work well with the building. Ideally, you want them to have experience working well together and for them to get along. They are collaborating on something quite important to you.
  10. Ask the architect for recommendations on how to reduce environmental impact or improve energy efficiency. Your architect needs to know at the outset if you desire a sustainable design or want to integrate renewable energy sources such as solar power or wind energy or a biomass stove. Energy efficiency measures increase up-front project cost but can reduce long-term costs.


How Austin Design Cooperative Can Help

When you want fabulous design for your residence, brewery and tasting room, mixed-use properties, or your community center consider Austin Design Cooperative. From the moment you engage us, we get to know you, understand your project and create a visual model of your ideas. From custom homes and additions to structural repairs, we work with historic buildings or in contemporary luxury developments.

Specializing in eye-catching architecture, we strive to create spaces where people can come together to enjoy life. Whether it be a custom home, brewery, community building or a hospitality destination. We take the time to understand your visions and make them a reality. Together, we can design space that meets your unique needs. With our confidence and experience we will guide you through a process that leads you to realize your vision.

Our Straightforward Process

If we think we’re a good fit for your needs, we’ll come by for a site visit to narrow in on what you’d like to accomplish; for example, if we see potential challenges with the land or existing buildings, including physical conditions or potential zoning issues. If we feel we have an immediate understanding, we’ll throw out a ballpark estimate on what this kind of project will cost. At this point, we’re talking with you, getting to know you and your project on a deeper level, so we can tailor our offerings to you.

We’ll send you a proposal. This lays out the project, how we can help you accomplish it, and a more concise description of services and cost. If you have any questions about the proposal, we want to hear from you! It’s in everyone’s best interest to make sure we’re on the same page as our clients.

Once the proposal is signed and the initial deposit is received, we can get started. (Note: Every project is unique. Some are small, some are big. Deposit amounts reflect the nature and size of the project.)

Some projects are very simple and only involve a few phases:

  • Pre-Design Services
  • Concept Design
  • Schematic Design

Some projects go all the way:

  • Pre-Design Services
  • Concept Design
  • Schematic Design
  • Design Development
  • Construction Documents
  • Construction Observation

Some projects want the basics of each of the above steps, and some want more detail and personalization. We can get into the nitty gritty with you on custom cabinetry, environmentally conscious building practices and materials, coordinating with an interior designer or landscape architect.

We are happy to discuss these options with you in our initial conversations. Call us today at 802.451.5966 or via email We can help you build the project you envision.

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