The first question we ask a prospect is whether they’ve hired an architect. The second question is, if they’ve answered in the affirmative is, “Which one?” We are contractors, and we are by no means qualified critics of architects, but we do know this: a good architect is worth paying for.
Every so often a small owner will tell us their design firm (that is, a firm that does mostly marketing-type work by creating graphics and a feel for the brand) knows CAD and has laid their building out for them. Nothing against design firms—they are quite important—but they are not architects any more than we contractors are.
If you want to build something right, you need a good architect.
Sure, this is obvious—but many that agree with the foregoing hire an architect based on sticker price. That is, they get proposals from several architects and base their decision on quoted price. The problem with this is twofold.
First, it is often true that you get what you pay for. Now, one must be careful when selecting an architect, as there are certainly firms that charge exorbitant fees based on the notion that they are artists in demand. If you’re hiring an architect to design a commercial building, you don’t need a world-class artist—you need an architect with a good eye for design, practicality, and cost. Good architects place a high value on their time, and thus a cheap architect usually is either not very good or doesn’t intend to spend much time on your project.
Second, and perhaps most importantly, quoted price is not the same as delivered cost. Change orders due to incomplete plans are expensive. They cost time (read: foregone revenue) and money. Good architects produce good—note, I didn’t say perfect—drawings which result in fewer change orders. Good plans are easier to read and thus easier to build from. It is quite possible that an architect could be the most expensive on quoted price and yet deliver the best value when all costs and factors are considered.
If you’re looking to hire an architect, consider these 4 Ps:
- Portfolio (what have they designed?)
- Pace (how quickly they work, return emails and calls, etc.)
Don’t skimp on your architect. Spend the time to vet them, and after having done so, don’t be afraid to spend the money to get a good one. You’ll be glad you did.