Finding the right architect for you

Most people struggle to find the right architect for their specific needs. There are multiple architecture firms out there, but how do you commit to a specific one? The biggest mistake that a client can make to to simply select the cheapest.... 

Below is a short video on how and why to select an architect:

1. Selecting the right architect?

Here are a few things to consider when selecting an architect

1. Are they registered with SACAP? In Order to market yourself as an architect, you have to be registered with the South-African Council of Architects. It is illegal to promote and do the work of an architect if you aren't registered

2. Do they have experience? One can easily judge whether architects have experience by looking at their portfolio. It is sometimes better to look at the diversity of projects. This will tell you whether the architects are versatile enough to provide you with what you need. 

3. Can you get along? The architectural process is a personal and timeous one. You will spend a lot of time with your architect, thus its important that you will be able to get along.

4. Will you get value for your money? You will spend a lot of money employing an architect. Its important to ask for examples of their presentations and architectural process work. This will give you an idea of the effort that the architect invests in his/her work. 

5. Does the architect have site experience? Many modern day architects rarely get onto a building site. Its crucial for a designer to know how a building gets assembled in reality.

2. Why architectural fees must be seen as an investment, and not a major expense

Most clients who never worked with architects before usually think that architects are expensive at the inception of a project. They usually change their minds once the building is complete...


-Building is expensive: Building has become a very expensive endeavor. A great designed building wont necessarily cost you more than a poorly designed building. As a client, building might be one of the most expensive investments you will make in your life, the last thing that you want to do is to put the design of this investment into the hands of an under qualified person. The little bit of extra money that you invest in the right architects can't compare to the extra value that you will get from a brilliant design. 

-Return on investment: At the end of the day you have to assess whether you will get a good return on your investment. One of the most lucrative investments today is property. Essentially architects are the designers of property. A well designed and beautiful property will most likely sell quicker than a similar sized ugly building. You will get a good return on your investment on a well designed building.

-Building performance: A poorly designed building will cost you more in terms of utility bills and maintenance. As architects we often get appointed to redesign existing spaces that are poorly lit, cold, too hot etc. These expensive alterations can be avoided if buildings are properly designed from the start. A good architect will design a building to be comfortable for human occupation, which will create a positive environment for the client. Poorly designed buildings use a lot of energy to cool, heat, light etc, which will cost the client a lot of more money than what was saved on a cheap architect.

3. Why architects seem expensive

Architectural fees are expensive. Here is what you pay for:


-A Professional: Just as lawyers, engineers, doctors; architects are professionals. In order to be classified as a profession you need to belong to a governed professional body. 

-Education: In order to become an candidate architect, you have to study full-time for at least 5 years at a registered university. After that you have to working in practice for at least two years. After the practical training you write a professional exam. Only after completing all of these stages you can register as a professional architect. It takes minimum 7 years to become an architect. During this time you learn all the aspect of the building process, and not just how to draw and design buildings. You essentially pay for the knowledge of the architect in order to make the best decisions for you as a client. 

-Software: During the past few years there has been extreme advancements in building software. These packages has lead to great improvements in the architectural field. The modern day architect will use traditional tools such as drawing and model building, along with technological tools to provide the best service. These tools do cost a lot of money. As a client some of your fees will go towards overheads in order to provide you with the best service. 

4. How do we invoice?

Architectural fees can be a big sum of money, will i as a client have to pay everything upfront?


-Architectural stages: The architectural process is formulated into 6 stages. The total architectural fee is divided into these stages. The client is usually invoiced according the the progress of stages. This provides the client with a form of security, if you aren't happy, then you only paid for the work done up to date.  Here is a list of the stages:

-Inception and briefing: 5% of total fee

-Concept design: 15% of total fee

-Design development: 20% of total fee

-4.1 Council submission: 20% of total fee

-4.2 Construction drawings: 10% of total fee

-5 Contract administration & management: 27% of total fee

-6 Close out: 3% of total fee

5. How do architects generally quote?

There are a few methods regarding how architects quote on a project. Each project is unique and sometimes require some creative thinking when quoting:


-Fee scale method: Most projects are quoted on recommended fees (as set out by the governing body). This scale usually works on an estimated project budget. An percentage of the project budget is used to generate a total fee price. If the client doesn't have a set budget yet, then the architect will use an estimate project size (adding up all the needed room areas) and multiplying that with an estimate per square meter building rate. 

-Per square meter rate method: This method sometimes apply to smaller projects, or "as-built" projects. The architect will determine the estimate size of the project, and multiply that by a set rate per square meter.


-Lump sum figure method: When it's impossible to generate an estimate project budget or size, then the architect will come up with a lump sum fee based on the amount of time that he/she thinks will be spent on the project.  

6. Importance of the project budget

Many times clients are weary to tell the architect what their budget is. It also happens many times that clients don't know how much they can / want to spend at the onset of a project. Here are a few reasons why the architect needs to know the project budget.


-Design influence: Essentially the architect needs to design your building within a budget that you can afford. The worst thing that can happen is for the architect to generate a design that you as client are happy with, but you can't afford it... This happens a lot in the industry. It wastes the architects and clients time, as the architect needs to go back to the drawing board in order to re-design a cheaper version of the building. This can be avoided if the architect is aware of the available funds.

-Professional fees: Professionals, including the architects, usually use the estimate project budget to generate an initial fee. Most professionals evaluate the project budget at completion, (and if the original budget given was significantly lower than to completed budget), they re-evaluate fees and may add an additional fee. This may result in unhappy clients, and an unhappy architect. The best way to avoid this is to be as honest as possible about the project budget from the on set.