Choosing the right architect is the most critical decision you can make at the start of a building project. (We can help you with that.) But once you have made your choice, how do you ensure that you have the best working relationship as the work progresses? Here are our tips for how to get the best from your architect.
Before you meet your architect, spend some time clarifying your ideas so that you have a clear mental picture of what you want. Search for images and information of projects similar to your own online and in print. Identify your major likes and dislikes – from architectural styles to types of windows – and make a note of them to discuss later. Think about how the space will be used and what will be needed to make it function.
Bring these ideas to your first meeting with your architect; they will provide a valuable starting point as you develop the brief together – but come with an open mind, too. This will allow room for your architect’s creativity to shine: in our view, the best buildings come from knowledgeable clients working collaboratively with talented designers.
The more informed you are about what you want to achieve, the better. When you meet your architect, specify what you want as much as possible, even down to door handles, sockets and switches. This also means that the project can be costed accurately and that there are no surprises further down the line.
If there is anything you don’t understand – from design, to planning, to construction – ask your architect straight away. Don’t ignore any concerns, if they are not dealt with they will grow. Your architect will listen, clear up any confusion and respond to your concerns. And don’t be afraid to challenge them if you don’t agree with what they say: they are professional enough to take it!
There is a chance that you might have to compromise on some of your ideas if your budget can’t stretch to meet them. Right from the start, be open and honest with your architect about your cash limit. They will let you know if your ideas are achievable with the amount of money you have to spend. By thinking creatively about use of space and materials, and finding for value-for-money solutions, they will help you spend your money wisely.
Trusting an architect with your project might feel like a huge leap of faith. You must have enough confidence in their abilities to let them get on with the work and make the right decisions. The best way to do this is to get to know them by sharing your vision and seeing how they respond. As in all fields of life, good communication is key to a successful project. Once this has been established, you will be able to trust them and be confident that they are on your side.
While it is your prerogative to change your mind about any aspect of the build, doing so early is highly recommended. It’s much harder, and can be seriously expensive, to make changes to the project once construction has started. While minor amendments are inevitable, implementing major design changes are complicated and costly. A change in roof design, floorplan, or structural or finishing material is relatively easy to deal with at the drawing stage but once building starts, everything gets set in stone – sometimes literally! The final position of bathrooms are good to get firmed up, for example, especially as big submerged pipework is best laid only once.
Thrash out all possiblities with your architect at design stage. Don’t proceed while harbouring real doubts. Your architect will be able to come up with several versions if requested. Then you will be able to proceed without doubt or uncertainties. Dithering at a later stage will cost you time and money.
The building process rarely proceeds as planned, which can be stressful if you aren’t psychologically ready. While using an architect will keep nasty surprises to a minimum, having a mindset that is prepared to deal with the unexpected will greatly help you throughout the lifetime of the project.