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What to consider when choosing an architect

Architects are often your first port of call when you’re thinking about a development, and choosing the right architect to work with is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. It can affect not only the price you pay, but the shape and type of development, timing and in some cases the cost and time associated with getting Council consents.

There are plenty of architects who can help you design a project and draft plans. Their knowledge and skills vary greatly, and each has their own style and specialty. So, it’s extremely worthwhile to do some research to get the best fit for you and your project.

But how do you find the right architect for your project?

Vet the architect's reputation: you are going to be spending a lot of time and money on this project. In fact, if this project is your dream home, it may be the investment of a lifetime. In this case, you owe it to yourself to do thorough research before making this important decision.

Google is your friend here: check the architect’s background, accreditation, articles, references to find out how much experience they have, what kind of projects they specialise in and where they generally work.

Ask for referrals, so you can speak to clients whose homes the architect has designed and have a checklist handy. Were they easy to get hold of? Are past clients happy with the work? Was communication open? How adept were they at problem solving? Did they stay on budget? Was he or she able to incorporate the client’s wants and needs when considering design? How has the project held up? Were there unforeseen flaws in the design, or are the clients pleased with the lasting results? How difficult was it to get Council consents?

Independent architect or “Package deal”: one of the many benefits of working with an architect is the independent advice and guidance that you’ll receive throughout the whole designing and building process. The architect’s autonomy gives you peace of mind, knowing he or she will act as your advocate when dealing with contractors. This is not to say it’s a negative if the architect has builders he or she can recommend, just make sure you know all aspects of the “package deal” if that’s who your architect works for and that you’re happy with the complete package.

Design and aesthetic: architecture firms combine elements of both art and design. The best architects are the ones who have a firm understanding of engineering principles and an ability to materialise an artistic vision. Your home reflects your personality and your lifestyle. It also has to be right for your family’s needs. Whoever you choose should be passionate about the style you choose and have examples of past projects that are similar to what you are looking for.

Personality: the success of the working partnership will depend to a great extent on how you get along. You may have found an impressive architect who has built the most amazing houses you’ve ever seen, but if you don’t like his/her personality, it’s not going to be a good choice. It’s likely your project will involve discussions about your personal habits, style preferences, hobbies and even your family relationships, so it’s really important that you choose an architect you can trust, who can collaborate, and is willing to listen to your specific needs and incorporate this into his/her vision.

Building a good relationship and clear communication are the ultimate keys to a successful project, so it’s important to work on your own skills as well and be prepared to schedule in regular updates to keep the project on track.

Landscape appreciation: there are some architects or designers who work from a supply of standard designs that have been successful for them in the past. But remember, every site is unique in their landscape and terrain and your choice must be the right design for the spot. Standard designs may not work on your site.

Budget: this is a big consideration! You need to choose someone willing to work to your budget and stick to it. We’ve all heard stories of projects going way over budget... Also, depending on the where you live there can be consenting issues that can delay a project. It’s important to address these early so that you know what you’re dealing with and can redesign to remove potential issues. A good architect will work in partnership with your builder and a planner to thoroughly research every aspect of the build and lower the probability of these kinds of roadblocks. Also be sure to discuss their costs right from the start and be clear about expectations.

Availability and contact throughout: once you’ve made a short list and start contacting architectural firms, make sure to confirm that your chosen architect is available and will continue to remain your point of contact throughout the entire process. The direct relationship is incredibly important, both for understanding your needs and for consistency of communications. A good architect will streamline the whole design and construction process for you from initial pre-design meetings to the final home construction.

More information?

If you need recommendations for someone to assist you, give the Planning Plus team a call. Through our work on resource consent applications, we have built up a network of proven professionals who can assist with all aspects of development. We’re sure we can recommend a good fit for you and your development.

Disclaimer: as with all our blogs, the information detailed here is general in nature and meant as a preliminary guide only. This should not be substituted for your own investigations or use of your own professional’s. Planning Plus is not liable for any errors or omissions.

Tracy is a Planner with an M.Sc. in Resource Management.

Tracy has worked assisting Senior Planners with the preparation and lodgement of resource consent applications, as well as planning. She also provided support in client liaison, contractor engagement and general communications.

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