St. Kitts-Nevis Institute of Architects
P.O. Box 519
Basseterre
St. Kitts

Mobile: (869) 662-7327 / 760-3571
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

FAQs

Whether you are building your own home or designing a commercial complex, choosing the right architect is important to a successful project. First-time clients, and even experienced clients facing new situations, have many questions about architect selection. Some of the more common ones are addressed here.



Some say that I should select a builder, contractor, or CM before selecting an Architect. When is that good advise?

It works best to select an architect first; then the architect who is going to design the project can help establish the capabilities required from those who will build the project. If the owner already knows a specific contractor will be used, this should be disclosed up front.

However architect selection is approached, it is worth taking the time to do it well. Here are some additional tips:

  • You are engaging the services of a professional. You will work closely with the architect through the life of the project, and your relationship may extend to future projects. Invest the care you would take in selecting a financial or legal advisor.
  • Yours will also be a business relationship. Find out how prospective architects do business, how they work with their clients, how responsive they are to your management and decision styles, and how well their work stacks up against their clients’ expectations.
  • Ask questions. Respect the architect as a professional who will bring experience and specialized knowledge to your project. At the same time, don’t be afraid to ask the same questions you have asked yourself: What does the architect expect from the project? How much information does the architect need? How does the architect set priorities and make decisions? Who in the firm will work directly with you? How will engineering or other design services be provided? How does the firm provide quality control during design? What is the firm’s construction cost experience?
  • Be frank. Tell the architect what you know and what you expect. Ask for an explanation of anything you don’t understand. The more on the table at the beginning, the better the chances for a successful project.

Keep in mind the selection is a mutual process. The most thoughtful architects are as careful in selecting their clients as owners are in selecting architects. They are as interested in a successful project as you are, and they know that good architecture results from fruitful collaboration between good architects and good clients.

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What problems do I create when I ask architect to design a project as a condition of selection?

Even simple projects are very complex. Each situation is different – different people, different needs, a different site, different financing and regulatory requirements. Many of the owner’s requirements and expectations become specific only in design: as the project proceeds, needs and priorities are clarified and new possibilities merge. The architect’s knowledge, experience, and skill become part of the project and contribute still more possibilities. These facts suggests that back-of-the-envelope designs done as part of the architect selection process cannot substitute for the complex, time-consuming, and intensive dialogue and inquiry that characterize architectural design. In the worst case, the owner falls in love with design concepts that, on close examination, are inappropriate.

In some cases, owners know just what they need. If you feel you are one of those owners, seriously consider engaging an architect on, for example, an hourly consulting basis to review and test your decision. Detailed professional evaluations of existing buildings can be valuable in uncovering problems and possibilities that may affect your decision. An off-the-shelf product may not fulfill your specific requirements. The process of adapting an existing building design to a new site may be more complicated than it appears, considering, for example, soil or drainage conditions, solar orientation, view, traffic, and community issues.

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On what should I base my decision?

Personal confidence in the architect is preeminent. Then seek an appropriate balance among these factors: technical competence, professional service, cost, and of course, design ability. Once you have selected the best firm, enter into detailed negotiations of services and compensation. If you cannot agree, begin negotiating with your second choice.

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How should I follow up?

Tell each firm what you intend to do next and when you plan to make your decisions. If you have not talked with their past clients, do so now. Assess both the performance of the firm and the performance of the resulting architecture. You may want to visit existing buildings to see them in use. Notify the selected firm as soon as possible. Remember, conditions change, the firm may not be able to offer the same project team if you must take several weeks or months to decide.

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What can I realistically expect to learn from an interview? How can I structure the interview to make it as informative as possible?

You can learn how the team the architect has put together would approach your project. Ask how the architect would gather information, establish priorities, and make decisions. Ask what the architect sees as the important issues or considerations in the project. Evaluate the firm’s interest in your project: Would your needs be a major or minor concern? Evaluate the firm’s style, personality and approach: Are they compatible with yours?

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How many firms should I interview, and how should they be selected?

Most advise that you interview between three and five firms, enough to see the range of possibilities but not so many that an already tough decision will be further complicated. Select for interview architecture firms you feel can do your project because of their expertise, their experience, or their ability to bring a fresh look to your situation. Treat each firm fairly; offer, for example, equal time and equal access to your site and existing facilities. Insist on meeting the key people who would work on your project.

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Why are formal interviews usually desirable?

An interview addresses one issue that can’t be covered in brochures and printed materials: the chemistry between the owner and the project team. It also allows the owner to investigate how each architect would approach the project.

What information should I request?

At minimum, ask prospective firms to show you projects that are similar to yours (that is, of similar size and type) or that have addressed similar issues (that is, similar siting, functional complexity, or design aspirations). Ask them to indicate how they would approach your project and who would work on it (including consultants). Ask for the names of other owners you can contact.

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How do I find potentially suitable firms to contact?

Contact other owners who have developed similar facilities, and ask whom they interviewed and ultimately selected. Ask who designed buildings and projects that you have admired or that seem especially appropriate.

Should I look at more than one firm?

Usually, yes. The exception, of course, arises when you already have a good relationship with an architect and it makes little sense to change.

When, in the life cycle of a project, should I bring the architect into the picture?

As early as possible. Architects can help you define the project in terms that provide meaningful guidance for design. They can also site studies, help secure planning and zoning approvals, and perform a variety of other predesign tasks.