q & a - architects


what is an architect ?

An architect is a licensed professional involved in the planning & design of buildings – a person who translates the user’s needs into a building design.

In most countries, the term ‘architect’ is a legally protected term that can only be used by specific licensed persons. In Ontario, architects require an accredited university degree in architecture (often a bachelor of architecture), a minimum 3-year internship (specific documented experience), completion of a series of national exams, professional liability insurance, as well as ongoing continuing education.

The specialized training of architects concentrates on design, and is further complimented with the technical aspects of construction.

Most architects generally concentrate on a few specific building types; commercial, institutional, industrial, and so on – however not many architects do residential projects.


do architects do small projects ?

The size of project is entirely dependent on the individual architect, but some architects will provide assistance on relatively small projects, of say a few thousand dollars construction value.

Some architects, myself included, will also provide consulting services on a one-time-basis, to answer your questions, explain & narrow down design options, & provide a little guidance; in essence make sure you are ‘heading-in-the-right-direction’.


how do architects charge ?

Architects will typically charge one or more of the following three ways; (a) a fixed fee, (b) a certain percentage of the construction cost, or (c) on an hourly basis.

Often at the start of a project, there are many unknowns and decisions yet to be made by the owner, and thus it may be difficult to accurately predict the extent of services required, nor the fees. For this reason, a fixed fee is generally only appropriate for relatively small and straightforward projects.

Architectural fees will vary dependant on the type & level of professional services required, the size and complexity of your project, as well as the type and extent of drawings required, including the amount of detail necessary.

For most projects, the architect’s fees are often only a small percentage of the total construction cost. To be more specific, an architect will need to ask a number of questions about your project and your needs.


when should we get an architect involved ?

Ideally, you should get an architect involved quite early in your planning process, to help you determine the ‘big picture’ of your project, and to help to you focus your efforts.

An architect can help you before you have your property, by determining the relative merits, implications, suitability, and design potential of various building lots that you may be considering – to make sure the property you decide on is appropriate.

For those with vacant property, an architect can provide assistance in the preliminary stages by helping you determine the most appropriate ‘siting’ for your project, to take full advantage of your property.

For those renovating, an architect can briefly review your options and discuss the merits of each so you can concentrate your thoughts productively on the most appropriate solutions.


what would an architect need to get started?

One of the first things you should do is clarify your basic design goals. Be as clear as you can about your general expectations, but don’t worry about any specifics just yet.

If budget is a concern, ideally you should have an idea of your construction budget – possibly even an ideal budget and a maximum amount, if they differ.

You will also need to put some thought into the timeframe of your project.

This will provide enough to ‘get the ball rolling’, and determine what the next steps should be.


how can we benefit the most from our architect’s expertise?

When you are thinking about your project, concentrate on clarifying your needs, desires, & goals - not on designing your project. That is where the architect comes in.

Think about your lifestyle, routines, activities, & hobbies. Try to express how you want individual ‘spaces’ to feel & function, and their qualities – not how they should be built. Don’t do the architect’s job.

Never rule-out or eliminate any of your needs or goals just because you can’t imagine how they could be achieved. (Architect’s are renowned for finding imaginative design solutions to seemingly hopeless constraints.)

Give your architect the latitude & creative freedom to explore different ideas & possibilities that you may not have considered – to determine their relative benefits & long-term implications, and to discover the most appropriate design solution. (The architect can only be as good as you allow them to be.) Listen to your architect.

It’s worth noting that most often as a design proceeds, unfolds, and evolves, important issues will surface. This usually will bring you increased focus & understanding of your needs & expectations, which form an important part of the design development of your project.