November 2011
Rick McDermott

1. Listening skills. After all, it’s all about you. Architects need to listen to your wants and needs before they add their wisdom and talent.

2. Communication skills. Architects must be able to communicate in a way that makes sense to their client. Good verbal explanations are especially helpful with drawings and 3D models, helping clients visualize what the new space will provide.

3. Problem solving skills. It might be solving a drainage problem, creating space where none existed before or adapting an old house to accommodate a changing lifestyle. You’ll want to rely on your architect’s ability to think outside the box for creative solutions to any number of challenges that might arise.

4. Design skills. Good design covers both form (beauty) and function (the needs of the client). While styles may vary, good design should jump off the page. Check out the architect’s web sites and look at both interior and exterior photos for a comprehensive assessment of their work. 

5. Expertise throughout the process. Five major phases throughout the process require a variety of skills from the architects: Schematic Design, Design & Development, Construction Documents, Bid Negotiations and Construction Observation. Ask your architect about each step and their capabilities in each category.

6. Understanding building codes and other safety issues. Your architect must be aware of hundreds of codes (established by the International Residential Code - I.R.C.) and zoning ordinances particular to each community and designed for your protection. It is their responsibility to be up to date with state and local regulations.

7. Neighborhood association rules and temperament. Good architects understand the importance of being a good neighbor. Count on your architect to help with the ARB (Architectural Review Board), BZA (Board of Zoning Adjustment), local Planning Commissions and/or home associations processes. Your architect can appeal for any variance that may be required and guide you through good-neighbor practices.

8. Product knowledge and recommendations. New products are on the market every day - from countertops, to deck surfaces to energy efficient HVAC options. Your architect should be up to speed on what’s available in your price range, and be able to direct you to sources if you want to be involved with the selection process.

9. Ability to work well with others. It’s a team approach. There may be a structural engineer, a landscape architect, an interior designer, a lighting specialist and a general contractor that make up the team. Your architect should have good relationships with the various players to make the project go as smoothly as possible.

10. Education, experience and credentials. Your architect should be a licensed architect in the state of your project. American Institute of Architects (AIA) credentials suggest continuing education and a commitment to their craft. Ask for references; your architect should be able to provide you a list of happy clients.

Successful projects are a collaborative effort between client and architect. For more information about how to select the architect right for you, check out the AIA web site: http://howdesignworks.aia.org/working.asp.

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