When you’re immersed in construction, it’s easy to lose sight of the other pieces of the puzzle. I stumbled upon an article from the BUILD Blog that features steps architects encourage to find the most suitable design resources for project owners. Since architectural partners form the backbone of a project, it’s fundamental to make sure there’s a good fit with your project vision and a firm’s typical scope. It’s also pretty refreshing to see how similar these thoughts run to determining a GC fit.

One idea that resonated first was how the fit needs to be mutual—not just determined by the owner, but also agreed that an opportunity is compatible by the architect. It’s sometimes tempting to take on each project that comes through the door. As much as this temptation strikes, there’s a big impact from setting filters to dictate which projects a company is best suited to work on. Some parameters are more direct, but others are clear that they’ve been understood through years of experience.

First, project scale is a huge factor. The author emphasizes that there is a certain threshold of construction costs where many firms’ design fees are cost-effective, however below a certain point, they’re just not a cost-sensible option. Given this, some scopes may be excluded from a firm’s ‘sweet spot’, and this can lead to a loss of expertise, but also cost-efficiency.

Stemming from this, certain considerations can be made to match up a project to its best corresponding design partner.

  • For smaller scopes, it makes sense to seek a solo practitioner. This type of architect can perform best on several smaller-scale projects while pricing competitively. When you elect a medium-sized organization for a small scope, they typically employ more robust fees that typically aren’t necessary for a simpler project.

Willingness to embrace project phasing is another consideration to involve in architect selection. When businesses’ facilities have a requirement to remain occupied, there’s a desire to phase a project so that it can be designed piece by piece and construction can be stopped and started in segments without a disruption to business. As compelling as these options are, the disadvantages typically outweigh the advantages. Cost increase is a large reason why; however, it also adds complication. With small phases over time, many architects find themselves questioning the project scale factor. Consistently, it makes more sense to relocate a business temporarily and not let the thought of phasing hinder finding a first-rate design resource. The reality is most architects are much more likely to take on the work if the project can be taken care of a once.

An area that is common among both construction and architectural teams to weigh significance of is competition. When a client explains that a project will involve a competitive bid process, this is to be expected in the commercial realm. What’s a bit off-putting is when there are more than 5 bidders, at which point it’s not surprising for architects and general contractors to respectfully decline to bid. As BUILD puts it, “While architects like a healthy amount of competition, it’s not difficult to do a quick time vs. value calculation and conclude that the time involved in competing would be better spent on projects you already have on your desk. Current clients tend to appreciate the commitment as well.”

Budgetary honesty is both a priority from the architect’s end to the client, but also the client’s end to the architect. Here’s how. If a client expresses an initially low ballpark figure that is unrealistic for the architect in the fear of cost overages, BUILD states they’ve found the wrong architect to begin with. There’s an implied lack of trust in that situation, and a potential mis-match with the project to it’s proper architectural partner. Also, if the architect provides an unreasonably high budget for the services proposed, there’s not a strong relationship potential in that situation either. Budget is often a priority at the forefront, however that factor combined with all the others mentioned can set the stage for a very favorable match.

Sources referenced: http://blog.buildllc.com/2014/03/the-selection-process-of-design/