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What It’s Like To Work With An Architect

Updated: Apr 27

Deciding to build your dream home or project is a collaboration with your Architect. That said, working with one for the first time can be intimidating if you’re unfamiliar with the process. However, the right architect is the kind that will guide you through every step, value your voice and input, and make sure you know you are getting your money’s worth. Here’s a step-by-step process of what it’s like to work with an Architect, from day one to the completion of your project. Some of these steps may vary depending on the type and complexity of the project, but this is what you can generally expect.

EAST Team at work

Planning and Preparation

First off, you need to equip your Architect with all the documentation and reference materials they need to plan the project out properly.

  • Have an initial idea of what you want your space to look like. It can be as basic as knowing how many bedrooms or toilets you want, if it’s a home. If it’s an office project, how many employees will be using it? What spaces will the office need in order to function and operate? The answers to these general questions will serve as a springboard for your Architect.

  • Prepare a copy of your title, lot plan, or floor plan of your unit or space to give your Architect a sense of the size of the property. Pictures of the site would help, too—the more you can take from different angles and distances, the better.

  • It’s best to schedule multiple interviews and meetings with your architect so they can get a sense of what you want for the space.

  • Then, your Architect will prepare a contract of services for you to review.


The Payment Process

Think of the design of your project as a long-term investment. Many of us only get one chance to build our home, so it might as well be done right the first time. You don’t have to pay your Architect the full amount at once. The payment process may be done in tranches as the project is slowly completed.

  • After reviewing the contract of services for the design of your project, Architects will usually request a down payment. This signing fee may vary depending on the agreed design fee.

  • As each design phase is completed, you would be expected to pay the corresponding percentage of the design fee.

  • Architects usually charge based on their standards of professional practice, where there are standardized rates of fees based on the type of project that they’ll be doing.

  • Depending on the terms of the contract, the client will usually pay within the timeframe of the design phases.

  • To lower costs, you can negotiate with your Architect by removing some of the scope of work and other deliverables.

  • As the client, you would be expected to make payments on time. This is to avoid project delays.

The Back-and-Forth

During this time, your Architect should be working hard to involve you in every step. However, it’s your choice to be as hands-on as you’d like or if you’d prefer to leave the dirty work to the professionals.

  • Client participation depends on the type of agreement that you have with the lead Architect or with other members of the project team. This team may be limited to the client, architect, and contractor, though there are other setups with additional professionals involved.

  • There are three standard phases of design that Architects follow: the schematic design phase, design development phase, and the contract documents phase. Your Architect may have a modified version of this process.

  • In comparison with the 3 standard phases above, EAST has developed 4 Design Phases that make their process more streamlined and efficient.

  • Make sure to be available for coordination when the Architect contacts you for approval before moving forward with a decision on the design.

  • It’s worth noting that there are three basic factors that will impact one another: your budget, the size of the project, and/or the level of finishes. It’s wise to decide on which aspects you’re willing to size down on as necessary.

  • While the Architect is still involved during construction through coordination and on-site meetings, an extensive back-and-forth with the client during planning should keep construction running smoothly with minimal intervention.

Upon Project Completion

  • The Architect’s involvement does not completely end upon completion of the project. They may check in from time to time to get an assessment of how the design is functioning and if it’s performing as expected.

  • Architects are also liable for 15 years for their designs.

Before signing on to an agreement with any Architect, it’s important to determine that you can build a good working relationship with them. After all, you’ll be working with them for an extended period of time. You need to be able to trust that they can materialize your financial investment into your dream space. Speak with them casually to get a feel of your rapport and more insights on their ways of working. Once you have that down pat, going through the steps above should be a smooth process.


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