Hiring an architect is a bit like dating. Depending on your project, the relationship can last months or even years. You need someone who is dependable, honest, and seeks to understand you and represent your values and goals. Of course, a sense of humor doesn’t hurt either.
But without a convenient dating app, how do you start the process of finding an architect?
At Neumann Monson, we’ve seen clients use a variety of methods to procure architectural services. To help you through the process, we are breaking down the three most common routes building owners take:
1. Continue an established relationship
2. Research and interview
3. Send an Request for Proposal (RFP)/Request for Qualifications (RFQ)
By the end of this article, you will understand the pros and cons of each method and the steps you need to take, helping you find a path that fits your needs.
3 Methods of Hiring an Architect
1. Continue an Established Relationship
If you have a successful relationship with an architect, there’s no reason to break up!
Some building owners assume they need competitive proposals for every project, even if they have a preferred architect. In some cases, competitive proposals for professional services are required, especially if public funding is involved. But in many states, this is not necessary.
In Iowa, for instance, the competitive bidding process only applies to contractors. You are free to hire an architect without procuring competitive bids. If you are satisfied with the service you received from your architect, you can reach out to them again.
If you are wanting to work with someone different, you can take one of the following options.
2. Research and Interview
Researching and interviewing is perhaps the most efficient way to hire an architect. With this method, you will explore architecture firms in your area, paying attention to their:
- Previous experience
- Mission or philosophy
- Design style
- Client testimonials
It’s important to find architects who have experience with your building type or experience working with similar organizations. At the same time, you should look for someone who aligns with your mission and values as your architect will help you achieve your goals.
After researching and discussing with your colleagues and peers, you can contact a select group of firms and invite them to interview. To prepare for the interview, read what questions you should ask to find the right fit.
Pros and Cons
This method requires an upfront time investment. You’ll need to contact individual firms and explain your project and goals before making your selection.
Researching firms, however, is usually more efficient than the final method: sending a Request for Proposal (RFP)/Request for Qualifications (RFQ).
1. Send an RFP/RFQ
Sending an RFP or an RFQ is one of the most common ways to hire an architect. In short, an RFP is a document that outlines your building project and includes a list of questions for the architect to answer. An RFQ asks for similiar information but doesn’t require a proposed fee. These documents provide an organized system for evaluating competing firms.
You can either contact architecture firms directly or go through your local American Institute of Architects (AIA) chapter. For example, you can submit your RFP to AIA Iowa, and they will pass it along to the firms on their distribution list. More responses require you to analyze more submissions, so many opt to pre-qualify and invite firms to submit.
With RFPs, architects respond with examples of recent and relevant work, a description of their process, and a proposed fee. After reviewing, you can shortlist firms and invite them to interview.
Keep in mind: the proposed fee may not be entirely accurate. If you do not fully define the scope of your project, the architect will likely not be able to provide an exact quote. Check out our guide to comparing architecture fees to learn more.
Pros and Cons
Sending an RFP/RFQ is a great way to learn more about different architecture firms, their approach, and how they can contribute to your project. But for some, the process may be too time consuming. Reviewing submissions and interviewing can push your start date out one to two months.
In general, the review and interview process can take anywhere from 6-8 weeks, depending on your project.
Ready to Learn More?
Selecting an architect is an important initial step in a building project. You can find an architect by either continuing an established relationship, interviewing select firms, or casting a wide net with an RFP/RFQ. If you are considering the RFP/RFQ route, read our guide to writing an effective RFP.
Regardless of the path you take, remember to take your time, carefully evaluate your options, and find someone who will act as your trusted partner and advocate for your goals.
To learn how we work, contact us and discuss your goals with a project manager.