About Hiring an Architect

This section will guide you through some frequently asked questions, and the process of hiring an architect.

Why Hire an “AIA” Architect?

The American Institute of Architects is the national professional association of architects.

All AIA members are licensed architects; however, not all licensed architects are AIA members.

AIA members have unique access to continuing professional training, data on new building materials and technologies and, most important, other AIA members.

AIA architects also must adhere to the AIA Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct.

When should architects be hired?

The earlier an architect is hired, the earlier they can help you plan your project and anticipate design and construction problems. We recommend that you hire an architect to help you with programming and site selection at the very start of any building project, large or small.

How do you compensate an architect for their services?

Architects are normally paid in one of three ways. First, they can receive a percentage of the total construction costs. Second, they can receive an hourly fee plus expenses. Finally, they can receive a “lump sum” fee. You and the architect should agree upon the fee method and conditions before work begins.

The “architectural” fee usually includes compensation for structural, mechanical, and electrical engineering consultants if they are needed. Additional fees are required for additional engineering disciplines such as civil engineering, geotechnical engineering, acoustics, interior design, lighting design, site surveying, and landscape design.

Is a written contract necessary?

We strongly recommend that you and your architect have a clear written letter of agreement or contract that details your expectations and the architect’s services, fees, and schedules. Our national organization, the American Institute of Architects, has developed a comprehensive series of documents, including contracts, which are good place to start from.

Once you have hired an architect, what is the next step?

The architect meets with you to develop your “program” (description of your needs) and then begins designing your facility. You and the architect will meet as many times as required to ensure that the design fits your needs and budget. Once the design is finished, the architect prepares the detailed drawings and other documents construction firms need for their bids. To prepare these documents, the architect may need to enlist the help of structural, mechanical, electrical and other special consultants. Meanwhile, the architect also ensures that the design complies with building codes and regulations.

How is a building contractor selected?

If you haven’t already selected a general contractor, you will usually invite contractors to review the documents provided by your architect and submit bids. As a rule, the responsible contractor with the lowest bid is hired.

What is the architect’s role during construction?

The architect serves as your eyes and ears throughout construction. Architects perform “contract administration” that is, visiting the site, preparing any needed supplementary drawings, and reviewing the contractor’s progress and workmanship. The architect also reviews the contractor’s applications for payment and issues change orders for modifications authorized by the Owner. The contractor is responsible for following the construction documents; the architect keeps you abreast of any deviations from the design.

How do you determine overall costs?

Developing a realistic design and construction budget at the outset is important to maintaining a smooth project and will help avoid unpleasant surprises. Keep in mind though, that construction, particularly renovation, is a complicated process with numerous pitfalls.

Are you interested in hiring an AIA architect?

Find a local AIA / WMAIA architect in our listings. You can view architectural firm profiles here. The firm profiles are similar to a mini website, and include a link to the architectural firm’s own website, if they have one as well. You can also find individual architects or architectural firms listed alphabetically, by name, here. We encourage you to visit the website of any architect or firm you are interested in, to learn more about the architect’s design philosophy and to view examples of their work.