Decorating & Design

December 18, 2009

How To Find An Architect

Why Bother?

If you want a pro to translate your remodelling wish list into construction plans and guide you through the building process, consider hiring an architect. They are trained to find creative solutions to everyday problems and their knowledge of building materials can help you get the best value for your budget.

Where To Look

Trusted sources: As with other professionals, referrals from people you know are always best. Interior designers can also share good names. Start looking for an architect eight to 12 months before you want to start building — the search and design process take time.
In print: Find out who’s behind the homes you admire in magazines or newspapers.
Professional associations: For a national directory, visit the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) or contact your provincial association.

What To Look For

A license: Architects must be licensed to practice in their province. Before they can register, they need an accredited university degree in architecture, a three-year internship, a passing grade on a series of exams and professional liability insurance.

Words To The Wise

Look at style: Examine the architect’s portfolio to see how well the work meshes with your goals and aesthetic preferences.
Get referrals: Find out how happy other clients were with the design, process, communication and fee.
Be upfront about money: No sense commissioning a design you can’t afford. If full services aren’t in your budget, consider a one-hour consult to get design ideas or advice on sustainable building.
Get a written contract: Make sure it spells out what services will be provided during design and construction (most will secure building permits, for example). What timeline is expected? How often will site meetings take place? Aim for two per month for smaller projects; at least once a week for larger ones.

What You’ll Pay

Architects charge in one or more ways:
Hourly fee: This depends on the architect’s experience, the project and where you live (about $100 to $300/hour).
Fixed fee: You both agree on a total price for all services that will be provided, then spell it all out in a contract.
Percentage fee: 10 to 15 per cent of final construction costs.
Retainer: Some may ask for an advance, which is then deducted from the total at the end of the project.

Thanks to Barry Hobin of Barry J. Hobin and Associates Architects; and Jon Hobbs, executive director of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada.

See also How To Hire A Contractor and How To Find A Designer.

Author: Trish Snyder

Martin Tessler