How to Choose an Architect
A successful construction project fulfils your desires as the client, meets the needs of the users, and contributes to the general well-being of the environment. Such a project is the result of an effective working relationship between you and your architect.
Architects are trained to help you realize your objectives and guide you through the design and construction process. In particular, architects will help you through the complex regulatory building process including zoning bylaws, building codes, and contractors’ bids.
Education, training, and professional experience enable the architect to transform your ideas into design solutions that meet function needs.
The architect – who serves as advisor, coordinator, and technical manager, as well as creative artist – can design and administer a contract resulting in a project that is completed on schedule, within budget, and to a high standard of quality.
Selecting the right Architect is one of the most significant decisions you can make.
To become a licensed/registered architect in Canada, an individual has to successfully complete:
In Canada, the respective provincial legislatures have authority over regulating the profession of architecture. Legislation in each province gives authority to the provincial architectural association to administer, in the public interest, the Architects Act. Through that authority, the provincial architectural association regulates the conduct of the profession. An architect or architectural firm which breaches ethical standards can have its membership or licence to practise suspended or cancelled. You can obtain copies of the respective provincial association statutes, bylaws, and regulations from the corresponding association’s office. Links to provincial association websites can be found here.
Architects are permitted to practise the profession (i.e., offer and provide architectural services and advice to clients) only if they are licensed/registered in the province in which they practise.
You can find an architect in a number of ways, including:
You will find the process easier if you keep the list of potential architects to a manageable number. For a small project, two architects may be sufficient; ten or more may be appropriate for a large, complicated assignment.
You can use a variety of methods and sources to find an architect for your project.
Statement of Qualifications
The Mountainville Regional School Board is seeking the services of an architect for the design of a 15-classroom addition to Mountainville High School. The construction budget is $1,250,000.
Interested architects should submit the following information ONLY:
1. Name, size, and description of firm.
This is NOT a request for a proposal. An architect will be selected following submission of proposals, interviews, and evaluations.
Advertisements should include the following information:
Selecting an architect is one of the most important decisions you will make when undertaking a project. You may use one of the following selection methods:
Qualifications-based selection (QBS) (sometimes called “quality-based selection”) is one of the most common methods of selecting the right architect for the project. In particular, institutions, corporations or public agencies (sometimes represented by a committee) use this method. QBS is a system that chooses an architect on the basis of professional qualifications and competence. This procedure will provide your project with the best-qualified architect with whom you can develop a professional relationship. Such a relationship is very important for the kind of in-depth discussion which allows the architect and the engineers to deal effectively with issues on your behalf.
To achieve an objective comparison, QBS uses predetermined, value-based criteria that may include such factors as:
The process compares two or more architects. The client (or committee members, if applicable) makes a selection based upon their judgement of which architect is most likely to handle the project successfully. Other criteria include:
Direct selection is most often used by an individual who has a relatively small project. The client selects an architect on the basis of reputation, personal acquaintance or the recommendation of a friend, former client or another architect. Sometimes, institutions maintain a roster of architects, and they select a different practice for each project by using a rotation system.
Architectural design competitions are sometimes used to select both an architect and a design for both public and private projects. In this method, architects submit solutions to a particular problem and are judged on the comparative excellence of their submissions. The successful architect is usually awarded the commission for the actual project. Competitions may be “open” (to all architects) or “limited” (by invitation to a restricted number of architects).
If you are considering a design competition, you may be required to obtain written approval from the provincial association where the project will be located. Architects are permitted to compete only when they are assured that the competition will be held in accordance with established rules.
The Architectural Competitions guidelines provide recognized procedures which ensure equal treatment for competitors, provisions for different types of competitions as well as advice about process, schedule, and likely costs. The provincial association can help you develop acceptable terms and conditions.
It’s in your best interests as a client to have a definite understanding with the architect about your respective obligations, responsibilities, and expectations. This understanding is most effectively accomplished by a thorough review of:
When you and the architect have fully discussed and agreed upon these items, a written contract outlining all of these factors should be prepared.
Agreements based on recognized standards are preferred, and the use of the Canadian Standard Form of Agreement Between Client and Architect: Document Six (RAIC 2002) is recommended. For those projects where only limited services are to be provided or when the full standard form is not practical, the recommended alternative is the Canadian Standard Form of Agreement Between Client and Architect—Abbreviated Version: Document Seven (RAIC 2005).
The agreements set out the services to be provided by the architect. They also identify your responsibility as the client to provide the following information:
You can obtain copies of these agreement forms through the provincial association.
Note: These documents are written for provinces with common law; they must be adapted for use in Québec (or the standard documents prepared in Québec may be used).
The use of the Canadian Standard Form of Agreement Between Client and Architect: Document Six (RAIC 2006) is recommended.
Traditionally, architectural services included design, preparation of construction documents, and construction administration. Currently, architects also provide a wide variety of services including problem-solving, feasibility studies, facility management, and architectural programming. An Appendix to this document summarizes some of the services provided by an architect.
Whether the building type is simple or complex, the architectural service must be conceived and coordinated as an integrated whole, with strict attention paid to quality, time, and cost. All services should be defined in the agreement. The scope of services will vary with:
Identification and valuation of the architect’s services is important to the success of the project.
The services of a structural engineer, mechanical engineer, and electrical engineer—which are often essential services—are usually managed and coordinated by the architect.
Hiring these sub-consultants can be done in one of two ways:
In either case, it is important for the success of your project that the architect—who is uniquely trained and experienced in this regard—be responsible for the overall management of sub-consultants throughout the entire project. This enables the architect to produce well-integrated results by coordinating both the design and administration of the project.
As the property owner, you are responsible for providing information about the property (or project site). Thus, you are responsible for directly hiring the investigative and design services of specialist sub-consultants such as land surveyors, geotechnical engineers, environmental analysts, hydrologists, and civil engineers. Your architect is entitled to rely on their input. You are also responsible for providing legal and insurance services as well as paying for translation, arbitration, and expert witness services should the need arise.
Sometimes the services of other specialist sub-consultants are necessary, depending on building conditions and other factors. These services might include advice in fields such as:
Sub-consultants bring special expertise to the project.
An architect’s fees are made up of two elements:
After you and the architect reach agreement on the extent and nature of services to be provided for the project, the architect’s fees can be determined in several ways, including:
Combinations of these methods may also apply for:
Frequently, the client pays a retainer to the architect upon signing of the agreement. Usually, the amount of the retainer is based on a percentage of the total amount of the architect’s fees.
For more complete information regarding payment methods and recommended rates, you should refer to the provincial association’s recommended schedule or tariff of fees. That document, including specific scales of fees, is updated from time to time. Confirm that you are consulting the current edition.
Appropriate fees ensure appropriate architectural services.
Payment of the architect’s fee gives you the right to use, once and for the intended purpose only, the plans, sketches, drawings, graphic representations, and specifications prepared by the architect as instruments of service. However, the copyright and ownership of both the design and these instruments of service belong to the architect and you may not use them for any other project, sell them or offer them for sale (or as part of a sale of property).
Architects’ designs are protected by copyright.
A construction project is a major undertaking involving the collaborative efforts of a number of professionals. Finding, selecting, and engaging the right architect for your project is critical to its functional, aesthetic, and financial success. Your architect provides advice and design solutions, oversees the process, handles the unexpected, and brings value to a project by taking care of your interests and ensuring a quality product. Building rapport with your architect is an important element of the process. In the final analysis, you should choose an architect whose work you admire, whose expertise you trust, and with whom you feel most comfortable.
Your building project is important to you, so take the time to choose an architect who can help you realize your dream.