Tips on Choosing an Architect for Your Project
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Published by TOP4 Team
Great design is arguably the most important part of building a fantastic home or doing spectacular renovations – and for that reason, getting the right person to design your home’s a big deal.
If you’re choosing an architect, you’ll have to find one who does residential projects. Most building designers, on the other hand, are likely to do residential design work.
It might sound obvious, but when you’re choosing an architect or a building designer, make sure you look for someone whose existing work you like. Style and taste are extremely important considerations, but you may also want to look for general attention to detail, the use of certain materials or technologies (if you have any special preferences) and the size of other projects they’ve worked on.
Some architects and building designers may be better in working with the specific limitations and scope of your project than others might.
How do architects calculate their fees?
There’s likely to be a significant difference from architect toarchitect in terms of the way they charge for their services, and their cost will largely depend on experience, reputation and demand. Architects will also charge significantly different amounts for their services depending on how engagedyou want them to be with your building project.
Architects may offer different levels of involvement – services may include anything from basic design and arranging permits, through to costings for builders and materials, landscape design, additional technical documentation, individual fixture and fitting specifications and contract administration / project management services. Obviously, the more the architect does, the more you’ll pay.
How do architects charge their fees?
• Percentage fees – Architects are often employed on the basis that they’ll get paid a percentage of the overall project cost or allocated budget. The exact percentage charged will usually vary depending on the overall cost, with higher percentages being charged for smaller projects.
• Fixed fee projects – If you’re very clear about what you want from the briefing stage (or how much you’re able to afford), then the architect may be able to tailor a fixed fee for your project. It's likely to have a little 'fat' added on to the cost, but this method may help protect you from costs spiralling out of control if anything unexpected happens.
• Hourly rates – Working without a fixed budget might sound daunting but, in some instances, it’s better for both you and the architect. Provided that careful records are kept, it’s a good way to ensure you’re only paying for the amount of work that’s been done. It also means the architect isn’t worried about making an effort over and above a given amount.
How to hire a ‘local’ architect
There’s no hard and fast rule that you absolutely have to get an architect who does most of the work near where you’re planning to build. In fact, if you’re very particular about what (or who) you want, there’s no harm at all to enquire further afield.
Obviously, there are some advantages to hiring an architect who’s familiar with state and local council planning issues and experienced in designing for the sorts of environmental conditions on your site (e.g. coastal buildings, buildings in the tropics, buildings on steep slopes, etc).
How to find a qualified architect
Architects are very well organised in Australia, and finding a qualified architect isn’t hard. For anyone to operate as an architect in Australia they’re legally required to be registered with state architecture boards, so most architects you’ll find will be fully qualified and properly insured.
The websites of the state architects’ boards are very useful for checking an architect’s credentials, but they’re less helpful for finding one specifically to help design your home. All the locally registered architects will be listed by postcode, but many won’t do residential work at all – or may not be willing to consider projects below a certain value.
Again, remember how important it is that you can get along with, trust and communicate openly with the architect you’re hoping to hire. Building a house is a big (and sometimes emotional) endeavour, so a good working relationship with your architect or building designer is absolutely essential to ensuring that everything goes smoothly. In the same way, when checking an architect out, make sure you get references, and do your best to arrange a meeting with someone who's worked with them before and to see their work first-hand.
Consider working with the top architects and specifiers in Australia today.