The Importance of Choosing the Right Architect

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Spending more on the best architect can save exponentially on overall project costs.  In the grand scheme of the project budget, the architect’s fees are a small fraction of actual construction costs.

At Watchdog, we are constantly seeking to limit the number of change orders on a project, but every job still has them.  One of the best ways to limit construction change orders is to hire the right architect, not necessarily the least expensive.

Top three reasons for changes include:

  1. Owner Changes: By far the most frequent cause of change orders I see are due to owner changes that the owner requests during construction. These are the most costly changes.  The greatest reason I believe this occurs is that owners are not attentive to some of the details until they see it being built;
  2. Errors & Omissions: Lack of detail on the plans may mean adding them later, or may leave room for a contractor to interpret the plans differently than intended;
  3. Field Conditions: Existing conditions are not always visible and can therefore be identified after the owner-contractor agree on a price, leading to a cost change.

In all these areas a good architect is worth their weight in gold.

A good Architect will mitigate changes by doing the following things well:

  1. Help a client identify ALL stakeholders and gather ALL input early (vs. receiving late input from a stakeholder that cannot be ignored);
  2. Draw out the client’s design intent and aesthetic desire so that the client loves their design and when they see their space being built (vs. a client being surprised by the appearance of the space when they see it being built);
  3. Design what the client wants without over-designing;
  4. Assist a client in visualizing two dimensional plans (vs. a client seeing it first as it’s being built);
  5. Walk the client through each of the details, identifying and focusing on the details that are most important to the client; when a space is being built the client should think to him/herself “that detail looks great the way we planned it” (vs. a client thinking, “no one ever asked me about this or that detail”);
  6. Capture all the existing conditions sufficiently to avoid change orders for unforeseen conditions;
  7. Detail the plans sufficiently well so that all bidding contractors know exactly what they’re pricing and can’t say “it wasn’t on the plans,” or can’t claim they interpreted any detail differently than intended (only once have a heard a contractor compliment plans; often they blame plans for changes or other issues).

During your architectural procurement process ask yourself, “which architect will best complete these seven areas,” and save yourself from unnecessary and costly construction changes throughout the course of your project.  Paying a premium for the right architect is worth every penny.

 

-Steve Munz, Senior Project Manager with Watchdog Real Estate Project Management

Watchdog Real Estate Project Management
Watchdog Real Estate Project Management is a real-estate consulting firm that provides owner’s representation and project management services. More about Watchdog Real Estate Project Management as well as additional blog posts can be found at www.watchdogpm.com
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