Hiring and Working with an Architect

A good architect that you work well and closely with is central to a successful development. Your architects (and their assistants) must provide the knowledge, design experience, creativity, management and advocacy skills, and administrative support that will achieve your programming aims, bring the project in on budget, and ideally manage the process in a smooth and organized fashion.


Architectural Services
Architectural services include:

  • Providing overall design direction for the project
  • Serving as prime contractual consultant
  • Coordinating the work of sub-consultants
  • Coordinating approvals from authorities
  • Coordinating construction procurement
  • Providing a review of construction quality
  • Assisting in review of payments during construction

Additional architectural services may include:

  • Feasibility
  • Program analysis
  • Landscape design
  • Furniture selection
  • Graphic design
  • Life cycle cost analysis
  • Promotional materials
  • Preparation of models
  • Certified area calculations
  • Conservation reports
  • Computer renderings
  • Wind studies
  • Transportation studies
  • Building envelope investigation
  • Streetscape design
  • Drafting zoning bylaws

Selecting a Great Architect
Depending on the cost, size and scope of the project, generally a “winnowing down” approach works best when selecting an architect. It begins with a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) in which the project location and its programming are described and respondents provide their firm’s experience with a focus on projects of similar purpose and scale. The RFQ might be published in professional journals or sent to a limited list of familiar candidates, including ones that have been referred by friends and professional colleagues.

Following the RFQ process, the client will then initiate a Request for Proposals (RFP) process limiting it to some of the RFQ respondents. The RFP will focus on design specifics and fees and might include a design competition involving drawings, renderings and/or 3D models. There may be a fee or honorarium offered for RFP responses involving this type of work. There are no hard and fast rules about RFQ and RFP processes (for example, a client may issue the RFQ and then invite respondents in to interview for the contract; or skip the RFQ and go directly to an RFP process). When selecting an architect, particular attention should be paid to their ability to work in a team setting, to be as strong administratively as they are creatively, and perhaps most importantly, their ability to strike a balance between a desire to achieve aesthetic and design brilliance with the practical limitations imposed on the project’s budget.

The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada provides helpful information on choosing an architect and a number of useful documents, including a guide to determining fees for architects.

The Client-Architect Agreement
Once you have selected an architect, you will need to negotiate and sign a client-architect agreement. One that is commonly used in Canada is the Standard Form of Agreement Between Client and Architect: Document Six (Document Seven is an abbreviated version) published by the Canadian Construction Documents Committee (CCDC6 or CCDC7). This contract will define and distinguish between basic and additional services, include (some or all) sub-consultants and their fees, and stipulate whether the fee is fixed, hourly or has an upset limit, or is based on a percentage of the construction cost.