Things to look for when hiring an architect

Rick Goldstein is architect and co-owner of MOSAIC Group. MOSAIC Group is a metro Atlanta Design/build company with indoor and outdoor living divisions.

When does a building project shift from something simple, a do-it-yourself effort or one that a contractor could finish in a few days, to one that requires the involvement of an architect? If you’re building anything more complex than, say, a treehouse for your kids, an architect is essential in ensuring that the project is properly planned. A licensed architect offers design problem-solving ability with knowledge and understanding of construction as well as a sense of the costs of a project. An architect can also help you navigate the complexities of building codes, zoning laws, and other regulatory requirements, including those that might not have seemed applicable to a smaller project.

Importantly, the architect is typically the client advocate, the one who represents your interests, helps you find and work with construction contractors, maximizes your investment, and sees to it that visions are translated into a workable plan and ultimately into a finished project that fulfills your needs.

As in many fields, architects can be found in a multitude of professional roles and areas of specialization. These days, for example, they are often involved in design-build projects. In most markets, architects can also be chosen for their experience in remodeling or adapting existing buildings, designing new facilities, planning commercial or residential projects, or focusing on “green” or sustainable architecture.

Whatever your needs, you can be sure that a licensed architect has the education and experience to handle your design project. To become a licensed architect requires a professional architecture degree, typically a five-year program, plus a master’s degree in architecture followed by an internship of at least three years. Only then can a candidate take the licensure exam. But education and training don’t stop there. In Georgia, 24 hours of continuing education every two years is required to maintain a license.

If you decide to hire an architect, seek out firms with particular expertise in the type of work you have in mind. The odds are that these architects will work much faster, construction will proceed more smoothly, final costs will be more predictable, and the results will ultimately be better. If you are planning a design-build project, interview companies that feature in-house architects on their teams. Check out the company’s portfolio of projects and see if there is a good fit between the design-build team architect and the client.

On a more personal level, consider whether the architect is a good listener. Good listeners are the ones who create good designs, solving problems in creative ways that reflect the clients’ needs, desires, and budgets. Finally, make sure you have a good connection with the architect. If you’re uncomfortable with someone who wants to take control rather than develop a relationship, look elsewhere.