How to identify the right architect?

Once you've decided you will need an architect to assist you with your project, the question becomes how to choose one. Each project is unique and not every architect will be the right choice. Here are five steps that will help you to identify the professional best suited to you and your property.

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1. Qualification

Your architect should be qualified. It's advantageous if they are also chartered with the RIBA.

A qualified architect has to be registered with the ARB – Architectural Registration Board. This means they have completed seven years of training and have some practical experience. You can check here if the person you are thinking of working with is registered. An architect can also be chartered with RIBA – the Royal Institute of British Architects. RIBA represents the profession and establishes the rules of good practice. A chartered architect has to follow these rules. This ensures a professional approach and reliability.

Questions to ask:

- When did you qualify?

- Are you a RIBA chartered architect?


2. Experience

Your potential architect should have a few years of experience after qualification. That experience should also be in an area relevant to your project. As a rule of thumb, around three years of experience working on projects similar to yours is sufficient. Having practical knowledge is essential to avoid pitfalls during the development of the project.

You might meet someone with less relevant experience but with a fantastic portfolio. To see whether they deliver high-quality design you can appoint them for the first stage of your project – the brief development and initial design. That way the risk is minimal and you safeguard your investment.

Questions to ask:

- How much post qualification experience do you have?

- What types of projects have you worked on in the past?


3. Communication

As in every relationship, communication is the key.

Excellent service means working towards the client’s benefits.

An Architect who cares about you as a client will be willing and able to explain to you all the details and processes behind creating your project.

The answers should be clear and understandable. If you don’t understand, ask.

If your potential Architect doesn’t know something and tells you so, take this as a sign of good practice. It is honest, straightforward and transparent to admit it. Ask them to find it out for you.

Next to listening, asking questions is essential. A professional will ask you tons of questions. Be honest, don't hold back information.  There are many requirements and regulations which will apply to different uses. Provide all the necessary information to enable the best results for your project.

Questions to ask:

- Do we need other consultants?

- Who is going to manage them?

- How (often) would you update us on the project progress?


4. Cost & Transparency

Do you know how much the Architect's services are going to cost you?

In most cases, you will not get an answer to this question during the first consultation.  Shortly after your meeting, you should receive a proposal for Architectural Services

Most architects use the RIBA Plan of Work for the proposal of services. This is a set of seven working stages necessary to develop and deliver a successful project.

A proposal based on the RIBA Plan of Work would give you a specific price for each stage. You'd have the freedom to choose all stages together or few of them.

Some architects don't follow the RIBA Plan of Works. Even in that case, the proposal should outline single working steps and the fee for each of them.

Questions to ask:

- Do you follow the RIBA Plan of Work?

- What are the next steps once the appointment is signed?

- Who is going to manage the project – an external Project Manager or the architect?

A side note:

You can ask about anything that is unclear to you in the proposal. Don't consult Google, ask the architects. It is their responsibility to make things clear to you.

If you are going to negotiate the prices be respectful – you are going to work with a professional.


5. Integrity

This is an essential element of everyone's performance.

Have a look at the whole picture: Does the architect do what they are promising to do? How fast do they respond to your emails? How easy is it to reach them via phone?

Integrity is vital to a successful project and healthy working relationships.

All those small things matter – the way you do anything is the way you do everything. This is true for you and for your architect too.

You can download here our free checklist that you can use when you meet your potential Architect in the future!