Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Blueprint For Choosing The Right Architect

A custom general contractor offers tips on choosing the right architect to make sure construction in your home follows the professional tenets of form and function.

by Broderick Perkins
© 2008 DeadlineNews.Com

Deadline Newsroom - If you plan a major improvement, renovation, alteration or addition to your home, get an architect to design in form compatible with your existing home and function best suited to your needs.

Bring in the architect early and he or she can also help you make design decisions you may have overlooked.

"A gifted architect can help you achieve the design and overall scheme you desire for your home, while saving you the hassle and anxiety that comes from being in charge of such a huge project," says Ahmed Abdelaziz, a general contractor and CEO of Omarica Home Builders in Oak Brook, IL.

Abdelaziz says hiring an architect isn't just a matter of skimming over flashy advertisements. Instead, homeowners must scrutinize credentials, ask pointed questions and engage in meticulous deliberation before making the decision to hire an architect, says Abdelaziz.

He ought to know. As a custom general contractor and home builder, Abdelaziz works closely with architects. Over time, he has collected some pertinent tips to help you choose wisely.

• Bank on trust. Get referrals from family members, friends, co-workers, colleagues and others you trust who've recently enjoyed satisfactory work from an architect.

"With a referral you get to see an architect's past projects. Second, hearing testimonials from previous clients can provide you with the organic credibility that is undeniably better than a billboard. If you don't know of anyone, ask the architect to provide you with past clients so you can check references. If they can't or won't provide these references, move on," said Abdelaziz.

• Check that license. Be sure the architect is licensed. Membership in good standing with the American Institute of Architects (AIA) is also a big plus. It's one of real estate's most respected trade groups and mandates members adhere to strict business practices, continuing education and a code of ethics.

• Schedule an interview. You are the boss. The architect is your employee. Schedule an interview and ask many questions. The AIA suggests 20 questions , for starters. They include: "How will the architect gather information about your needs, goals, etc.? "How interested is the architect in this project?" "What sets this architect apart from the rest?" "How does the architect establish fees?" "What will the architect show you along the way to explain the project? "Will you see models, drawings, or computer animations?" See "20 Questions to Ask Your AIA Architect" for the complete list.

Abdelaziz explains, "A good architect will take the time to meet with potential clients and go over their desired plans and sketches. These consultations are generally free of charge and they can help you determine if you like the feel of the architect and the company."

• Examine the portfolio. Use the interview time to also examine the architect's portfolio. It should be professionally compiled, designed and presented and it should help you visualize suitable designs for your home.

• Consider reputation. Most architects are employed by a firm comprised of a group of architects. Check the company's reputation, past work, and previous clients.

"If the architect is independent, where has he or she been designing for the last 10 years? It is crucial to research the reputation of an architect," Abdelaziz advises.

• Seek compatibility, laced with professional respect. Be sure you and your architect are on the same page.

"If you are looking for French country, and your architect is pushing you more towards contemporary, you might want to continue your search. No matter how gifted and experienced the architect is, it is important to make sure that you both have similar design aspirations," said Abdelaziz.

That doesn't mean ignoring a professional's opinion.

"A good architect will listen to his clients' ideas and design needs, but he or she will also put in his own two cents. After all, this is his or her area of expertise, so the architect should not be intimated. Sometimes homeowners let their imaginations run away them, and it is good to have an architect to help keep the plans realistic and reasonable," Abdelaziz said.

For more information and assistance in choosing your architect, visit the AIA's "Architects & the Public" web page and download the "You And Your Architect" file.

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© 2008 DeadlineNews.Com

Broderick Perkins, an award-winning consumer journalist of 30 years, is publisher and executive editor of San Jose, CA-based DeadlineNews.Com, a real estate news and consulting service, and the new Deadline Newsroom, DeadlineNews.Com's new backshop. In both cases, it's where all the news really hits home.

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