- Ask about freebies
There will be times when you want to call your architect to discuss an in-principle idea. It happens all the time. You’ve just seen a great little opportunity but want to know if such-and-such is feasible. You want your architect to take ten minutes out to have a quick look and give a non-binding opinion. What you don’t want is for your architect to say, ‘that will cost £500, please send me a written design brief, and I’ll get back to you in a month’. So, check this out BEFORE you appoint your architect, but make it clear that you’d fully respect a fair usage policy when it comes to freebies.
- Get referrals and testimonials
Ask around to see who comes recommended. Speak to contractors and project managers to see who they would recommend. All architects look the part on their websites, but the proof of the pudding will come from talking to their previous clients. Ask to speak to a client who has had a completed project and one that is ongoing. You’re looking to establish how responsive the architect has been, how easy to deal with, and how well they have interacted with the contractor and the rest of the team. Also, ask whether there have been any design errors and how they were rectified.
- Learn how to block plan
When considering a potential development opportunity, a key question right off the bat is ‘how many units can I build on this site?’. If you have to ask your architect every time you look at a deal, it will soon get expensive and time-consuming. Instead, learn the art of block planning yourself, and then compare your ideas with the architect once you know the deal is worth taking to the next stage. Challenge your architect to do a better job than you have; after all, they’re supposed to be the experts.
- Have a reserve list
Not only may you be encountering a variety of projects that might suit different architects, but you’ve also got no way of knowing whether your first-choice practice will be available when a deal comes along. It’s always sensible to know who your backup B Team will be, not just for architecture but also for every other member of your professional team.
My final piece of advice involves how you work with your architect once they’re appointed. Having worked on hundreds of projects over the years, I’ve often encountered situations where a project hits an unexpected bump in the road that suddenly needs to be dealt with or accommodated. The default solution for many professionals, architects included, is to accept that there will be some additional work involved or some extra cost added to the project. The problem is that they’re not paying for it, but you are. In these situations, I usually like to get my design team into a huddle and tell them there’s no more money to throw at the problem. So, instead, they’ll need to come up with an alternative solution that circumvents the issue but doesn’t cost me any more money. Whether they save the money from elsewhere, I don’t mind. But they need to come up with something.
Is it always possible? Not every time. But because the default thinking is to get the developer to pay, these people aren’t usually put in a position where they need to devise something more creative when it comes to problem-solving. And the reality is that they can often be rather good at it, particularly when they do it together.
So, there you have it; a few thoughts for your armoury when seeking your quarry. Happy hunting.