Eight Mistakes Companies Make When Hiring an Architect

Hiring an architect can be tricky. There are questions companies often don’t know to ask and qualities they don’t know to look for when choosing the right architect.

Here’s a list of the most common and potentially damaging mistakes you can make when choosing an architecture firm. 

  1. Hiring local for the sake of hiring local

    We love the farmer’s market as much as the next guy, but choosing an architect is not the same as choosing fresh blueberries. You might think a firm located nearby will help speed up the process. In reality, communicating from a distance has never been easier and choosing a firm that is down the street but not the right fit could have a negative impact on your project. There may be exceptional and experienced firms in your area but a regional or national company can still be the best choice to bring your vision to life.

    Local firms may not have the same breadth and depth of experience in your field of business. When it comes to big projects, choosing a firm with experience in your industry, regardless of geographic location will benefit you in the end.

  2. Assuming your architect is only there to draw up blueprints.

    While it's certainly a good idea to think critically about the problems with your existing space and what you want for your new one, it’s not necessary to come to your architect with a list of specs. You don’t need to have all the details figured out. In fact, the best ideas often surface when you enter the process with an open mind.

    The right firm should be a partner, ready to help you through every step of the process. From recommending locations to surveying customers and projecting growth, a good architecture firm can do more than figure out where to put the elevators. 

  3. Bringing in the construction team too late.

    A common misconception among companies looking to build is feeling the need to finalize a design with an architect first and find a construction company to execute second. In reality, the two teams should work together from day one. Keeping them separate can make the building process more frustrating and more expensive.

    Including construction experts early allows them to engineer a more cost-effective structure and point out potential issues before plans are set. Whether you work with a design-build firm that handles both architecture and construction, or simply bring your construction vendor into the design process, collaboration saves time and money. 

  4. Hiring friends because they’re friends.

    Similar to hiring local for the sake of hiring local, hiring a friend can introduce a lot of problems into the design and build process. While friends and family may be great at what they do, their expertise may not fit what your company needs.

    Ask any potential architect how their firm can help with strategy and planning. If you’re looking for a firm that can do more than draw up plans (and you should be), make sure they’re able to execute all the services you need before hiring. 

  5. Choosing a firm who has not worked in your industry.

    Architecture is wildly different across industries, so experience in your specific line of business is valuable. Specialized experts can tell you what works and what doesn’t based on having worked with companies similar to yours.  They can also provide more creative and effective ideas on how to make your space work for your company.

    Hiring a firm that does not specialize in your industry opens the door to setbacks some of which might not even appear until you’re occupying your new building.

  6. Using an off-the-shelf plan.

    While you want a firm that knows your industry, you don’t want a one-size-fits-all plan. Unique strengths, weaknesses, culture and character are all things that can and should be addressed in a building design. Good design will not only reflect the tailored needs of a company, but create and shape the customer and employee experience. A “standard” plan for your business might suffice in the short term, but it won’t satisfy all your needs and improve your performance like a custom, personalized design.

  7. Sending an RFP.

    While a Request for Proposal is an effective tool for a number of business functions, you might want to rethink relying solely on an RFP to choose an architectural firm.

    Your architect will likely be instrumental in helping you choose the questions that are required to develop the request. During the early stages of a design project, most businesses find it difficult to define the full scope of requirements of the project. A good architectural partner will help you craft and understand that scope.

    Instead, consider inviting firms to meet in-person for a capabilities presentation, allowing a two-way conversation to discuss the project. This will help you select a firm that can execute the project, work within your budget and be a good fit for the culture of your company.

  8. Choosing the lowest bidder.

    In architecture, you get what you pay for. Accepting the lowest bid is tempting but comes at a cost. Some firms submit low bids to win the project, knowing that they can tack on higher-margin services later. Your building is a long-term investment and you should avoid working with someone who makes a practice of cutting corners.

    Remember, not all architecture firms are created equal. Find a firm that wants to work with you and create a beautiful, functional space.  Do your homework, ask questions and you’ll find the right firm.