Most people are generally unprepared at their first meeting with an Architect to discuss the project. This results in a lot of waste of time for both parties, as they have to meet again and again to finalise the requirements. So it is better to go prepared with a project brief. The ultimate success of your project depends on the quality of your brief, your ability to clearly describe for your architect the requirements and functions of your building, your reasons for embarking on the project, your design style, your overall expectations and your budget.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO WHEN YOU MEET AN ARCHITECT FOR THE FIRST TIME?
Ideally, formulate your project brief before meeting with your Architect and be realistic about your budget or other constraints that might exist but remember to allow yourself a little “room” for the unforeseen.
PREPARE A PROJECT BRIEF:
Include everyone: To formulate the Project Brief, first get all the decision makers together. Include everyone – husbands, wives or even children with an interest in the building. Write down your complete wish list.
Express your ideas: You can visit some finished houses or you can consult professional magazines, catalogues and architecture books to get ideas and to show the Architect what you like and dislike.
Mention the size and theme of building: Your initial brief need not be very extensive but at least contain information regarding broad principles and general priorities e.g. better natural light, more play room, the number and sizes of the rooms, the overall size and theme of the structure, features you would like to have and key functional or special inter-relationships of spaces etc. This will make it easier for the Architect to understand what you’re trying to achieve overall.
Think of future expansion plans: You should have some ideas, future expansion plans, what you would like in your house, etc. This will enable the Architect to assess your project realistically and put forward appropriate design proposals, which will help you make suitable choices.
Refer Project brief periodically: Once the actual project begins, go back to your project brief at regular intervals. It’s very easy to go off track and lose sight of your original goals (and budget).
BE REALISTIC ABOUT YOUR BUDGET:
Be realistic and honest about your budget from the start. The relationship between you and your Architect should be one of mutual trust and by being dishonest about your budget might only lengthen the design process thus in the end costing you more in Architects’ fees to get to a viable solution or you might end up with a house design that is beyond your budget limits and a project that you would not be able to complete.
DO NOT FORCE A PARTICULAR STYLE / THEME FOR THE HOUSE:
When you express the kind of style you like for your house, do not insist on personalizing the design too much to your own individualistic needs. These themes are often short lived trends in property markets and certainly put a date stamp on a property and you might have difficulty or not get the best resale value when it comes to the selling of the house. A good style is one that is unique but has longevity and remains contemporary. A good Architect will not try to enforce his own tastes in design, but instead try to get a good feel of your taste and try to guide you to come to a realistic building solution.
THE FIRST MEETING WITH THE ARCHITECT REGARDING THE PROJECT:
Have your project brief ready: Explain exactly what it is you want and don’t hold back. If you have pictures or photographs of what you like and dislike bring them as there will be less chance of misunderstandings. Pictures say more than 1000 words. It also helps both parties to find out if they have similar styles and whether they are feasible within the budget.
Expect detailed questions: No matter how good your project brief is, an experienced professional will pick up the details that you’ve missed. So, be prepared to answer detailed questions about your project brief.
Try and keep and open mind: The first session with this professional will largely consist of discussion and questions about your requirements and ideas of you house and site and which take priority. During the session the Architect might present you with suggestions, ideas or solutions that might not sound pleasing to you at first, but might make sense later on in the planning stage.
Ask questions: Find out as much as you can in the consultation phase, about possible causes of over runs and other problems that may crop up.
How’s the communication? Do you feel the Architect will listen to and respond to your concerns, explain what’s going on and keep you updated? Good communication can go a long way to a smooth project conclusion.
NEGOTIATING FEES WITH THE ARCHITECT:
When negotiating fees with your Architect, you might have a choice to use only a part of his service or a ‘full service’. If your budget does not allow the full services of the Architect, he might be willing to provide you with advice and ideas for a reduced fee. The services of an Architect is not rigid and most will be willing to taper services to suit you needs or budget. You can read about it here:
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Images courtesy Getty Images.
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