I honestly believe that hiring a Registered Architect is one of the best investments you can make before you embark on your building project. Even small projects can become more costly and have mediocre results if they are not planned and executed properly.

I have studied and collaborated with many other Architects during my university education and professional career since 1985. Whether working in a team or looking at their work from a “peer to peer” perspective, I can honestly say that Architects work very hard to achieve value for their clients. The consulting business is demanding and it is one of the very few professions that blends artistic creativity with technical knowledge and competence. While architectural graduates may have honed their design skills through a university education, the licensing registration process for architects which includes passing the NCARB exams, completing work tasks and experience in an intern architect log book as well as direct and extensive experience in architectural firms is what sets Registered Architects apart from other design professionals.

While every Registered Architect should be able to provide a “Standard of Care” that is consistent with the expectations of it’s licensing body, i.e. the Alberta Association of Architects, you should take the time to find a Registered Architect that is right for you. It is worth meeting with a few Registered Architects to assess their communication style so that you feel confident about embarking on a working relationship.

The following excerpts have been taken from information pamphlets published by the Alberta Association of Architects:

We’ll help you chart a clear course

As professionals with extensive education, training and experience in every aspect of design and construction, we will assist you to develop clear goals for your project, to transform your objectives into three dimensional solutions, to present the proposed designs to your group or association members and to secure approvals from regulatory agencies. And we’ll work with you from conceptual and contract
documents stages right through to construction completion and inspection, managing every aspect of the project on your behalf and protecting your investment.

We will act as your unbiased and impartial consultants throughout the entire process. From assisting you to define your needs to guiding and directing the construction process, we will ensure your goals are met without compromise. Ultimately we will enhance the quality of your project, adding to its functional, aesthetic and financial success.

Draw on our expertise, from start to finish

As professionals, we offer you a much broader range of services than simply providing drawings. Our services typically include designing the building, preparing construction drawings and administering the construction contract. These undertakings generally involve hiring and directing structural, mechanical and electrical engineers, along with other specialists required for your project.

By providing leadership – asking questions, evaluating alternatives and encouraging excellence – we act as the catalyst for the entire construction team.

When you plan to give an older building a new purpose in life, the last thing you want is a surprise

The trend toward renovating, retrofitting and recycling buildings is gathering momentum. Not only are many structures built over the past few decades showing their age, the needs of our society are evolving in many ways. It often makes good sense to renovate or retrofit rather than demolish and rebuild from the ground up – not only for the dollar savings involved, but to see resources and effort directed toward the meaningful goals of using existing space more effectively and preserving valuable links with our past.

Encountering surprises after work has begun can have serious consequences on project timelines and budgets – even to the extent of altering your project’s direction or bringing it to a complete halt. That’s why the first thing to do is bring us into the picture.

Today, many individual architects and architectural firms specialize in the unique challenges posed by recycling buildings, addressing such factors as creating barrier-free environments for those who are physically challenged. We bring our education, experience, training and vision to bear on each renovation we undertake, adding the important dimension of certainty to each project.

Our work begins with extensive building evaluations; our skills enable us to look beneath the surface and accurately assess your building’s strengths. In addition, we are familiar with current building code requirements and experienced in bringing older structures up to standard. This enables the careful estimating of costs for the work that will be involved, as well as the realistic setting of project timelines.

Making the most of every square metre (and every single dollar)

By their very nature, renovations and retrofitting projects start with a single fundamental challenge. How can you achieve more within the limits of an existing, finite space? Meeting this challenge calls for the creativity – the ability to approach a given problem in an entirely new way.

Three-dimensional problem-solving need not cost more than straight-line thinking. In fact, we may well reduce the size of your overall investment by making the best possible use of every room and corridor and by working with existing features instead of simply tearing down and replacing them. We develop multiple uses for individual spaces, and provide solutions with maximum flexibility to reflect your changing needs.

It may also cost less to implement our solution, as we’ll work out the problems on paper instead of on the site. Our expertise lies in getting work done right the first time, and because we are not committed to any single construction method or building material you can rely on us for impartial and unbiased advice. When unexpected problems come to light – as they invariably do – we will resolve them swiftly as we excel in thinking on our feet. Your space will function more effectively, will be easier to maintain, and will add to the lifespan and the worth of your project.

The value of creative problem-solving

You need more space for storage. You’ve outgrown your house but don’t want to leave your neighbourhood. Your offices were fine a few years ago, but new technologies have changed the way you work…

These are the kinds of problems we solve. We are skilled in translating your needs into three dimensional designs – in solving problems creatively and communicating our solutions to you. With our experience, we’ll develop alternatives you might never think of without us. And in most cases, a creative approach will cost less than will the obvious solution.

Proposing alternatives is just one way in which we can see you get more value from your investment. It’s more efficient and more economical to build a well-conceived project, because we resolve problems on paper instead of on the site. Having a full set of construction drawings enables the contractor to develop accurate prices so you’ll know in advance what the actual costs will be. That means no last minute surprises or continuing upcharges.

There’s more. Environmentally sound thinking can save you money over the life of your building. Durable and low maintenance surfaces, from floors and walls to counters and cupboards, cut down on cleaning time and replacement costs. Looking ahead, a well-designed office makes business more productive.

Good design attracts customers to stores. Not only does it see hospitals and institutions operate more efficiently and cost effectively, good design makes them warm and approachable places.

Getting your project off the ground, one step at a time

While every project is unique and there is no set path to follow, projects typically unfold in three phases:

1. Defining your goals: You may be surprised at how much time we spend asking questions and listening closely to your answers. The understanding we gain is of utmost value in determining the nature and scope of your project. Working from this framework, we’ll prepare an outline of the services we expect will be involved, set realistic timelines, and either review your budget or help you to develop one.

2. Designing your project: Once we know what is to be built, we move to the computer terminal or drawing board to develop rough sketches. These schematic designs may show you the siting of the building, the general arrangement of rooms and allocation of space for various functions. We may also make models of the design to help you visualize how the space will work. During the next stage of design development, we clarify the scope and quality of the finished product, secure preliminary cost estimates and obtain a Development Permit. We then prepare a contract document package to obtain competitive bids from contractors and suppliers. This package usually includes working drawings, detailed schedules and specifications for such things as finishes, hardware, windows and doors.

3. Undertaking construction: At last, your plans move from paper and become a physical reality. The most exciting part of the project for many people, this is also the most complex stage where our clients most appreciate our skills. Throughout a whirlwind of activity and literally hundreds of decisions that need to be made – often on the spot – your architect remains a calm and impartial guide. We represent your interests fairly, defuse difficult situations, and ensure the quality of the final product is not compromised. In most cases, we take care of contract administration, reviewing invoices, issuing certificates recommending payments to the contractor and keeping you informed every step of the
way.