There are several means of selecting an architect, ranging from formal design competitions to negotiated procurement to competitive bidding. You must determine which approach suits your requirements and designate an individual or group to manage your selection process. To begin the selection process:
  • Make a list of potential architects by asking colleagues for referrals.
  • Contact your local chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
  • Discover who designed projects similar to yours that appeal to you.
You may need to ask for qualifications and references at this stage. If the scope of the project is still indefinite, narrow the field based on what you learn. You may want the architect to prepare a preliminary or full proposal explaining how he or she would approach your project. In that case, you may wish to send a written project description to the most promising firms; sending the same information to each architecture firm will make it easier to compare responses.
Decide how much cost information to request and when you want to request it; you may want to know only how the architect will charge for services, or you may need more -- such as preliminary estimates or even a detailed proposal. The choice is yours to make based on your needs and the nature of the project. An in-house team should review the information you have collected. Useful factors to consider include:
  • The size of the firm and the amount of time it has been in practice;
  • Experience and past projects;
  • Their ability to work within budget/time schedules;
  • Cost of services;
  • Special expertise including experience in your project type, management ability, and knowledge of building codes/zoning regulations.
Beyond review of the proposal, you may also wish to:
Visit at least one finished project of each architect under consideration;
Call client references.
An interview can give you important information on how well you will be able to work with a potential architect. If the written material you have received doesn't tell you all you need to know to select a firm, here is one way to pursue the process further:
  • Create a short list of perhaps three to five firms to interview.
  • Decide who from your firm will be responsible for the interviewing and final selection.
  • Allow at least an hour for the interview.
  • Decide on location of interview. At your office the architect can gain a better understanding of you and your project; at the architect's. At your office the architect can gain a better understanding of you and your project; at the architect's office you can see how the architect and staff work.
Make sure that the people you interview are the people who will actually be working on your project.
In making your final determination, take into account:
  • Design quality
  • Technical competence
  • Experience
  • Cost
  • Organization
You will need to evaluate for yourself the weight to give each of the factors. You should also be looking for an architect who:
  • Is responsive to your needs
  • Listens carefully
  • Seems to understand your company
  • Makes you feel comfortable
You will be working with the architect for a long time and may work with him or her on future projects. It is important that you trust the architect's judgment and ability.
For more information, contact the American Institute of Architects, 1735 New York Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20006. Phone (202) 626-7300. The AIA also maintains local and regional offices that will work with a company to help it find an architect.