Working With An Architect


“Architecture” isn’t only for museums, corporations, or the wealthy. Whether you are remodeling the kitchen, creating your dream home, sitting on the building committee for a new school or civic center, or planning a commercial or other building, working with an architect member of the AIA can save time and money by making your new spaces more functional, comfortable, efficient, and environmentally responsible. Architects can play a pivotal role in reducing the overall environmental impact and energy needed to create and operate buildings, the single biggest consumer of fossil fuels. The result is a project that is beautiful, distinctive, efficient, and healthy for us and the planet.

Knowing how to work with your architect will enable you to get the most from this special collaboration. You and Your Architect can help you to do so—personally, professionally, creatively, and sustainably.

When should I bring the architect into the picture?
As early as possible. Architects can help you define your project in every respect and may also do site studies, assist in securing planning and zoning approvals, and provide a variety of other predesign services.
Should I meet with more than one firm?
Usually, yes. One obvious exception is when you already have a good relationship with an architect.
How do I find suitable firms to contact ?
Talk to individuals who have developed similar facilities and ask who they interviewed. If there are projects that you have admired—whether similar to your own or not—find out who designed them. And your local AIA component will be able to help you identify firms appropriate to your situation and budget and may also maintain referral lists.
Should I expect a firm to deliver all the services necessary to complete the project?
Not necessarily. You may have considerable project-planning, design, and construction expertise and may be capable of undertaking some tasks yourself. Alternatively, you may find it necessary to add other consultants to the team. Discussion with your architect will establish who will coordinate owner-supplied work or other services.
What is “green” architecture, and do I ned to discuss it?
“Green “or sustainable design refers to the increasingly popular and important practice of creating architecture that is friendly to both the environment and the end user and the inhabitants. The concepts of sustainable design include:

• Maximization of site potential
• Reduction of non-renewable energy consumption
• Conservation of water
• Reduction of waste
• Use of environmentally friendly products
• Improvement of indoor environmental quality

Using sustainable design strategies may be as simple as using recycled, non-toxic materials or may involve a more comprehensive program incorporating such elements as green roofs, photovoltaic cells that capture sunlight, and air and water treatment systems. Although many firms are generally familiar with green design, you will want to question prospective architects closely about their level of experience in this regard and examine past projects that incorporated sustainable strategies. (For more information, visit and the U.S. Green Building Council at