What is an architect?

An architect is the one professional person registered to practice architecture under the laws of the State who is equipped by education, training and experience, to guide you through the design and construction of your building or renovation project.

The architect will consider your functional needs, your budget, the restrictions of your site, building codes, engineering principles, and construction technology to design a building for you that is beautiful, strong and functional.

Architects may be involved in the design of anything used by people from cities, 100 story office towers, hospitals, schools-to houses, interiors, furniture, or even dishes. Since the beginnings of civilization architects have been practicing their art in much the same way, although today’s architects make extensive use of modern technology to assist in design and drawing.

Professional education

On the national level, to achieve licensure and the privilege to use the title ‘Architect,’ most licensed architects today will have completed a four year pre-professional degree in Architecture at a school recognized by the National Architectural Accrediting Board (NAAB).

However, a candidate’s professional education is but a prelude to the required three year professional practice internship of diversified practical training serving as an employee of, and under the direct supervisory control of, a practicing licensed architect..

What is a registered architect?

At present, the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB) Architect Registration Examination (ARE), is given in 49 states in five U.S. jurisdiction (excluding the state of California which administers its own state examination).

Each applicant must pass an examination in the following areas:  pre-design; site design; building design; structural technology-lateral forces; structural technology-long span; mechanical plumbing, electrical and life safety; materials and methods of construction; and construction documents and services.

Why hire an architect?

Whether your project is a small renovation or a large new building, it is important to hire an architect as soon as possible after you have decided to remodel or build. He or she should be the first professional you consult. Your architect will bring you an independent and fresh look at your needs and suggest creative ways of meeting those needs. He or she will be able to save you time, money, and avoid many problems during the building process. In the United States, as in most countries, drawings for buildings and changes to existing buildings, by law, must be prepared by a registered architect.

How do you select an architect?

Typically, architects are generalists and produce a great variety of projects. There are no two projects that are alike, and each new building brings with it unique challenges.

Architectural firms come in many sizes and types. The average firm is made up of 5 to 10 people, but many are smaller (1 to 2 people), and some have over 100 architects on their staff. Some firms specialize in one or more project types, others do not. Some have structural, mechanical or electrical engineers on their staff, while others select the consultant most appropriate to work for them for each specific project. Each architectural firm brings a different combination of skills, experience, interest, and values to its projects.  You should arrange interviews with several architects to personally review their capabilities, define the scope of the project, discuss their fees, and determine your compatibility to work together throughout the project.  Successful projects result when architects and clients form positive relationships with each other. The most thoughtful architects are as careful in selecting their clients as owners are in selecting architects.

What is normally included in an architect’s services?

The services provided by the architect and his or her interdisciplinary team are subject to negotiations between the architect and owner and depend on the size and complexity of the project and the owner’s needs. The contract should set forth clearly what services the architect will provide.

The following list includes services which may be provided by the architects team in a typical project:

* Building code analysis
* Building program review
* Conceptual design
* Design development
* Civil engineering
* Structural engineering
* Mechanical engineering
* Electrical engineering
* Working drawings
* Specifications
* Bidding
* Periodic construction observation
* Shop drawing review
* Project close out

In addition, an architect may also provide one or more of the following services if you need them:

* Detailed functional programs
* Site selection assistance
* Feasibility studies
* Existing building inspection and evaluation
* Measured drawings
* Environmental impact studies
* Landscape architecture
* Interior design
* Kitchen equipment selection
* Hospital equipment design
* Facilities management
* Perspective rendering
* Finished presentation models
* Product design
* Computer drawing database
* Construction management
* Full time construction representation
* Post construction use evaluation
* Cost estimating

What is a successful building project?

A successful building project is one that responds to your needs and aspirations, built on time, within budget, and contributes to the quality of the community and the lives within them.

Successful projects result form clients and architects who form good professional, business, and often personal relationships. These relationships are formed early in the design process, and they are nourished by clear communication, mutually understood expectations, and a willingness of both client and architect to understand and accept their responsibilities for realizing a successful project.

Useful books which may help you choose the right architect for your project are ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Architectural Services’ and ‘You and Your Architect’ both published by the American Institute of Architects and available from the AIA Ohio by calling or writing the AIA Ohio, 175. High Street, Suite 1200, Columbus, Ohio 43215.

20 questions to ask your architect

1. What does the architect see as important issues or considerations in your project? What are the challenges of the project?
2. How will the architect approach your project?
3. How will the architect gather information about your needs, goals, etc.?
4. How will the architect establish priorities and make decisions?
5. Who from the architectural firm will you be dealing with directly? Is that the same person who will be designing the project? Who will be designing your project?
6. How interested is the architect in this project?
7. How busy is the architect?
8. What sets this architect apart from the rest?
9. How does the architect establish fees?
10. What would the architect expect the fee to be for this project?
11. What are the steps in the design process?
12. How does the architect organize the process?
13. What does the architect expect you to provide?
14. What is the architect’s design philosophy?
15. What is the architect’s experience/track record with cost estimating?
16. What will the architect show you along the way to explain the project? Will you see models, drawings, or sketches?
17. If the scope of the project changes later in the project, will there be additional fees? How will these fees be justified?
18. What services does the architect provide during construction?
19. How disruptive will construction be? How long does the architect expect it to take to complete your project?
20. Do you have a list of past clients that your firm has worked with?

The steps involved in design and construction; What to expect

Design and construction projects involve several steps. Typically, projects go through the following six phases. However, on some projects several of these steps may be combined or there may be additional ones.


The homeowner and architect discuss the requirements for the project (how many rooms, the function of the spaces, etc.), testing the fit between the owner’s needs, wants, and budget.


The architect prepares a series of rough sketches, known as schematic design, which show the general arrangement of rooms and of the site. Some architects also prepare models to help visualize the project. The homeowner approves these sketches before proceeding to the next phase.


The architect prepares more detailed drawings to illustrate other aspects of the proposed design. Floor plans show all the rooms in correct size and shape. Outline specifications are prepared listing the major materials and room finishes.


Once the homeowner has approved the design, the architect prepares detailed drawings and specifications, which the contractor will use to establish actual construction cost and build the project. These drawings and specifications become part of the building contract.


The homeowner selects and hires the contractor. The architect may be willing to make some recommendations. In many cases, homeowners choose from among several contractors they’ve asked to submit bids on the job. The architect can help you prepare bidding documents as well as invitations to bid and instructions to bidders.


While the contractor will physically build the home or addition, the architect can assist the homeowner in making sure that the project is built according to the plans and specifications. The architect can make site visits to observe construction, review and approve the contractor’s applications for payment, and generally keep the homeowner informed of the project’s progress. The contractor is solely responsible for construction methods, techniques, schedules, and procedures.