Committing to an Architect

Building or renovating your family home is one of the most fulfilling and exciting endeavours that you will undertake. Careful planning and design will ensure that you create a space that will suit your current needs and future plans. Although it may involve one of the most expensive decisions you will ever make, it doesn't have to be stressful. Your best option is to align yourself with a professional that can help guide you along the process, making sure that you do not uproot your family and disturb all of your routines unnecessarily. They will also ensure that the house that you are going to live in suits your needs both as individuals and as a family.

Why pay for design? I can go online.

Sure, there are plenty of websites from which you can view and download drawings for anywhere from $300 - $5000. These are plans that were created to sell en masse, how do they fit with specifics of your site? How do they fit with the local context and zoning? How do they fit with your needs as a family? These plans are generic right from the model name down to the way the spaces are laid out. The benefit of working with an Architect is that you can develop specific targets, goals, and deliverables for your home. Together, you can create a space that you will love, and more importantly love to be in.

There are many benefits of working with an Architect. First of all, you get a professional that is creative!! You get the experience and expertise of someone that does this for a living, this isn’t the first time that your architect has gone through this process, (you don’t need advice on waterproofing your basement from your neighbour's brother Jim, who just re-caulked his bathtub). Here in Ottawa, you need to look for an Architect licensed by the Ontario Association of Architects, that way you can rest assured that they have gone through extensive years of schooling, internship, training, and licensure to ensure that they are skilled in knowing the important details and requirements that your new home is going to have to fulfill as well as the challenges that will come with the process. Architects have had the training to help you to determine what is important and can keep you and your home focused on what is important. They have the skill set to improve the quality and value of your home. The other benefit is that your architect will help you to understand and envision the space long before the shovel hits the ground, and the real costs of construction begin; “it costs nothing to move a wall on paper.”

Any Architect worth their salt will more than offset the cost of their fees with the value that they bring to your house.

6 important steps in selecting an Architect:

6. Qualifications

Check to make sure they are licensed by the Ontario Association of Architects and that they have a Certificate of Practice that ensures the work they do for you is professional and meets the requirements of local and provincial laws and regulations. Don’t be afraid to ask for a couple of references and call those references. Word of mouth is a great way to learn about an Architect - talking to someone that has gone through the design and construction process with the your architect will be able to give you insight on what to expect, and what they experienced along the way.

5. Design Integrity

Be sure that when researching and interviewing Architects that their designs meet the quality you want, and that they are compatible with your expectations. Review their portfolio of work, ask questions about their style and the styles that you like, you want to make sure that your modern house is being designed by an architect who is sympathetic to a modern style, and has worked on that typology before. Do you really want a heritage architect who primarily does condition reports designing your modern and fresh home? Ensure that they are familiar with the design style that you like and can show you examples of that in their own work.

4. Availability

If after you contact an Architect and want to schedule a meeting or interview, and it takes weeks before they are able to meet with you, what does that say about their availability? This is the time that they should be making a good impression and showing how attentive and excited about your project they are. If they don’t have the time to meet with you and convince you that they are right for your project, how are they going to be once construction is under way and they are required to go on site in the middle of February in Ottawa to answer a question about a construction detail?

3. Make sure you meet with the people who will be putting pen to paper

A lot of architecture offices hire senior and junior architects, interns, and technologists to assist them in completing projects. Make sure you know who will be working on your project, and that you have direct access to them. The designs for your custom home will be much better if you can meet directly with the people doing the work than with a project lead who forwards your comments on to a junior person to implement. Realistically, why would you hire John Smith Architecture Company if you are not going to get the experience and expertise of working with John Smith himself?

2. Ensure that the architect gets to know you and your family

Your home is one of the most personal things you will ever own, it protects you and your family, it brings you closer together, it’s the place where you can be yourself. You don’t want your Architect to force their ideas on you, and dictate how you have to live. Ideally, you need an Architect that will work with you towards your ideas rather than force their own upon you.

1. You have to be comfortable with your Architect

You have to share the details of your life with your Architect if you are going to get the best possible home you can. You will share your hobbies, your day to day activities, your sleeping, showering, and eating habits, your financial situation, your family planning, and goals. You need to find an Architect that you are comfortable with so that you can work together to create the best possible outcome for the needs of you and you family.


Most importantly this should be a fun, exciting, and inspirational experience for you. Your Architect should ensure that at every step along the way your needs, wants, and desires are being addressed. 

What have your experiences been like working with or without an architect? Leave your comments below. And check back often or subscribe to the feed for future posts.