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Choosing an architect for your small project – How to go about it

Many people tend to imagine that their projects are too ‘small’ to warrant any professional input. Always remember that if you are tearing down or moving any walls or planning any new construction, it pays to hire an architect. Simply put, the minute you have second thought about your project or you start questioning your solutions, hire an architect.

Architects transcend their perceived role of creating spaces that enrich the quality of life; they take cognizance of ‘the whole’ in an effort to create a design that truly works with the strengths and weaknesses of its locality. They are also trained problem solvers who provide solutions at the ‘front end’ of the project on all aspects of design and cost effective use of building materials. Architects are also familiar with all building regulations and understand the importance of intangible elements like natural lighting and ventilation of spaces.

When choosing an architect, of utmost importance is that you must get along well. Chemistry is key, reason being, you will spend a substantial amount of time together over and above sharing a lot of personal details (or corporate secrets) with them.

The following simple steps may guide you on how to go about consulting an architect for your ‘small’ project.

First, there websites for various organizations that have give information on architects and architecture in Kenya. It will be helpful to review some of the information these websites provide. They include the Architectural Association of Kenya website and Board of Registration for Architects and Quantity Surveyors websites.

It is always important to ask your friends or colleagues for contacts of architects they may have worked with. It is even better if yours is a project similar to what they have accomplished. This way, you will get an opportunity to visit the job site or finished project and you will be in a position to grasp any issues you are likely to face beforehand.

If possible, interview several candidates. Review their professional credentials and ability to carry out your project. Check out what they have done before and decide whether you like it. Most architects do have a style of design that they carry along and the final result will have elements of this style. Assess whether the architect would listen to your thoughts and be able to produce a plausible, creative and economic solutions to your requests. Ensure whether the two of you ‘click’.

The right time to bring an architect into the picture is when you are clear about what you want. This way, they will guide you through a course of action. Confront the architect while you are armed with sketches or photos of buildings that you like from magazines or the internet. This way, it will be easier for the architect to accommodate your lifestyle, specific requirements and likes in the design.

With all that, you can now discuss other details of your project including fees and other consultants that you may require other than the architect. The scales of fees are set by the Architects and Quantity Surveyors Act, Cap 525 but the eventual figure is as a result of negotiations between you and the architect. The basis of the fees are either a percentage of the total cost of the project or an hourly rate charged for the number of hours that one takes in handling the project.

Other consultants that you may require include a Quantity Surveyor, Civil & Structural Engineer and a Mechanical & Electrical Engineer. These consultants are more often than not left out of small projects as people prefer to use the local plumbers, electricians and other ‘fundis’ to work out and build these elements of their projects.

Lastly, ensure that most of the job’s details are captured in a form of contract which clearly spells out the description of the job, total budget, architects consultancy fees and, if need be, scheduled completion date. Remember that you may pay more for overtime or for making unnecessary changes on the plans. You may also be asked to pay a commitment fee before the work begins.

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