By Adam Felson
Principal at officemorph
Selecting the best architect for your project is often one of the biggest and most important decisions a company undergoing an office renovation will encounter. Yet often, the process isn’t as well thought out as it should be, resulting in a project that stumbles along, failing to accomplish the desired results.
Many companies use poor judgement in selecting architects – selecting based on who has the lowest price, the fanciest presentation, or who recently designed the CEO’s house. Some develop unnecessarily lengthy Request For Proposals (RFPs) that they make candidates complete.
It’s important to hire an architect who is well versed in office tenant improvements, familiar with the local market, communicates well, is a fit with your company culture, is responsive, and has the bandwidth to take on the needs of your project.
Here’s a simple, yet effective process that works well:
1) Start by building a list. Develop a long list of candidates to reach out to that may be suitable for your project. Talk to your broker, project manager, colleagues and friends who have recently done similar projects and have architects they would recommend.
2) Go through an initial qualification process. Narrow down the list by calling each group and contrast teams based on some key criteria. Ask each firm to tell you about other similar projects they are working on or have recently worked on and request corresponding information. Inquire each candidates’ current workload and depth of their staff to take on new projects like yours. Question the teams’ familiarity and experience with your local market and industry partners.
3) Share as much as possible about your company and project goals. Successful selection processes of industry partners results from properly telling your story. If you clearly give the background of who your company, what your culture looks like, what’s driving the workplace transition, and what constraints exist, architects competing to work with you will be able to better serve you. Anthia Wong, Team Lead at architectural firm FORGE agrees that the more they learn about the back story, the better. “When clients share all their needs with us, we can make adjustments and address those things that might be important,” she says.
4) Use a simple RFP format. Sending out RFPs that require completing dozens of pages in responses are uninviting and often will turn off candidates desire to participate in the process. A well written RFP provides more inputs from you about your company than outputs requested from the candidates. Outline your company’s requirements, set expectations of what you’re looking for in an architect, and share your project goals. Give candidates adequate time to respond to a brief set of criteria such as staffing plan, design schedule, fee structure, and spotlight of similar projects completed.
5) Meet face-to-face. Bring in 2-3 of the architects that appear to be the best fit based on the initial conversations and RFP responses. Here’s where you’ll be understanding how they work and if they would be a good match for your upcoming build-out. Wong suggests that this is when you need to ask yourself if you feel a spark with your organization. “Is this someone you want to work with? Do you click? Is that connection there?”
6) Don’t let price drive your decision. Many companies make the mistake of asking for a comprehensive proposal from their candidates, and don’t recognize that it can be difficult to have an “apples-to-apples” price comparison at the infancy of a project. It should also be noted that a large pricing differential is often a small portion of the overall project. Hiring the best fitting architect, regardless of price, will pay dividends multiple times over.
7) Follow-up with feedback. Be sure to reach out to candidates you aren’t moving forward with and thank them for the time they put in. If you are able to, it’s helpful to share what drove your decision, as you may wish to call upon the same candidates for another project down the road.
Developing a strategy like this will put you in a better position to end up with the team most appropriate for your project, which ultimately puts your company at an advantage for a successful outcome in your new workspace.