How to Keep Your Project on Track
The secret to successful projects is good communication between owner and architect. Here’s how you, the owner, can help.
Understand what a realistic budget is. The most common failure of a project stems from misconceptions about the budget. What you want, you may not have budgeted for. Make the hard decisions up front in the planning process.
Take an active role in the planning process. Take care to understand what the architect is trying to achieve for you. Meet with the architect at key intervals during the planning process.
Use the project phases to review your project. Your architect will follow three major design phases and submissions: Schematic design (original ideas), design development (where design ideas are fully developed) and construction documents (the working drawings and specification used to obtain competitive bids and contractor pricing). Pay close attention to these design phases and use them to help you understand where the project stands at any given time. Think of them as milestones and use them for review and evaluation.
Make timely decisions. The most efficient time for owner decisions is during the planning process. Planning is an evolutionary process: that is, the plan evolves from less to more detail. Good planning is not a major change in concept when it’s time to plan the details. During the design phases, an undecided client may mean loss of design time. During the construction phase, indecision and changes will add to the construction cost.
Ask questions. You may feel that if you ask questions, it will imply that you don’t know as much as you should. In the design phase, you are not supposed to know. Remember that it is your project; by asking questions, the architect can lead you to a better understanding.
Deal with problems as they arise. This sounds obvious, but taking care of small problems will keep them from turning into larger ones. Use your regular project meetings to take care of any possible discrepancies.
Have your architect observe the construction work. This is essential. It is part of the architect’s job to regularly inspect the construction work and to consult with the contractor. This helps to assure that the plans and specified materials are being followed. Remember, the architect is your representative and your advocate. In many ways, a good architect will more than earn the fee by ensuring that the client receives the full value.