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Friday, February 18, 2005

Why hire an architect?

by Maria Eleanor Elape Valeros
January 3, 2005, posted at www.thefreeman.com and also at the message board of www.4architects.ph.tc (YELL window)

As an opening salvo to mark the ushering in of 2005, I would like to give space to a concern raised by my junior architect-cyber chum, Cymurai, relative to the information drive initiated by the United Architects of the Philippines on its two-day exhibit dubbed “Why hire an architect?” at the Ayala Center-Cebu last month.

I took on the challenge of helping in the carrying out of the information campaign to the “building” public through this column.
Through a heap of notes passed on to me by Cymurai in my electronic mailbox, it has been noted that the best way to begin a new building/construction project is for the would-be owner to reflect on what he wants to bring to it: knowledge, experience, needs, desires, aspirations, and personal opinions, as well as the resources to realize expectations.

As an outsider to the industry, I took sometime for this draft. But let me start by recognizing that architects with their professional expertise help would-be building owners establish a project. They are people one can rely on when it comes to dealing with the following questions: What activities does one expect to take place in the building? Does one have specific ideas on how to translate these activities into specific spaces and areas? An architect with experience in a particular building type can help one immensely refine a design program (the collection of parameters from which design is derived).

Good architects challenge the client’s program, schedule and budget. Even when these have been developed through painstaking effort, it is in the client’s best interest to encourage this challenge.

In this way, the architect comes to understand the project requirements in detail. The analysis may also reveal latent problems or opportunities.

Another very important point on the need to hire architects is that as design proceeds, important issues will surface. The architect’s services bring increased client understanding of the project, as the project evolves. Each step should be to assure continuing consensus on project scope, levels of quality, time constraints, estimated cost, and safeguard the owner’s budget. It may also be necessary to adjust the services required from the architect at certain points.

At the awarding of the contract for construction, the architect administers the implementation of the blueprints. This includes evaluating the work for compliance with the contract documents, checking shop drawings and other submittals to confirm the contractor’s understanding of the design.

Architects make design changes during construction. These changes may be required due to unexpected conditions in the field, and the need for further refinements in the design.

Architects inspect the facility to determine that it is complete and ready for use, and that the contractor is entitled to final payment.

The architect’s involvement with the project does not end there. As a design professional, the architect has a continuing interest in knowing that his building works or that it serves its purpose. At post-construction stages, architects are necessary for the start-up, for the review of operations, for tenant-related services, or for later alterations and modifications.

In short, the architect - who knows the mind, heart, and soul of his building best—will be there to offer post-construction services.

To clarify, an architect is to a building project as a fashion designer is to a dress, providing not only the shape to the creation, but also the drama and other intricate details in tune with trends.

Another message the United Architects of the Philippines would want to send across in last month’s 2-day exhibit, is the compensation scheme for architects in this country.

It is a pity that most of our architects are demoralized when it comes to the method of compensation. Cost and value go hand in hand, therefore it is but appropriate that their efforts should be matched with just compensation.

The building public is urged to recognize that adequate compensation for the architect works for their best interest, as this ensures the type and level of services needed to fulfill their expectations.

The amount of payment for architects depends on the types and levels of professional services provided. More extensive services or a more complex or experimental project will require more effort by the architect and add more value to the project. Would-be building owners should budget accordingly for architectural services, based on total cost of the project. There is in fact a fixed architectural fee pegged at 17% of project cost.

(For comments, reactions, suggestions, and contributions, crank up my addy: pinay_mangatkatay@yahoo.com. Happy New Year everyone!)