The project architect is the key to interpreting your vision, developing the ideas that you have, and transforming it into reality. Architects have the skills to co-ordinate and manage, in conjunction with your internal decision-making mechanisms, the overall building project and to act as your adviser ensuring that others, such as the builder, understand and work to meet your hopes and aspirations. If you do not want the architect to take this lead co-ordinating role then you will need to engage a professional project management company to do so, but usually such project managers do not have the expertise to offer the design co-ordination provided by an architect.
The role of the architect is to turn your vision into a reality. What they can’t do is create the vision. You have to be able to articulate what you are trying to achieve with this project. This can be very difficult, especially if you envisage the project changing the way educational activity takes place. The architect will have their view of what education is like, from their own education and other projects that they have been involved in, but they are not educational professionals. You need to ‘paint a broad picture’ of what you want from the finished project and then work with the architect to turn this into a design.
Whatever you do about project management you should regard the architect as a key resource at the centre of the project. You may wish the architect to provide access to a wide range of support professionals such as a quantity surveyor, mechanical and electrical engineers, acoustic and lighting specialists, landscape designers all of which you will need, certainly for major projects, or you may prefer to contract for these services directly. Architectural firms can also often provide interior design services too. Whatever path you choose the architect can act as the lead for co-ordination of these specialist professionals if you need them to.
Using the brief the architect can provide a variety of outline design solutions to be considered and then work with you, on design development, to find the preferred design. Alongside this the architect can liaise with the statutory authorities, which will include planning, to make sure that the necessary permissions are obtained.
Depending on the size of the project it may be undertaken in several phases. The architect can advise on the best way to phase the project and also determine the overall project timescale. This should lead to the formulation of a plan for the project which contains not just what will be built when but also when each stage tender will be issued, when the procurement will take place, when selection of subcontracted suppliers of elements of the work will be needed, and what the dependencies are from one phase to the next. All of this work will need to come together in a project plan.
As well as knowing the architectural fees you will also need to know the estimated costs for each phase of the project, in order to determine the rate of expenditure, and the overall total cost. Your architect can provide first estimate advice on this. Knowing the overall project budget is very useful to the architect at this stage as there will always be options open to them in the choice of materials and finishes and, although these will not be finalized at this stage, it will be possible to identify affordable options.
During the building phase there are bound to be changes to the project and you will need to ensure that there is a change control process in place – the architect will have a key role in advising on the authorisation of changes.
In the event of time slippage on the project for whatever reason the architect can advise on reasonable allowances for an extension, taking into account the procurement route being used. Your architect can also advise on overall cost control, especially important, if there is time slippage or changes are made to the project.
You should also expect the architect to keep in close contact with the project through a series of site visits and attendance at your project meetings.
The architect also has a key role after practical completion of the project in ensuring that ‘snagging’ takes place and that any faults are remedied to your satisfaction. Snagging traditionally means identifying defects that need fixing at the end of a building project. We would suggest that it makes more sense to work with the builder and architect to make sure that the project meets your expectations at the end. Using this approach snagging can start well before the completion of the building project – this is useful as it can prove difficult and expensive to put things right when the space is completed.
An example of the type of issues you may need to address during the project is that work in some areas is not finished to the specification that you and the architect expected. You should work with the builder on providing a solution to the issue. Whilst some problems can be dealt with as and when they arise during the process there are some things that have to be left to a later snagging stage.
The Saltire Centre, for example, experienced some leaks through the glass atrium in heavy rain/snow. These leaks could not be detected until changes in the weather highlighted them. By monitoring the project as it progresses you should be able to ensure that the snagging list at the final stages is kept to a minimum.