What to Know About Hiring An Architect

by | Last updated Jul 13, 2020 | Architects

If you are going to embark an a construction project you are probably going to be hiring an architect. There are many issues to consider and this may seem like a difficult task. Hiring an Architect is not the most common everyday thing you will do in your life so we put together some helpful information to get you started.


  • Architects Role
    • Scope Of Work
  • Architects Fees
  • Do They Work Well With Contractors
  • Type Of Firm
    • What Type Of Work They Do
    • Size Of The Firm


What You Need To Know When You Hire An Architect.


Hiring An Architect: The Architect’s Role

You may or may not be surprised by this but not all architects play the same role in their projects. You should understand how your architect works.

Different Types Of Architects

  • Design Architects
  • Technical architects
  • Design and Technical Architects.

Some architects are very good at design and making beautiful things but do not know much about construction and codes. Some architects are very good at understanding construction and codes but aren’t very talented at design beyond typical every day architecture. And some architects are both.

You may find this odd but there are architects that do not actually do any of their own construction drawings or filing drawings. You may want to ask your architect if they are more design or technical oriented.

Many architects are good at both. I pride myself on being one of those architects.


Hire an Architect and What Will the Architect Do?

  • Architectural Design
  • Engineering
  • Construction Documents
  • Filing
  • Bidding Contractor Selection
  • Construction Administration
  • Sign offs, Inspections, Certificate Of Occupancy


Architectural Design

Architects break the design process into 5 Phases of Design.

  • Schematic Design
  • Design development
  • Construction Documents
  • Bidding
  • Construction administration

We have another post clearly explaining the Design Phases. We will not be getting into that level of detail here.

These design phases are conventions architect use to break up their work. Make sure if your architect is including involvement in all phases or if they do not. Some architect, that we call approvals architects, seem to think their work ends when the job is approved. To me this is ridiculous but that’s just me. My work ends when the job is done.

Design Options and Design Services

During design you may want to discuss if the architect will provide multiple design options and revisions. Also how deep into the design will they go. Are they only doing a general design or are they helping with all the details like picking out fixtures and materials. Some architects will get samples and take you to showrooms and some wont. Find out before you hire an architect.


You should know if you need any engineers for your project. At our firm we hire all the engineers necessary so you do not have to worry about that, but not everybody does. If you need a Structural Engineer or MEP is the architect including these. This could be a serious way that the prices may vary. architects who leave these out will have lower prices but you will still need to hire these people later. Make sure to ask the architect what consultants or specialists are included and if none are included which ones will you need if any.

Construction Documents

Different Architects will have different ways of doing construction documents. Some will have more detail some will have less. Ask your architect about construction documents and how much detail they will include. For example are they including electrical plans, lighting plans, interior details, etc…

Filing For Permits

filing for permits is a big one in New York City where we are located because of all the bureaucracy. We always including the process of filing but not filing fees in our proposals. Ask your architect about their involvement in filing the job, we always handle this.

Biding Contractor Selection

Before you hire your architect ask them what their involvement is in the bidding process. Will the architect meet with multiple contractors and answer RFIs (request for information) from the contractors. Is the architect going to recommend contractors? Will the architect help you review bids?

Construction Administration

Construction Administration is the architects role during construction. The architect does not supervise construction but should normally come to the site occasionally to check in and deal with issues. Architects all have different ways of dealing with this so good luck. You should get a sense of what the architect is planning for construction administration services before hiring an architect.

Sign offs, Inspections, Certificate Of Occupancy

This is related to permits and construction administration but will the architect help with sign offs, inspections, and if required a Certificate of Occupancy. these are very important questions to ask.


Architects Fees When Hiring an Architect

  • Hourly 
  • Flat Rate
  • Percentage Of Construction
  • Cost Per Square Foot
  • Hybrid Fee Structure

We will not get into great detail here, just be assured that all architects will have different ways of charging you. The architects will also have different ideas of what is included in their price. We have another post you may want to read to learn more about architectural fees.

Hourly Fees

Hourly fees are straight forward but leave you open to surprises when you get the bill. In this case the architect will provide the client with a price list outlining how much the individuals working on the project are billed at on a per hour basis. At the end of every month the client will receive a bill for the work performed.

Flat Rate Fees

Flat rate fees for architectural services are how we usually price services at our architecture firm. We provide a hard number based on our best estimate on what the job should cost. The billing can be broken up into monthly billing based on a percentage of work completed or into milestone payments.

Percentage Of Construction

It is very common for architects to charge a percentage of construction. Basically the architect will propose a percentage rate and the client will pay them based on the percentage of the construction budget.

Cost Per Square Foot

Some architects charge based on a set cost per square foot. They set a rate and based on the size of the job they get paid accordingly. I

Hybrid Architectural Fees

Sometimes an architect will provide a hybrid structure. For example they may do a flat rate for design and filling for permits but an hourly rate for construction site visits. This is relatively common.


Do They Work Well With Contractors

One question nobody ever asked me is if I work well with contractors but they should be asking this. Architects and contractors fight all the time. Some people are just better at working with contractors than others. My father was a contractor and I worked with him in construction when I was younger before I finished architecture school. So I think I have a good sense of how to work with contractors but do not be surprised if the architect or contractor do not get along I hire people talk about those problems all the time. I have been pretty lucky so far myself.


The Type of Firm and size of the Architecture Firm You Hire

Some people will care about this some wont. You may be interested in finding out if the architect is a small firm or a large firm some people are particular about these things. If you are working with a big firm you should find out who will be handling your project.

There are many different types of firms you should ask what type of work they normally do.


Thank You for reading our Blog Post on Hiring An Architect.

Please feel free to post questions or comments below. If you are interested in discussing a specific project please contact us directly to speak with an architect.


Contact Fontan Architecture


Jorge Fontan

Jorge Fontan

This post was written by Jorge Fontan AIA a Registered Architect and owner of New York City architecture firm Fontan Architecture. Jorge Fontan has earned 3 degrees in the study of architecture including two degrees from the City University of New York and a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Columbia University. Jorge has a background in construction and has been practicing architecture for 20 years where he has designed renovations and new developments of various building types.