Frequently Asked Questions
1. What kinds of projects do architects take on?
Like other professionals, architects may choose to specialize in a particular area. Some prefer to concentrate their talents on commercial buildings while others’ interests lie with residential. Others use their training to cross all aspects of the industry.
I primarily work on custom residential projects but I am always open to talking about other types of construction projects. I have had an incredible amount of luck when it comes to clients. To be given the opportunity to make a huge impact on the way in which people live their daily lives is one which must be taken seriously – and I do.
What is important to me is the aspiration of my clients. I only take on a limited number of works so that I can take the necessary time to do it right, to craft it. That doesn’t always mean that the project is high expense either. My projects vary in construction value. I’m interested in people who want to do something special, regardless of their budget.
2. Do I need to get a building permit or does an architect look after that for us?
Building permits are required for anyone who wants to erect, construct, add to, alter, replace, or relocate any building or part of a building or structure. Depending on your local building department requirements, some building projects may be exempt from requiring a building permit.
However, no matter how small it is, it’s never a good idea to assume that your project will be exempt. Rather, assume that permits and the inspections that follow are necessary, positive and instructional. The sole purpose of permits and inspections are to protect the home owner.
Whether your project is a one-off or a more complicated multi-staged plan, you can rely on your architect or your contractor to oversee the permit process. However, if you are engaged in a full building project or extensive remodel that may require several buildings or phases of construction, then it is important to become accustomed to your local zoning bylaws, your building department requirements and, of course, the time necessary to secure your permit(s).
When I am on the job, it’s often either the contractor or me who looks after obtaining the building permit.
3. Can a Nova Scotian architect work in another province? We live in Nova Scotia but our summer place is in PEI—are you licensed there?
In Canada, each province has purview over the practice of architecture. Each province creates a provincial architecture association and relies on it to provide the governing and regulating body. It is this association’s responsibility (among others) to monitor the standards of excellence expected of its architects.
Besides the specific education requirements and the allotted time spent in practical learning as an intern, each architect must pass a national examination before becoming registered or licensed. An architect is only permitted to work in another province when he/she is licensed with that provincial organization.
An architect must be licensed for any work either as a sole proprietor, under his/her company or as a partner/consultant with a licensed architect/architect of record (this also includes joint ventures).
4. Do I need to find a builder myself?
It’s always good to gather a list of local builders with solid reputations and then to interview more than one potential builder. If your architect knows of builders who are local to your proposed project, then it’s very likely they will happily add them to your list and offer guidance where they can.
Like hiring anyone, you must exercise due diligence and check their references, ask to see their portfolios, and, where possible, have a look at jobs they’ve finished. You have a vision and your architect has brought it from your head to sketches, drawings and models. Now you must find that person who will bring in a crew to bring it to life. In the end, my clients always choose the builder they feel most comfortable with.
Building or renovating costs hard-earned money and so you need to approach the matter of hiring a contractor (and an architect for that matter) methodically.
5. How do architects charge?
Architects typically charge between 10-15% of the value of construction plus taxes for single-family residential projects. This varies depending on the specifics of the project, the province and other key information. The fee includes all processes from early design sketches to the administration of the construction phase. It could be the most important allotment of money that you ever spend. After all, your home is usually the greatest investment of your life.
6. What is the difference between an Architect and an Intern Architect? Are they licensed?
From the time that an architect graduates from an accredited institution and becomes a member of the provincial architectural association, to the point when they have completed all required experience and examinations, they are considered an Intern Architect.
Omar Gandhi is a licensed architect in the province of Nova Scotia.
7. I have a piece of land and would like to build on it. What happens next?
Before calling an architect, you should do some of the preliminary work. Whether you’re considering purchasing a piece of land or whether you decide its time to build on an existing plot, the first thing to do is call or go by your local building department and find out how your land is zoned and also how local zoning by-laws effect your land.
Considerations the building department may lay out for you might include the distance you need to leave between an existing structure and your new building. Further, there may be some restrictions on building too near the roadway or another person’s property line or their well or septic system.
That way, you’ll know from the start what adjustments you need to make in the planning stage.
Secondly, you’ll have an idea of what you want to build – a house? How many bedrooms? Bathrooms? What kind of living space would you like included? Is it to be used year round? Is it a workshop or barn you have in mind? Perhaps it’s an extension of an existing building. Many people collect pictures of structures they like or they have fond recollections of places that they once knew.
Third, it’s important to review your finances and draw up a budget. The budget should become the unmovable force around which all other decisions must pivot. You, your architect, your contractor—everyone must work within the parameters of that budget to ensure you get the most optimum outcome that your dollars will buy. The budget must be respected by all.
With this information clarified, give me a call. I will look forward to meeting you, walking the site and hearing your ideas.
8. How can I ensure that we stay on budget?
The best way that one can stay on budget is to choose a contractor according to their reputation based on their ability to manage the project. Cost estimation should be frequent. A cost estimate should be performed at each critical stage of planning. Communication and planning ahead are the key. Allow sufficient time for adequate drawings and cost estimating.
9. Do architect have a list of past projects and clients that you can call on to check references?
Most people who provide a service for hire keep some kind of portfolio and have a list of clients at the ready who will provide references. Architects should be no different. There is no reason not to simply ask to see samples of their work and get a list of references.
Like on my web site, where I have full photo albums and client testimonials, many other architects use their web sites for this purpose. It offers prospective clients the opportunity to view work in its various stages and to read the architect’s view on the plan, the stages of completion, the materials used and the outcome.
Reading client testimonials brings a human element to each project. So often these projects are discussed in terms of sketches, models, budgets, timelines and materials, when in fact, they are to be someone’s home. Hearing about working with an architect through a client’s perspective is perhaps the most valuable insight into the process.
For my part, I have been very fortunate in my relationships with my clients. They have been very generous in their references of my architecture, our collaboration, and of the desired outcomes. I would be proud to have them speak on my behalf.
10. Do you have a signature style?
I don’t have a signature style but my work tends to be quite contemporary. I allow myself to think freely of any preconceived styles. The site (landscape), the program (the use) and above all else the client provide the information required to provide a unique aesthetic. My projects are all quite different as are my clients. I am very happy to go somewhere new each time.
11. How involved are you with the design of the interiors?
There is no separating the exterior from the interior of the building. Good architecture is one which has considered the entire project, from the landscape to the kitchen cabinet door pulls. That being said, the client is an extremely valuable asset and source of information and ideas when considering all of the parts of the whole.
12. Will you personally be working on my project?
I run a very small studio. The goal in making a decision to keep the boutique studio small was to have complete creative control over all projects. The goal behind taking on only a small select few projects was to ensure that the highest quality work and detail goes into each project.
13. How much experience do you have?
After studying at the University of Toronto and Dalhousie University for a combined 7.5 years and completing a BEDS, BA and MArch I worked for some of the country’s most well-known firms in both Toronto and Halifax, until 2010 when I started my own practice.