With our experience of interacting and visiting hundreds of schools over the years, we give you this one-stop guide to help you in the process of hiring an architect.
Our school curriculum is being updated every few years but our schools look exactly like they used to 100 years ago. Only recently, in our country, it is gaining awareness about the Reggio Emilia approach that ‘the built environment of the school actively participates in the learning, thus it can be considered as the third teacher’. The word “classroom”, itself, is obsolete, it is preferred to call “learning spaces”.
The next question is who can make this happen? The answer is simple, just like how you would hire an architect to give life to your dream home, while building it or renovating an old one, hire an architect, particularly one who is well informed about the learning needs of a child and has the knowledge of the spaces that can foster learning instead of coming in the way of it.
Here are the 5+1 steps to make sure you hire the right architect:
1. What information you should know before working with an Architect?
The noble cause of starting a school to impart the knowledge always starts with your unique approach towards education and the way of teaching. Come up with a central vision to the school after a thorough discussion with everybody involved. At the end of the day, you must at least be sure of basic factors that shape the school, like the theme, short term and long term budget, and your target students.
2. What should be your First Step in Hiring an Architect?
To make the decision of hiring the right architect for your school, interview them, have extensive meetings to understand whether they have the right specialization in the field. As an educator, you must have seen that a person may be a master in a particular field but average at all others. Architecture is no different, specialization in housing or commercial buildings, maybe with just a couple of related projects will not add any substantial value to designing an efficient learning space. This is an era of specialization, designing to cater to specific needs is the way of life.
“ For example, Verdant Vista has been working with schools and transforming them taking into account the research observations in early childhood pedagogy, and not just plain buildings looking like factories”
3. What would one expect to pay when hiring an architect?
There are many variables that affect the fees for a project. Some factors are, but not limited to, location, size, complexity, the timeline of the process. Generally, some architects prefer to charge per square feet of built area. The standard practice in the industry is to charge a percentage of the construction costs and this can vary from projects based on the complexities. But, there is an exception, for small projects where architects have no choice but to charge in a lump sum. Since it is a service and not a product there is no catalogue to choose from, like “I want this”. Each school is different, so are their needs. Your unique outlook about children and their learning needs should be visible in the building, so expect that from your architect.
4. What are the Specifics of the Projects you should be Discussing with the Architect?
Start with the children to classroom ratio, board affiliation and amenities, games and sports you want to have in your campus. Always remember, construction can happen phase-wise, smoothly, as an when the funds are available only if the master plan is ready to begin with.
No matter how anxious you are to get the project completed, a good professional architect will take the long-term into consideration. Your next 10 to 15 years vision for the school should be clear to the architect and he/she should make room for the same in the design. What is the point in destroying and rebuilding just built structure 3 years later, because you want to add more classrooms or another staircase?
5. What are the Clear Signs to Avoid while Hiring an Architect?
There are some obvious and some not so obvious red flags you should be able to recognize and avoid ignoring them. Building a school is an expensive project, any design elements that does not add value to the child’s learning needs is wasteful spending. An architect who doesn’t know the specification for preschool furniture or difference between what kids learn in nursery and Kindergarten is not your guy.
The not so obvious red flag is an architect that doesn’t agree to a process of change. Collaboration is an ongoing process, unnecessary rigidity and stubbornness comes in the way of creating a better learning environment for kids.
We, at Verdant Vista, pride ourselves on retaining our clients, who also refer us to others and the only way to do that is to provide them with exemplary service.
Bonus: What are the unexpected things to expect?
An achievable timeline will have to be established initially, after thorough discussion and planning. The architect will tell you to expect variations in this timeline to accommodate great work, but it is a lengthy process with lots of hurdles to jump through. Renovating or building a new school requires a lot of well-planned time constraints. Also, have an understanding how the architect has worked for someone in the past, as this can give you realistic expectations for your own project and working relationship.
Finally, You may not end up with a replica of the design you liked over Pinterest, because an idea can be designed in a 100 different ways. What matters is the final design doing justice to the idea you had. We hope this guide helps you hire an architect who makes sure your ideas are valued in the design.