3rd DIMENSION Architects

Building Trust: How to establish a
strong architect-client relationship

Establishing a strong architect-client relationship is one of the most important aspects of any successful project. It involves mutual trust, respect, communication and collaboration. Here are 12 points to consider when building and maintaining a healthy architect-client relationship.

1. Establish clear expectations and goals from the start

The architect and the client should have a shared vision of what the project aims to achieve, how it will be delivered, and what the roles and responsibilities of each party are.

This vision should be established at the outset of the project and documented in a written document that defines the scope, schedule, budget, quality standards, and deliverables of the project. The architect should also keep the client informed of the progress and challenges of the project and seek feedback and approval from the client at key stages. The client should also communicate their expectations and preferences to the architect and provide timely and constructive feedback.

By having a shared vision and a collaborative relationship, the architect and the client can ensure that the project meets their goals and satisfies their needs.

2. Communicate frequently and effectively

The architect and the client should keep each other informed of any changes, issues or feedback throughout the project. They should also use appropriate channels and methods of communication, such as email, phone calls, meetings or online platforms.

This way, they can avoid misunderstandings, delays, conflicts or dissatisfaction. The architect should update the client regularly on the progress and status of the project, and the client should provide clear and timely feedback on the design and budget. They should also consult each other before making any major decisions or changes that could affect the project scope, quality or timeline.

Many clients may not be familiar with the complexities and nuances of the architectural design process. They may have unrealistic expectations or assumptions about how things work or how long they take. It is the Architect’s responsibility to educate them about the stages, methods, tools, and standards involved in their work. He should Explain the rationale behind his design decisions and how they relate to the project objectives and constraints. the Architect should Help them understand the value of their services and expertise.

One way to educate clients about the architectural design process is to introduce them to the seven main phases that most projects follow: pre-design, schematic design, design development, construction documents, building permits, bidding and negotiation, and construction administration. Each phase has a specific purpose, scope, and deliverable that contributes to the overall success of the project. By explaining what happens in each phase, what information is needed from the client, what challenges may arise, and how long each phase may take, the Architect can help the client gain a better understanding of the project’s progress and expectations.

By educating clients about the architectural design process, the Architect can establish a trusting and respectful relationship with them. The Architect can also avoid potential conflicts or misunderstandings that may arise from unrealistic or uninformed expectations. The Architect can also increase the client’s satisfaction and appreciation of their work by showing them how their design adds value to their project.

4. Be involved in the design process

While the Architect is the expert in Architecture, the client is the expert in their own needs and context. They have valuable insights and perspectives that can inform and enrich the design solutions. Therefore, the Architect should involve them in the design process as much as possible, without compromising your professional judgment or authority. He should Invite them to participate in brainstorming sessions, workshops, surveys, reviews, and testing activities. Solicit their opinions and preferences and incorporate them into your design whenever appropriate.

By involving your clients in the design process, you can create a more effective, consistent, and engaging visual identity system for their brand. You can also build trust and collaboration with your clients and make them feel valued and respected as partners in the project.

5. Respect each other's time and budget

The architect and the client should respect each other’s schedules and deadlines and avoid unnecessary delays or changes that could affect the project’s timeline or cost. They should also agree on a realistic budget that reflects the scope and quality of the project.

For example, the architect should deliver the design documents and drawings on time, and the client should provide timely feedback and approval. Similarly, the client should not request major changes or additions after the design phase is completed, and the architect should not propose unrealistic or impractical solutions that exceed the client’s expectations or budget.

They should also adhere to the budget throughout the process. The budget should include all the costs associated with the design, construction, materials, permits, fees, contingencies, and any other expenses that may arise. The architect and the client should also monitor and track the budget regularly and communicate any changes or issues that may affect it. By respecting each other’s schedules and deadlines, and agreeing on a realistic budget, the architect and the client can ensure a smooth and satisfactory outcome for their project.

6. Be flexible and adaptable

The architect and the client should be prepared to face any challenges or opportunities that may arise during the project. They should also be willing to compromise and adjust their plans or expectations when needed.

Some of the challenges that they may face include cost escalation, design changes, regulatory compliance, environmental impact, stakeholder management and technical coordination.

7. Seek feedback and input

The architect and the client should seek feedback and input from each other and from other stakeholders, such as users, contractors or consultants. These stakeholders can provide valuable insights, perspectives and expertise that can inform and improve the design decisions and project outcomes. Therefore, the architect and the client should incorporate the feedback and input they receive into their design process and documentation and communicate how they have addressed them.

This way, they can ensure that the project meets the goals and requirements of all parties involved, and that it is delivered on time, on budget and with high quality.

8. Resolve conflicts constructively

The architect and the client should avoid blaming or criticizing each other when problems occur. Instead, they should focus on finding solutions that benefit both parties and the project.

This means communicating clearly and respectfully, listening to each other’s perspectives and concerns, and compromising when necessary. By doing so, they can overcome the problems together and achieve a successful outcome that meets their expectations and goals.

9. Celebrate successes and learn from failures

The relationship between the architect and the client is not only based on contractual obligations, but also on mutual respect and appreciation.

The architect and the client should celebrate their achievements and milestones, such as completing a design phase, obtaining a permit, or finishing a construction project. They should also recognize each other’s efforts and accomplishments, such as delivering high-quality work, meeting deadlines, or exceeding expectations.

Furthermore, the architect and the client should learn from their mistakes and failures, such as encountering design flaws, budget overruns, or delays. They should use them as opportunities for improvement, by identifying the root causes, implementing corrective actions, and preventing recurrence. By doing so, the architect and the client can foster a positive and productive collaboration that benefits both parties.

10. Maintain a professional attitude and demeanor

The architect and the client should treat each other with courtesy, honesty and integrity. They should also respect each other’s privacy and confidentiality and avoid any conflicts of interest or unethical behavior.

Both parties should honor their contractual obligations and adhere to the professional standards and codes of conduct of their respective fields. They should also protect the personal and proprietary information of each other, and refrain from any actions that might compromise their impartiality or integrity. By doing so, they can foster a positive and productive collaboration that benefits both the project and the society.

11. Respect the client's culture and values

Architecture is not only a technical or aesthetic discipline but also a social and cultural one. It reflects and affects the way people live, work, play, interact, and identify themselves. Therefore, the Architect needs to respect the client’s culture and values when designing for them. He needs to research their background, history, traditions, beliefs, norms, preferences, and sensitivities.

He needs to avoid imposing his own biases or stereotypes on them. The Architect needs to create designs that are appropriate, respectful, inclusive, and responsive to their client’s context. By doing so, he can create spaces that enhance the quality of life and well-being of the people who use them.

12. Build a long-term relationship

The architect and the client should aim to establish a lasting relationship that goes beyond the completion of the project. They should also seek opportunities to collaborate on future projects or referrals.

One of the goals of any architectural project is to create a positive and lasting impact on the environment and society. To achieve this, the architect and the client should not view their relationship as a one-time transaction, but rather as a long-term partnership.

By maintaining a good rapport and communication throughout the project, they can ensure that their expectations and needs are met, and that any issues or challenges are resolved in a timely and satisfactory manner. Moreover, they should also look for ways to extend their collaboration beyond the project’s completion, such as recommending each other to potential partners or clients, or exploring new opportunities for joint ventures or projects.

By doing so, they can create a network of professional contacts that can benefit both parties in the long run.

About the Author