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During the early concept and site development phases, your architect can help sort through the charter school’s facility needs, consider functional uses of space, provide alternative design ideas, flag potential zoning or regulatory issues, and make design recommendations.

For facility design, your school has the option to: (1) Select a contractor whose team includes an architect or (2) hire an independent architecture firm. (See Chapter 4 for more information on the “design-build” approach.) If your school chooses an architect, you’ll need someone with charter school experience; an added bonus is an architect with sustainable building experience. Hire someone who is licensed in the state where your school will be located and who is committed to working within your project’s financial constraints. You’ll want the architect to fully understand your school’s vision and culture to ensure his or her approach is consistent. Every school has a different vision, so concepts of design will also vary. For instance, design needs and aesthetics for a performing arts school will be different from a school with a technology focus. Check with your local charter school association and your peers for recommendations.

The architect’s primary responsibilities are to translate the project’s space needs into a workable concept, develop alternative schematic designs, and convert these preliminary designs into final drawings from which the facility will be built. Your architect will also hire and supervise engineers (e.g., structural, mechanical, plumbing, civil) and will offer design advice, as needed, throughout the construction process.

Criteria for Selecting an Architect

(1) Experience with Similar Projects

  • Does the architect have charter school experience?
  • Does the architect have experience designing “green” or sustainable facilities?
  • How many projects has the architect designed of similar type, size, and complexity in the past five years? If possible, visit these projects. If not, review pictures and contact the owners to ask about their experience.
  • Were the comparable projects completed on time and on budget?
  • Does the design quality demonstrate that the facilities meet user needs and are built to last?
  • Does the architect have a keen appreciation for the unique demands of a charter school setting?

(2) Experience in the Real Estate and Regulatory Environments

  • Is your architect “local”? How well does he or she know the local real estate community? (This might prove useful for site selection.)
  • Will the architect be able to help you navigate any zoning and/or permit issues?

(3)  Technical Expertise in Construction

  • What is the architect’s level of expertise around construction issues?
  • Does the architect have experience with any local contractors or tradespeople? Ask for references from general contractors with whom the architect has worked.
  • How well has the architect been able to interpret his or her clients’ needs while paying attention to their budgets? Will the architect be able to control costs but still produce a high-quality project?
  • What is the architect’s experience in bidding construction contracts? Can you rely on the architect’s expertise, and does he or she add value to the bidding process?
  • Does the architect have construction management experience? (This is not necessary but may be useful, depending on the project.)
  • What is the architect’s experience with construction contract administration?
  • How well have the architect’s previous projects withstood the test of time? Contact previous owners of similar/ dissimilar projects to test this criterion.

(4) Understanding of Funding Issues

  • What is the architect’s level of understanding about the funding requirements of your project?
  • Does the architect have a keen appreciation of the budget constraints of your project?
  • Can the architect develop cost-effective solutions to your unique design requirements?

(5)  Personal Issues and Characteristics

  • Is the architect registered or licensed in your state?
  • Is the architect enthusiastic about your project and committed to working with the charter school?
  • Will the prospective architect be available during the entire development process, or will your project be handed off to other team members?
  • Are you comfortable working with the architect during the lengthy development process? Is his or her personality well suited to working on the development team?
  • Is the architect a clear, effective communicator?

Legal Disclaimer:

Nothing in this material should be construed as investment, financial, brokerage, or legal advice. Moreover, the facts and circumstances relating to your particular project may result in material changes in the processes, outcomes, and expenses described herein. Consult with your own professional advisors, including your financial advisors, accountants, and attorneys, before attempting to consummate any transaction described in this material.