There are three criteria you should apply to any firm you are considering hiring as Architect on your project:
1. Is the firm well-versed in the operation and management of an animal shelter?
This qualification requirement is important for the same reason that multi-disciplined experts in other fields are in great demand. The in-depth knowledge of animal shelters cannot be satisfied by the architect's simply interviewing or observing your staff for a few days. Consider when you first started working at a shelter; did you have enough understanding of its operation after several days indoctrination to be able to plan a new shelter? Surprisingly, this is about the level of understanding most architects have when they design your new building.
2. Has the firm designed other similar animal shelters?
Architects who have designed just a few are still learning by the mistakes they make. "Shelter Planners of America" can verify that after our team has worked on more than 700 projects over a 30 year period, it truly takes many projects to build the high level of design understanding needed to create an outstanding facility.
3. Does the firm have a national reputation in design of animal shelters?
It is tempting to think that a local architectural firm will be more responsive to your needs and do a better job. But it really doesn't matter where the "desk" on which the drawings are done is located. It is important that design drawings be done by the most skilled, experienced specialists available.
The two stages when local contact is required are during the first needs assessment interviews and during the construction supervision stage. A qualified architectural specialist firm will travel to your location for the first meeting. Then day-to-day communication is handled through telephone, email, go-to-meeting, and skype (the same way most communications would be handled with a firm located across town). Finally, the construction management is handled by one of our Associate Architects, a local Architect, or Designer/Builder.
These are three points to consider when you are selecting an architect. They will help assure that you have someone who truly understands how shelters function and who will know what is important to make the building work well.