Web image banner

Member Login

Frequently Asked Questions


What is the AIA?

AIA stands for the American Institute of Architects. It is a three-tiered organization having local, state, and national components. The Rochester Chapter covers Monroe and surrounding counties. The organization is the voice of the architecture profession and a resource for its members in service to society. Architects are not licensed by the AIA, they are licensed by the State in which they practice.

How do I know if an architect is licensed?

Individuals can not use the term "architect" unless they are licensed and registered. They may use the initials "RA" (registered architect) after their name or AIA since one must be licensed to be a full member of the AIA. If in doubt you may check the status of someone at the NY State Office of the professions website: http://www.op.nysed.gov/prof/arch/archbroch.htm

What's the difference between licensure and registration?

When an individual passes the licensing exam they become licensed. To activate that license they become registered. Every three years an architect must re-register to maintain his/her practice. Over this three year period there are mandatory continuing education requirements that must be met in order to stay eligible for re-registration.

How do I find and select an architect?

The two links you'll find on the left of this and every other page will help you find an architect. Our Membership Directory is our full listing of individual architects and firms showing firm sizes and areas of specialty. The Referral Lists is a shorter listing of architects by the type of design in which they specialize. Over 60% of architectural firms have fewer than 5 employees, and 25% are one person offices. Thus there are many architects who specialize in small projects. The larger firms will of course specialize in larger commercial projects.

Should I hire the contractor first or the architect?

Hiring a contractor before hiring an architect is putting the cart before the horse. Planning and design comes before execution so the design portion of a project not only needs to occur first, it should also be given sufficient time. Good planning will result in lower cost and a better product in the end. The architect can also help in selecting a contractor, so don't commit to one before working with an architect. However if you know a contractor there is no harm in talking with him/her early on since they can give you some insights into construction costs.

How much do architects charge?

Architects provide a wide range of services so the associated fees vary quite a bit. As a guide, consider that a realtor earns 6% of the sale price of a building, that's $12,000 on a $200,000 home. How much should an architect be paid for designing a home and assuming all of the risk associated with the design?

Architects, like doctors, are professionally licensed and thus are legally liable for everything they do. Architectural fees are not inexpensive, but they are fair considering the work that must be done and the risk taken. A licensed professional has gone through extensive schooling, practice, and a rigorous exam to become licensed. The process was established to assure public health and safety. How often do buildings fail due to architectural malpractice? Not very often - the system works.

What services do architects provide?

Just about all architects offer the same services, where they differ is in the size and type of projects in which they have developed expertise. No matter the size or type of project, almost all projects move through most of the following phases. Architectural services are a means to an end, a process to lead to the real goal - a finished building or space.

Pre-Design Analysis
 In this phase the architect measures and investigates existing conditions. If needed (s)he will prepare measured drawings. Another important task during this phase is for the architect to investigate applicable zoning requirements. If clients need help in organizing their thoughts on exactly what they need, this "programming" function also happens during the pre-design analysis phase. In some projects the architect may also assist or take complete responsibility in preparing a feasibility study.

Schematic Design
 The first real design begins in the schematic design phase. Here the architect explores as many design solutions as possible generally using floor plan sketches and perspectives. The goal is to show clients many different ways in which to meet their space needs. At this point the architect also represents the project and the client in the approval process. This might entail visits to the various municipal boards such as the Planning Board, Architectural Review Board, Historic Preservation Board, Zoning Board, etc.

Design Development
 At the conclusion of the schematic design phase the client has selected one of the designs or sometimes a combination of two or more. The architect then refines the design and defines and describes all important elements of the project. This means major elements such as materials, structural system, and mechanical systems are investigated and selected. The architect continues representing the project and owner in the approval process.

Contract Documents 
This phase is the one with which most clients are familiar. The architect prepares the working drawings and specifications, or "plans" as many like to call them. These serve two purposes; they are the documents for the contractors to base their bids on and ultimately the instrument of the contract with the owner. Secondly, they are the documents that the building department reviews in order to issue a building permit.

 The architect either assists or assumes full responsibility in developing the bidder list, distributing the contract documents, negotiating changes, and receiving bids.

Construction Supervision 
In all but the simplest projects, clients feel much more comfortable hiring the architect to monitor construction progress. By making periodic visits to the site and meeting with the contractor, the architect can assure that the contractor fully complies with the contract documents.