5 ways to evaluate and select a Singapore Architect

If the infrastructure is the lifeblood of a nation, then architects are its heart and sinews. Experts at conceptualizing, designing, and tailoring buildings for functional use is their primary objective. Without them, there would be no hospitals, no schools, no entertainment venues, no residential landed houses in Singapore, and definitely no shopping malls.

An architect works on the problems of space, environment, and ideas. His work can either make or break down a millennia-old traditional culture. Although the important functions of architects can be found in other disciplines as well, in general, architects are considered to be at the pinnacle of all construction professionals. However, with countless architects at your disposal in Singapore, choosing the best one can be a daunting task.

To assist you in this difficult task, enlisted are some of the most important things to keep in mind when choosing your architect.

Singapore Architect – 5 Essential Questions

1. How Does the Design Process Work?

Buildings are made to accommodate people’s lifestyles. Designing a building is actually more like designing a lifestyle than designing a simple dwelling. Buildings are on a never-ending evolution process from their conception to the actual construction of the first project. This is given the nature of technology and the social influence that modern-day changes have on buildings. So when looking for a Singapore architect, first identify how the architect adapts to changing trends. Is he or she aware of new designs as they become available? Is he or she able to relate the trends and influences with the client’s preferences and wants? Most importantly, does the architect re-evaluate the design as construction practices, regulations and technology progresses over time?

2. Estimated Timeline: How Long Will It Take to Construct the Work?

As the process of constructing buildings is long and tedious, it is important for the architect to at least give you an estimated timeline. A defined timeline will enable you to allocate the budget more effectively since you will already know how expensive the project is going to be. However, change is an often-experienced concept in the field of architecture. Moreover, construction phases are dependent on a number of different factors making the process less concrete than one would expect. Architects do not control the time schedules of the constructor. Whereas most contractors are careful in adhering to the deadlines, unexpected problems can easily stall construction. Hence, it is prudent for a Singapore architect to give you an estimated timeline, but I would advise you to cross-check other references on how much it should take for your project to be completed.

3. Experience in the Market: Does the Singapore Architect Have the Relevant Qualifications?

If you are in the market for an architect, avoid just going on by looks or catchy advertisement campaigns but instead go for an architect with the relevant qualifications. We have all heard stories of people who can’t afford a fancy house but got a little bit interested in what the architect had to say. An architect’s education and qualification are a lengthy journey that includes 6 years of study and on-the-job training. The qualification process then takes at least 2 years that includes compiling a log book of relevant experience and taking the Singapore Board of Architects examination. Many architects take almost 10 years for qualification. Hence, it is important for you to find out whether the architect is fully qualified before deciding to work with him or her.

Be wary of an architect who claims to possess a high level of expertise but is devoid of any formal education, training or certification. In Singapore, it is illegal for anyone to use the word “architect” unless the person is registered (Refer to Board of Architects Singapore FAQ)

At the end of the day, a professional Architect has to adhere to strict standards of service and ethical practice as stipulated by the law.

4. Charge: How Much Does the Architect Plan to Charge for His Services?

Although some might call it impolite to discuss business immediately, money is usually on everyone’s mind when it comes to doing business. Because building is a major undertaking – be it a hotel, office building or a landed home, it is important to enquire how much money the architect will plan to charge for his services. Ask a number of questions regarding the what the cost covers and the schedule of payment. In general, there are three parts to the cost of the construction process- Architectural consultancy fees, Authority submission fees and Construction costs.

All of these three components are important to the Client – the last fee component – “construction” being the bulk of the cost for any project. The client can set the budget that will cover each of these parts independently, or the seek an architect for guidance and estimates. To avoid issues and misunderstandings, it is crucial that both the client and the architect agree on the scope of the project and costs involved for each part. This will help the Client work out an appropriate budget for the project.

5. Involvement: What is the Role of an Architect?

The key role of an Architect is the driver and supervisor of a building project. Before you agree to work with any Singapore Architect firm, check if they have the right experience for your type of job, and how they will be actively involved in the construction process. This includes not only design and submission to the relevant Authorities; it also involves project management during construction. Services will include organizing site and progress meetings, coordinating contractor and sub-consultants and issuance of relevant Certificates for progress and payment.
In all projects, architects are directly involved with the project from beginning to end. They constantly meet with clients, consultants and suppliers during the planning and design process. They will facilitate the tender selection process for the main contractor. Hence, it is clear that you want to engage an Architect that has a strong portfolio of experience and contacts in the industry.
Finally, experience of the architect and the level of involvement of the architect will have a considerable effect on the cost of the project. So, before signing any contract, make sure to discuss your involvement needs and your situation with your Singapore architect.

Conclusion

In a mature market, where architects ensure that owners are always satisfied, finding the right architect can be a difficult task. In such an environment, architects are competing with each other to try to impress the client with design, skills and competitive fees. Needless to say, it does not mean a smooth-talking designer with cheap fees has the relevant qualification to execute your building project, however minor or easy it may seem. As you may have observed in the earlier discussion, finding the right architect is as much about studying the architect as it is about studying the client.

If you are in the process of selecting a Singapore architect, you must consider searching the Board of Architects Singapore website to find out if your shortlisted Singapore Architect firm is competent and qualified. As a responsible customer, it’s your duty to find out if your Singapore architect meets the proper requirements and qualifications and have the relevant experience so that your building project will be completed to a level that will bring you satisfaction, delight and enjoyment.

A layman’s perspective: What are some differences between a builder and an architect

The Singapore Architect and the Singapore Builder are both professionals with unique and specialized roles in the completion of construction projects and they often must approach their tasks strategically to reach a common goal. One typically cannot function well without the other. A symbiotic relationship exists. If executed well, an awesome end-product will result, every time.

Architects and builders often work closely together but the nature of what they do is fundamen­tally different. Architects specialize in the abstract, in conceiving suitable configurations, shapes, and spaces. Builders are concerned with the con­crete details of materials and fasteners and with the physical work of construction. The architect is a big-picture person, responsible for envisioning the whole. It is the builder’s and the other tradesmen’s jobs to be concerned with the individual parts.

Who is an architect?

An architect is the one who transplants visions and ideas into blueprints, visualizing a client’s dream and setting the stage for its achievement. An architect focuses on the aesthetics of the structural work, as well as concentrate on the look, feel and functionality. He/she plans everything from the floor layout to the conceptualizing of the façade of the house. Also, the architect must ensure that the blueprints or aesthetics are put as per the correct standards for enhanced safety during the construction of the house.

In short, the architect seeds ideas, germinates them and sees to their fruition. The role is primarily a design role which has to have both imaginative and pragmatic elements. Foresight is a prerequisite as well. Key responsibilities of an architect encompass the following:

Design and Planning

Working with someone to envision your project before construction begins is invaluable. With a well-conceived design determined ahead of time, you can build a more efficient and economical project. As ideas evolve during design, it is easier to incorporate changes (and are far less expensive) than during the construction phase. Laying out your spaces optimally based on your needs and wants is important. Make sure spaces are appropriately sized and that they complement your needs. An ability to create multi-functional spaces where different activities can be performed in the same area is increasingly important to suit the modern lifestyle.

Future Flexibility

Many people are interested in creating age-in-place spaces so that they can enjoy spaces now and as they age. An ability to plan for and account for the changing needs of the users (clearances, mounting heights, etc) is crucial.

Creativity + Problem-Solving

A building project is often a mammoth undertaking. A creative problem solver not only elevates your design from just passable to something really out of this world, he/she can anticipate potential obstacles or challenges the project might face, keeping things a step ahead of the curve.

Aesthetic Style + Character

The design aesthetics of a project is probably the most obvious area in which a project can be made unique and appealing to suit various tastes and preferences. Working with someone who can bring that to the forefront is invaluable.

Building + Construction Know How

Construction of a building is an undertaking that requires knowledge of working with the building, planning, zoning and other government officials. Regulations and standards are often complex documents and are difficult for those outside of the building industry to comprehend. Working with someone able to navigate the regulatory maze is needless to say, very important. This can speed up the approvals process by many months, saving time and money for all concerned.

Materials + Finishes Selection

Keeping abreast of the latest construction materials and technologies means being able to better recommend materials and systems that fit your budget, tastes, are durable and saves you from frequent maintenance and replacement costs. An ability to discern product quality and value is a valuable asset.

Latest Techniques + Building Assemblies

Continual advances in technology portend for new building techniques and systems coming online with increasing frequency and meeting ever greater demands of society today, such as energy-efficiency requirements. These new products and techniques are rendering many traditional building practices obsolete. Working with someone who can take advantage of the best practices and improved techniques of today’s time will be imperative for the 21st Century.

Site Selection + Building Location

An analysis of the site of a building project is important. Undertaking a review of site features, topography, utility access, vehicular access and views helps you find the most ideal location for your structure on the site. Maximizing energy efficiency based on building orientation can further blend a building into the surrounding landscape yet enabling it to stand out from the rest.

Energy Efficiency

An ability to reduce utility bills, especially for a large house, will pay dividends for years to come. Constructing a building that responds to the site using passive heating and cooling strategies is smart. Successfully harnessing nature’s (free) energy resources also allows you to reduce your carbon footprint. In addition, an architect can suggest ways of conserving energy, water, and other resources altogether.

In Singapore, practising architects need to secure a registration with the Board of Architects (BOA).

some differences between singapore builder and singapore architect-2

Who is a builder?

Most home builders are essentially general contractors specializing in construction. A builder is a professional who can execute home construction from scratch to finish, following the blueprints provided by the architect. A builder concentrates on making sure the structure will be safe and habitable. is able to endure everyday and extreme conditions. The builder will analyze and evaluate the blueprints of the design from the architect and find ways to build it in the most efficient and practical way. This often utilises other professional’s advice that includes the structural and mechanical and electrical engineer. They will look at methods and techniques to turn the architect’s vision into reality.

The general responsibilities of a builder entail the planning and execution of all pertinent activities relating to the construction of a dwelling or building. The builder carries out his/her duties by supervising employees, planning how the project will be carried out and completing the project in a manner which abides by all laws, rules and regulations.

The builder would thus be responsible for providing all the material, labour, equipment (such as engineering vehicles and tools), services and obtaining the licences and permits necessary for the construction of the project. They would also often hire specialized subcontractors to perform all or portions of the construction work. When using subcontractors, the main contractor is responsible for the quality of all work performed by any and all of the hires.

Budget issues are another item which relate to responsibilities of a builder. The builder must establish a budget for the construction project and adhere to that budget as closely as possible. This will allow the builder to obtain supplies, hire workers and finish the construction in a cost-efficient manner. Instituting and following budgets is paramount which builders should be concerned with as they help ensure that the project does not incur cost overruns.

Throughout the construction process, the builder is also responsible for reviewing the progress and implementing any changes along the way. The builder needs to ensure that the building’s construction is going in accordance to plan. If need be, timely changes need to be made.

Last but not least, ensuring safety on the job site at all times is paramount.

In Singapore, licensed builders have to be registered with the Building and Construction Authority (BCA).

In conclusion, the architect and the builder play very distinct roles in a building project. It is crucial to engage both the right architect and builder for the project. It is helpful to note that the Singapore Architect will be able to recommend the appropriate builder for the respective building project-based on its design, typology and context.

5 Situations that make hiring a Singapore Architect the right thing to do

Look around you and it will be obvious that our built environment is all around us. The places where we work – our office and commercial buildings, live – our houses and apartments, and play– our entertainment and retail venues are the products brought to live by Architects.

So, what kind of situations make hiring a Singapore Architect the right thing to do? Here are 5 such situations seen from a local context in Singapore.

1. Change in Floor Area

This is an extremely common situation that involves any property owner – to maximise floor area. This is especially so in land-scarce in Singapore. Increasing floor area is often desirable because there is a direct correlation between a property’s floor area and value. The higher the area, the greater the value of the property. Typically, this is calculated on a per square meter (or per square foot) basis.

Do you wish to maximise the floor area of your property? A qualified Singapore Architect will be able to help you with this. They are able to check the relevant URA (Urban Redevelopment Authority) Masterplan parameters, perform relevant calculations and compute the optimum Gross Floor Area possible for your property.

2. Change in Building Configuration

A variation in area may lead to a change in the building configuration. These variations are often called ‘Additions and Alterations’. Whether you wish to vary the façade, add a lift or staircase or change the number of levels in your property (to maximise the area allowable), these will constitute ‘Addition and Alteration@ works.

In Singapore, there are regulations by various Authorities that govern how you can change the configuration or planning of a building. As a property owner who wishes to carry our such changes, it is essential to engage an Architect to advise them on how they can go about these changes.

For example, to carry our ‘Additions and Alterations’ to your house, you will need an Architect to submit these changes to URA. You can get an idea of these URA regulations here.

In certain cases – for example if you own a conservation shophouses – even minor changes will require a nod by the authorities. In fact, even changing the paint colour of the façade of the roof tiles will require the owner to comply to URA’s rules and regulations.
You can read more about URA’s guidelines on conservation buildings here.

Singapore Architect - Change in Building Design or Façade

3. Change in Building Design or Façade

Older buildings in Singapore tend to look aged over time, especially in the hot and tropical weather of Singapore. When there is a change of ownership, usually as a new owner you would like to change the façade design. This may mean larger windows, addition of balcony or simply change of wall paint of cladding materials. This is best done with the guidance of an Architect. While the change may seem easy and minor, an Architect will be able to give you the best advice. This relates to both design, material selection and Authority regulations.

Sometimes, owners may think it better to consult a builder. This is because a builder may be willing to give a price for the works. However, the price may not be accurate. The simple fact is that because there are no drawings for them to calculate the costs; hence there is no basis for their price. At best, this would be just an estimate.

4. Change of Building use

There are instances when a property owner wishes to change the usage of their property. If you would like to utilise your property, asset or land in a different way, you would have to submit a proposal to the authorities for a change of use.

For example, an owner of a commercial property may wish to change its 1st level to a F&B outlet. This will require a change of use. In addition, there may be other parameters that will affect this change. An Architect will be able to advise on whether the property can indeed be permissible to vary its 1st level usage, and the compliances that are required by other relevant Authorities.

The URA provides guidelines for the application for change of use here.


5. Development of land

If you own a plot of land and you are asking what you should do with it – a feasibility study can be done. This will study the pros and cons of each idea/concept. Will you do something typical of the neighbourhood or try something unique?

There are various factors to consider: building typology, authority regulations, area distribution and design expression. Within the Singapore context, you will need to calculate the areas and usage within URA’s guidelines.

A feasibility study can be undertaken by an Architect to help you make your decisions. He or she will be certainly be able to propose creative solutions, whilst still maximising the potential for your plot of land.

Therefore, it is clear from the above that hiring a Singaporean Architect will be the wise choice when it comes to your property in Singapore.