I’ve noticed that while many people are familiar with the role of an architect, the title “Project Architect” can sometimes cause confusion. Even among architects, the differences between these two titles can be unclear. In this article, I’d like to explain my understanding of the responsibilities and duties associated with each title. I will also provide some insight into the role of a project architect, especially what one can expect when working as a project architect in an architectural firm.
The term Architect refers to a professional who designs buildings. This is a title given to a person when they fulfil all the requirements set out by the professional body in charge of regulating architecture in their jurisdiction or country. These professional bodies spell out the duties, responsibilities and ethics binding the profession.
Architects can carry out several specialized roles that focus on specific aspects of design and construction in an office. For example, Contract Administrators, 3D rendering specialists, BIM/CAD managers, technologists, Architectural designers, Project managers, Interior designers, etc. However, whenever an architect is in charge of overseeing the entire design and construction of a specific building project, then they are fulfilling the role of a project architect.
The Project Architect
While an architect is a professional who designs buildings and structures, a project architect is a licensed architect who is in charge of overseeing the design and construction of a specific building project. The project architect is responsible for coordinating the work of other architects and engineers, and ensuring that the project meets the client’s requirements and budget.
The Project architect’s role encompasses the entire project lifecycle, starting from inception and ending with construction. As the leader and manager of specific architectural projects, the project architect bears a significant responsibility. Senior architects in architectural offices and architects who own their own firms usually fill this role. However, it’s crucial to understand that other employees within the firm, despite bearing the title of architect, have distinct roles such as architectural designer, technologist, or contract administrator and should not be mistaken as project architects.
The role of a Project Architect
The role of a project architect starts when a project is assigned to the architect, usually at the beginning of the design commission. These roles are:
As the project architect, you must establish an organized file/folder structure either in hardcopy or softcopy or both to track and store all necessary documents, contracts, correspondence, designs, shop drawings, and other materials throughout the project process. Furthermore, you must continuously update a project timeline for the project, design team, consultants, and all parties involved. Managing an architectural project requires extensive documentation and coordination of the various design and construction stages.
Client relationship management
During this phase, project architects must foster a positive relationship with the client or their representative and document all communication with them. They must manage the contract documents between the client and architect, as well as between the architect and consultants on behalf of the client. At times, project architects must coordinate information and payments between clients and other consultants.
Coordination of the architect’s design team
As the project architect, it is your responsibility to guide your design team and provide them with the necessary information to perform their jobs effectively. This team may consist of architectural designers, technologists, interior designers, intern architects, and anyone else working on the project in the architect’s office. At times, you must coordinate with the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), such as a city or town’s planning approval or permit office.
As the project architect, it is your duty to coordinate with other consultants, such as structural, electrical, and mechanical engineers. You may delegate the detailed checking of consultant design inputs, such as clash detection of mechanical ducting and structural slabs, to other members of the architect’s design team, but the final responsibility rests with you.
Construction budget management
As the project architect, it is your duty to monitor any changes in the construction budget and consult with the client on how to stay within budget constraints. If the budget exceeds the client’s expectations, it could result in contract termination, making budget control a crucial responsibility. Additionally, you must receive construction bids and analyze them for the client.
During contract administration, as the project architect, you are responsible for monitoring compliance to ensure that construction is adhering to standards and designs set out in the construction document. Also, overseeing construction, communicating with all parties, reviewing and approving documents, conducting site visits, and managing the project budget and schedule.
In conclusion, the role of a project architect encompasses many aspects of the design and construction process, from project management and client relationship management to coordinating with the design team and other consultants, and managing the construction budget and schedule. It requires extensive documentation, coordination, and communication skills, as well as the ability to maintain a positive relationship with the client and all parties involved in the project. Project architects must be knowledgeable and responsible in order to oversee the entire project lifecycle and ensure the project meets the client’s requirements and budget.