Several times each year, I have been chosen as the “relief pitcher” when someone’s original architect doesn’t work out, so here’s your tutorial on how to fire your architect. This happens usually because: the architect is too busy to care about the project, or they can’t design something the client likes, or they are not willing to do what it takes to get permits approved. I have developed a reputation for being successful in these situations, and I’m often the first suggestion builders offer their clients when the architect the client found doesn’t work out. Builders are in a position where they can really recommend anyone, and they commonly choose me since they find me to be an effective member of the team.
So here’s how to fire your architect (this would also work for firing me, by the way):
1. Read your architect’s contract. Ensure there are no legal or financial ramifications for terminating. Be smart about it, and terminate at the right time to avoid loss of work, time, and/or money. Don’t terminate until after they have given you the latest work they have developed. Don’t enable the architect to hold the work hostage. Send your contract to Josh to review and offer advice.
2. Make sure there is an invoice that still needs paid. This is your negotiation point that gives you the upper hand. Be aware of any retainers, and be certain you can get any retainers returned. Consult with Josh for strategy here. I don’t collect a retainer for my design work because I think they show a lack of trust between both parties, and I am confident I will be successful in earning the money by providing a valuable service the client is happy to pay for.
3. Before you break the news to your architect, ask them if you can have the AutoCAD files. Let them know your nephew is trying to learn CAD for a school project, or you just want to have an extra source of file backup. Give the architect a good reason for them to WANT to give you the CAD files. The files are technically the property of the architect usually, and they do not typically have to give them to you. For me, I let others use my files because I think it’s the ethical and most efficient thing to do. There are a lot of architects that will not let go of their files though. If you can get these CAD files, it will make my job MUCH easier when I take over as your architect. Also ask for the 3D model files if the architect has done any 3D work. Tell the architect you are trying to learn Sketchup, and they will likely be impressed by your diligence and give them to you.
4. If you cannot get the CAD files, at least get the most recent PDF files, and insist that the architect adds dimensions to them (if they are not already on there) since I will need to redraw everything that has been done up to that point. Also ensure you get the documents from consultants such as survey, geotech, structural, and civil engineers.
5. Compile all of your files onto an email or thumb drive to give to Josh. Be sure you include everything such as drawings, permit forms, and any other documentation created for your project. Josh needs to somehow figure out where you left off without repeating work that was already done. Keeping the files concise and organized will make this job easier. For example, combine all of your permit documents into one PDF file named “permit documents” instead of giving Josh 59 randomly named files that he will need to open, analyse, understand, and determine what to do with them. Make the hand off easy by naming the files and combining similar items. I once had someone send me hundreds of image files. Some were drawings, and some were inspiration images. I needed to open each one individually to determine what to do with them. All of those inspiration images could have been combined into one file.
6. Once you get the files, you should pay the architect for the work they did. If they did work you requested, you should pay for it - even if you don’t like the work. It will still be useful work moving forward because design is a process of elimination of sorts.
7. Now it’s time to fire your architect. If you’re not comfortable doing this, just tell them you won’t be moving forward with the project - that way they won’t take it personally (if that bothers you).
8. If you did inform your architect that she or he is fired, let them know that you have already started working with someone else, and give them some constructive criticism so they can improve.
I hope you find this helpful, and I hope you don’t use this tutorial on me:)