Whether you're looking to build a new restaurant, shopping center or office building, the most important first step to guaranteeing a successful commercial project is selecting the right architect. A poor choice here can lead to cost overruns, building delays and a finished project with a design that doesn't fit your needs. With that in mind, here are four key steps to take when deciding on a commercial project architect.

Do Your Research

A quick Internet search is often the best place to start when researching potential commercial architect candidates. It can be as simple as searching for your location and your project type, such as “Houston office building architect.” Review each architecture firm’s website to understand their approach and design experience with your particular type of commercial project.

Word of mouth can help you narrow down your field of potential architect choices even further. Friends and work associates, particularly those within your field, can provide critical insights that an architecture firm’s website or Internet presence may not reveal.

Interview Your Top Options

After conducting research, plan on interviewing your top three or four choices. The goal of this interview is to see if the commercial architecture firm’s work style matches your own. You’ll likely want to ask questions that will help you understand how often updates will occur, how such updates happen, and how challenges that arise during the process are addressed. Going over examples of past work can also help clarify if a particular architect can deliver the end product you’re looking for.

Check References

The interview stage should narrow your architect options down to one or two candidates–but the process isn’t over yet. Checking references is key to understanding what it will be like to work with that architecture firm. Ask questions about whether the reference would work with the architect again, how problems that arose during the process were handled, and if there was anything that the architect should have done differently.

Look for the Best Fit

During all of these stages, keep in mind that you’re not just looking for the best architect; you’re looking for the best architect for your project. That means finding a design team that you think will work well with your own team, that has a communication style that matches your own, and that has experience with the specific type of project that you’re looking to build.