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Finding the right architect for your renovation or remodeling work in Italy can be the difference between the success or failure of your project! You may be asking yourself whether or not you actually need an architect for your project but in most cases it really is necessary, especially for larger renovations or serious rebuilds of ruined properties. Property renovation is common among the expat community in Italy. Houses and flats in Italy, in most cases, do not have modern kitchens and bathrooms. They have to be upgraded if you are planning to live there long term.
Difference Between An Architect And A Geometra.
Not many countries make a distinction between the professions of a geometra and an architect because usually what a geometra does in Italy would be covered by other professional roles; including real estate lawyers, contractors, architects and surveyors.
However, in Italy the role of a geometra is a separate, multifaceted profession that includes property surveyor, basic architectural design and planning as well as managing contractors and overseeing modest renovations and property builds. They also help to manage local regulatory requirements and handle much of the necessary red tape that accompanies any building project in Italy!
An architect on the other hand, is a far more specialized professional than a geometra and requires extensive formal training over a longer period of time to qualify. An architect must undergo at least 5 years of university level training which not only involves architectural planning and design work but also incorporates art history and the study of building styles throughout the ages.
The formal training gives an architect a deeper academic understanding of building projects but during their internships and practical on the job training they learn other complementary real world skills. A good architect can oversee a project of any size and can be trusted with much higher levels of complexity in their design work.
There are many cases in Italy where people use a geometra instead of an architect. It may be okay to use a geometra instead of an architect for very minor renovations. But for most other renovations, you must engage the services of an architect.
Why You Need An Architect For Renovation Projects In Italy.
It may be tempting not to employ a fully qualified architect to help with your renovation project to save costs by cutting corners and only taking on the services of a geometra, however, in most cases this is a bad idea.
Any small mistake that a geometra might make, that an architect would have picked up on, can end up costing huge amounts of money to repair and furthermore, if your project has any level of complexity then the risk is simply not worth taking!
Employing the services of an architect for your project will guarantee that the work is professionally done, that you meet necessary building codes and environmental requirements while also ensuring that the finished project comes out exactly how you envisioned it would.
It’s especially important to work with an architect if you’re doing a renovation in an urban area where the regulations will be more complex and the project itself will be harder to manage in the more enclosed space. In some urban municipalities, it’s actually a legal requirement to have your project signed off by either an architect or a qualified engineer before you can commence. In an urban area mistakes can be extremely costly and the completed project has to be up to scratch to avoid problems with local authorities and neighbors alike.
Architects in Italy offer a wide range of additional services, some of which include:
- Full and comprehensive feasibility studies before work commences.
- Complete evaluation of the building’s potential.
- Master planning services.
- Architectural design and advice.
- Computer renderings of the project options.
- Traditional models of the work to be done.
- 3D interactive computer visualizations of the building before and after the renovations.
- Oversee contractors and other builders for the project.
- Undertake environmental impact studies.
- Structural engineering design and oversight.
- Cost estimates and accurate quotes.
- Advice and costing of furniture, interior design and other fittings.
- Complete oversight and responsibility for construction and administration of the project.
- Ensure that the project stays within the agreed budget.
- Reliably handle all the paperwork on your behalf.
How To Find A Great Architect In Italy?
Finding an architect can be tricky especially if you’re planning to conduct a large project that will cost a lot of money. However, the services of a good, reliable architect are invaluable and can really make a huge difference to the overall outcome of your renovations or remodeling project. The following are the things you have to keep in mind when looking for a good architect in Italy.
The Value Of Word Of Mouth Advice.
The first thing that you should do when you decide that you need an architect is to ask around! A great place to start inquiring is amongst the Expat community, many of whom will already have used a local architect on previous projects.
If you personally know Expats in your locality, then you can ask around your friends. You can post in Expat groups or Facebook groups. Once you’ve joined the groups you can post a request for recommendations for a local architect in your area. Another idea is to ask the real estate agent who helped you buy the property. In my case I had a property manager who was managing the property when I was not in Volterra. I hired the property management company to oversee the renovations and hired the architect that they recommended.
Word of mouth recommendations are usually the most reliable of all, so you should definitely start your search for an architect in this way.
Searching The Internet For An Architect Has Its Limitations.
The internet is an extremely powerful tool which you can utilize to find a local architect. If an architect has a good, professional website it not only shows that they are up to date with technological trends, but it also means that in some cases they will be able to oversee certain aspects of your project from a distance. For instance, once the designs and blueprints are in the hands of the contractors, the architect will not always need to be present on site as well.
Having said this, I have to say that most architects in Italy, even the very good ones, do not have a proper website. So finding an architect by just by Googling is my least favorite way of finding a good architect.
Always Check Their Credentials.
When you’re hiring an architect you want to double check to ensure that they are fully graduated professionals who have undergone the complete 5 years of formal training. You can also ask them about any internships, practical work experience and past projects they’ve done to get a better idea of whether they can deliver the types of results that you are looking for.
Amazingly, in Italy, not all professionals who advertise themselves as architects or engineers have completed the proper training and received their formal qualifications. This means that you should always take a moment to inspect their qualifications and ask about their professional background and experience.
You should also look carefully at the architect’s past work and think about whether or not you like the style and the approach they take to their work. This is a highly subjective aspect of the selection process so it’s vital for you to personally approve of their creativity and vision in past projects.
The Cheapest Architect Is Not Always The Best Architect.
During the interview process, always ask for an initial estimate of the cost involved based on the scope of work. However, your decision to hire an architect should not be based on the cost alone. The estimates might be low because the architect might not have enough work because of prior bad performances. It could also be low because he/she might not fully understand the scope of work.
How Good Is The Architects Communication Skills?
If you’re considering taking on the services of an architect but find that they cannot communicate well with you then you may want to steer clear and look for a different one to work with. This is especially important if you don’t speak Italian!
A good architect should be able to listen carefully to what you say, take it on board, and then create plans that meet your vision for the property. The architect should also be able to communicate their own advice, suggestions and ideas to you in a clear and easy to understand way.
Architects Prior Experience With Other Contractors.
Most experienced architects have obviously worked with other contractors like contractors who specialize in demolition, roof work, kitchen renovations, plumbers, electricians etc. You have to have a straight forward conversation with the architect that you are interviewing about his thoughts on the contractors. Who is thinking of potentially hiring? How often has he worked with them in the past? Were there delays or cost overruns? etc. NOTE: You should never let the architect hire his team all by themselves. You should be very involved in the process as well. It is not all that uncommon in Italy for an architect to hire a contractor who also happens to be his cousin!!
How Are An Architect’s Fees Calculated?
As a general rule, an architect’s fees will range from between 5% to 20% of the total cost of the project. The percentage will depend on how much of the project they are managing and the complexity of the work they oversee.
One thing that you need to bear in mind is that at the very beginning of the process, during the consultation and planning stage, it won’t necessarily be possible to accurately determine the overall cost of the project. At this stage in the process, the architect is likely to request a retainer fee or an hourly rate for the planning and consultation that is required before more in depth design and management can begin.
The industry standard, in terms of delivering payments, is to pay on a monthly basis either as the project is ongoing or after it is completed. You need to be upfront and ask about the specifics of what the architect expects so you can properly plan your finances going forward.
I paid my architect 10%. This fee includes the cost involved in creating the designs, plans and also for getting all the permits and permissions from the local authorities. My property manager was responsible for managing the entire renovation. The payments to the architect were made in installments after certain predetermined buckets of work were completed.
Finding A Great Architect Will Ensure Your Project Meets Your Expectations.
Whether you’re planning to renovate, remodel or rebuild your property in Italy it’s important to consider whether or not you need to take on the services of a fully qualified architect.
The truth is that in most cases you will probably need, or at least benefit significantly, from having an architect’s experience, knowledge and training to make sure that your project runs smoothly and ends up with results that will impress you as well as any future buyers or tenants of the property.
Finding a suitable architect for your project doesn’t need to be a major headache and if you use the resources and recommendations available to you you should soon be able to find the perfect fit for you and your vision.