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Design for success

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ConstructionIlloWORK ENVIRONMENT has been shown to improve productivity, absenteeism, and morale among employees, but sometimes it takes more than just a coat of paint to upgrade a space. You might want to consider hiring a design professional.

If you’re looking for someone to help coordinate fixtures, wallcoverings, furniture, artwork and other superficial aspects of a space, go with an interior decorator. Space planners can help arrange an office to maximize workflow efficiency or occupancy. But if you’re looking to make renovations that will require structural changes and a building permit, you’ll need a licensed architect.

To start your search, get referrals from others, and check out candidates’ past work. Larger companies might even have a set procurement process to go through. When you’ve narrowed down your choices, ask for proposals to help you decide, says Ron Barber, principal at BBT Architects, in Bend. There is usually no charge for this service, but it’s important to be clear about what you’re looking for, he says. Be upfront about your budget, time constraints and goals.

“The more descriptive you can be about what it is you’re asking the architect to do, the finer they can tune a fee proposal,” Barber says.

Brad Dehle, principal at Soderstrom Architects, in Portland, suggests conducting interviews. You’ll want to ask how you’ll be charged for the architect’s services and ensure that their experience translates to your project. For example, you probably don’t want someone who specializes
in edgy, modern restaurants to design a boardroom. It’s important that the firm has enough size to deal with your project, too.

Dehle also emphasizes that an architect’s work isn’t over when the plans are drawn up. Even small jobs can take as long as a year,
so it’s important to choose someone with whom you
get along.

“That could supersede a small difference in fee,” Dehle says. “It might cost 10 percent more right upfront, but it can save you 10 percent of heartburn over
dealing with someone who doesn’t have the right personality for you.”

Keep in mind that an architect’s fee is relative compared with the savings they can provide on materials, future maintenance and building
efficiency. When you’ve found the right person or firm for the job, get the details in writing, and be sure they include a fixed fee or top limit if the rate is hourly.

“You can run into all kinds of problems if you hire on a phone call and a handshake,” Barber says.
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