Project Architect Job Description
Project architects manage construction projects from the conceptual design phase through completion of construction. In this role, a project architect leads teams of engineers and contractors while meeting directly with clients to develop and execute large-scale projects according to schedule and budgets. This position balances active architectural duties with a leadership role in both designing and drafting building plans while overseeing construction during the project lifecycle.
Project Architect Duties and Responsibilities
Design and Draft Building Plans
One of the primary responsibilities of a project architect is designing and drafting building plans for residential, commercial, and industrial construction projects. Project architects work with drafting software like AutoCAD to design projects and then present these plans to clients and construction crews. In this aspect of the role, a project architect will usually collaborate with engineers to ensure that project elements like structures and building elements are developed according to local codes and meet client needs.
Consult with Clients
Project architects also consult directly with clients to determine a project’s needs and client specifications for many design elements. In addition to initial meetings with clients to determine project scope, set budgets, and generate contracts, the project architect frequently meets with clients to discuss progress, clear up questions that arise during the construction process, and report on site development. A project architect might also communicate with clients once the project is completed to ensure that it meets client needs and expectations.
Oversee Contractors and Construction Crews
A project architect will also make frequent site visits throughout the construction project to monitor contractor progress, answer questions that may arise, and ensure that milestones are completed according to the project timeline. The project architect provides expertise and advice throughout the building process while also stepping in to prevent delays and to make changes to the initial project plan or blueprint as needed. A construction background is especially helpful in this aspect of the role.
Visit and Review Work Sites
Project architects may also be responsible for site planning and development to ensure that projects comply with zoning, environmental, and safety requirements. In some cases, this requires that a project architect has a solid grasp of both local and national regulations and building standards. Throughout the project, the project architect will also conduct site visits and reviews to ensure that these standards are upheld and correctly implemented at all stages of construction.
Prepare Documents and Specifications
As part of the development and design process, a project architect also prepares project documents and specifications for both contractors and clients. A successful project architect should be able to translate complex construction documents into accessible and actionable specification sheets to provide contractors with vital information regarding the project. This may also include preparing material specification documents for certain project elements and developing and maintaining a project manual.
Budget and Schedule Management
Finally, project architects need to manage both time schedules and project budgets to ensure that construction projects are completed on time and within set budgets. A project architect should be highly organized and able to determine which contractors are needed and set project milestones and deadlines. In addition, a project architect may be responsible for identifying material needs and costs and developing cost-reduction strategies to ensure profitability.
Project Architect Skills and Qualifications
Project architects need to possess both a technical aptitude for designing and developing projects and the ability to manage teams, schedules, and budgets. Project architects generally need at least a bachelor’s degree in architecture, along with the following skills:
- Architectural Design – Project architects need extensive experience with drafting building plans and blueprints, often in collaboration with engineers and clients. Project architects need to be licensed in their state, which requires passing the Architect Registration Examination (ARE)
- Schedule Management – Because they oversee projects from initial client meetings through completion of construction, project architects need to successfully manage schedules and set project timelines
- Team Leadership – Project architects are able to successfully lead and manage teams, including contractors and other personnel within their architecture firms
- Written and Verbal Communication – Effective communication is also key for project architects, as they need to prepare documents and specifications and communicate directly with clients, contractors, and other personnel
- Budgeting – Project architects have a solid grasp on project budgeting to ensure profitability. This can involve determining material needs and costs and reviewing contractor estimates during the planning phase
Tools of the Trade
Project architects typically split their time between an office setting and construction sites. They typically need to be familiar with standard office software, along with the following:
- Drafting software (AutoCAD, SketchUp)
Project Architect Education and Training
Generally, project architects need at least a bachelor of architecture degree, which is usually a five-year degree program with a focus on construction projects, best practices, engineering, science, and math. Most project architects begin their career working directly under a senior architect and must complete their Architect Registration Exam (ARE) and receive their state license before working independently.
Project Architect Salary and Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for architects was $76,930 in 2016. The highest-earning 10 percent earned more than $129,810, while the lowest 10 percent earned $46,600. Project architects can expect their earnings to increase as they successfully complete projects and achieve promotions to senior level, which also brings more supervisory duties.
Employment for architects is expected to grow 4 percent between 2016 and 2026, which is slower than average. The BLS also notes that a high number of graduates are expected to complete their degrees in architecture within the next decade, which will make these positions very competitive.
We searched the web and found many resources and opportunities if you’re considering a job as a project architect:
American Institute of Architects – The American Institute of Architects provides resources and articles for architects at every career stage.
The Art of Construction: Projects and Principles for Beginning Engineers & Architects by Mario Salvadori – This book provides an overview of design principles and best practices for new architects.
What is the Architect Registration Exam? – A working architect looks at the history and current state of the ARE exam and provides tips for prospective exam-takers.
Project Planning & Design (PPD) ARE 5.0 Mock Exam (Architect Registration Examination): ARE 5.0 Overview, Exam Prep Tips, Hot Spots, Case Studies, Drag-and-Place, Solutions and Explanations by Gang Chen – Prepare for the ARE with this book of tips and specific projects, including a practice test.
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