Architects and the Public

You can find an architect in a number of ways, including:

  • Review the Membership Listing on the NSAA website.
  • Visit architects’ websites. As well, you may be able to visit the offices of various architectural firms to review portfolios of their work.
  • Use your own experience to identify architects that have served you well in the past.
  • Ask for recommendations from other organizations or persons who may have had similar projects.
  • Advertise in a local or province-wide publication.

You will find the process easier if you keep the list of potential architects to a manageable number. For a small project, two architects may be sufficient, whereas ten or more may be appropriate for a large, complicated assignment.

What exactly is an architect?

Architects create homes, office towers, schools and churches. They are talented people with a flair for design, an awareness of social trends, keen business sense, a solid understanding of building science and the law, as it pertains to the practice of architecture. The word “versatile” may have been invented to describe Architects!

It all starts with a commission--or contract--from a client. The commission may involve the design of a single building or a group of buildings and the spaces between them. The client may be a person, a board of directors, a government department or a business.

Usually, the Architect leads a team of specialists including structural, mechanical and electrical engineers, as well as others. The Architect must also understand and deal with building codes and bylaws set out by municipal, provincial and federal governments.


Why and when do I need an architect?

If you are thinking about designing and constructing a building, then a licensed architect is the trained and experienced professional who is equipped to guide you through the entire process. The need to hire a licensed architect is not only a matter of good business, but may also be a legal requirement. The Province of Nova Scotia requires that design drawings for new buildings or renovations of certain size and type be prepared by and bear the seal of a licensed architect, with the exception of buildings described in Section 56.2 of the Nova Scotia Architects Act. If you are considering hiring an architect, you should also familiarize yourself with both the NSAA Canons of Ethics and the NSAA Architects Scope, as both will give you a better understanding of the responsibilities and expectations of a licensed architect.

Only architects licensed with the Nova Scotia Association of Architects can legally practice in Nova Scotia and call themselves “architects”.

In addition to the legal requirements, there are many other positive reasons for hiring an architect. Regardless of your project size, when you work with an architect you will receive a number of benefits, including:

  • Vision – An architect will help you define and clarify your needs by providing drawings and/or sketches so that you can actually start to see your end result;
  • Knowledge – An architect will help you see options that could save you time and money;
  • Expertise – Architects have completed the accredited education, examination, and work experience requirements to achieve a licence to practice in Nova Scotia;
  • Experience – Architects are experienced in construction and will provide detailed project specifications that will be followed by your contractor; and
  • Value - The cost of an architect’s services is an investment, not an expense.

A successful construction project will:

  • fulfill your desires and dreams as the client;
  • meet the needs of your building’s users; and
  • contribute to the general well-being of the environment.

This is the result you can expect from an effective working relationship between you and your architect.

Architects are trained to help you realize your objectives and guide you through the design and construction process. Specifically, architects will help you through the complex regulatory building process including zoning bylaws, building codes, and contractors’ bids.

Through education, training, and professional experience, the architect can transform your ideas and vision into design solutions that meet your needs.

The architect is the advisor, coordinator, technical manager, and creative artist who can design and administer a contract that results in a project which is completed on schedule, within budget, and to a high standard of quality.


1 -

2 -

3 -

What should I do if I have a complaint about an architect?

As the regulator of the practice of architecture in Nova Scotia, the NSAA handles complaints regarding the conduct or actions of a member of the NSAA. A member of the NSAA is anyone who appears in the member directory as a licensed architect, associate member, retired member or Intern Architect.

Section 36 of the Architects Act of 2006 outlines the complaints process. For ease of reference, here is a flowchart of the process. Architects licensed with the NSAA must follow the Canons of Ethics.

If you have any questions or concerns about the conduct of a member of the NSAA, please Margo Dauphinee, Executive Director at or call (902) 423-7607.

How to Select an Architect

Selecting an architect is one of the most important decisions you will make when undertaking a project. You may use one of the following selection methods:

Qualifications-based selection (QBS) (sometimes called “quality-based selection”) is one of the most common methods of selecting the right architect for the project. In particular, institutions, corporations or public agencies (sometimes represented by a committee) use this method. QBS is a system that chooses an architect on the basis of professional qualifications and competence. This procedure will provide your project with the best-qualified architect with whom you can develop a professional relationship. Such a relationship is very important for the kind of in-depth discussion which allows the architect and the engineers to deal effectively with issues on your behalf.

To achieve an objective comparison, QBS uses predetermined, value-based criteria that may include such factors as:

  • the architect’s history and capability to perform required services;
  • related experience such as past performance on similar types of projects;
  • familiarity with local geography and facilities;
  • experience and skills in project management; and
  • design approach/methodology.

The process compares two or more architects. The client (or committee members, if applicable) makes a selection based upon their judgement of which architect is most likely to handle the project successfully. Other criteria include:

  • reputation;
  • rapport;
  • technical competence;
  • commitment to the client’s interests; and
  • the client’s desire for imagination and ingenuity.

Direct selection is most often used by an individual who has a relatively small project. The client selects an architect on the basis of reputation, personal acquaintance or the recommendation of a friend, former client or another architect. Sometimes, institutions maintain a roster of architects, and they select a different practice for each project by using a rotation system.

Architectural design competitions are sometimes used to select both an architect and a design for both public and private projects. In this method, architects submit solutions to a particular problem and are judged on the comparative excellence of their submissions. The successful architect is usually awarded the commission for the actual project. Competitions may be “open” (to all architects) or “limited” (by invitation to a restricted number of architects).

If you are considering a design competition, you may be required to obtain written approval from the provincial association where the project will be located. Architects are permitted to compete only when they are assured that the competition will be held in accordance with established rules.

How to Engage an Architect

Client-Architect Agreements

It’s in your best interests as a client to have a definite understanding with the architect about your respective obligations, responsibilities, and expectations. This understanding is most effectively accomplished by a thorough review of:

  • the scope of the services to be provided by the architect;
  • the projected time period for the work to be completed;
  • the amount of the architect’s fees; and
  • the method of payment for the architect’s services.

When you and the architect have fully discussed and agreed upon these items, a written contract outlining all of these factors should be prepared.

Agreements based on recognized standards are preferred, and the use of the Canadian Standard Form of Agreement Between Client and Architect: Document Six (RAIC 2002) is recommended. For those projects where only limited services are to be provided or when the full standard form is not practical, the recommended alternative is the Canadian Standard Form of Agreement Between Client and Architect—Abbreviated Version: Document Seven (RAIC 2005).

The agreements set out the services to be provided by the architect. They also identify your responsibility as the client to provide the following information:

  • the requirements for the project under consideration;
  • physical specifications (such as spatial and functional relationships);
  • legal services;
  • site aspects (such as surveys, subsurface investigation reports, etc.); and
  • the schedule for payment of fees.

The use of the Canadian Standard Form of Agreement Between Client and Architect: Document Six (RAIC 2006) is recommended.