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Selecting an Architect

Private Appointment

Clients often appoint an architect who is known to them or who has been recommended, or whose work they admire. This can be a sound initial response, but a more structured process of selection is desirable where matching requirements with the range of skills and services available has to be more precise.

Call each firm on your shortlist, describe your project and ask if they are available to accommodate it. If so, request literature that outlines the firm’s qualifications and experience. Ask to see a portfolio of work, or to visit finished buildings, and visit their websites. Above all, talk to your intended architect. It is important to ensure that you are compatible. Your architects must convince you both of their creativity and their ability to get things done.

The TTIA also recommends A Guide to Competitive Quality Based Selection of Architects published by the International Union of Architects which applies a standardised methodology to the selection process and provides clarity and criteria for choosing an architect.

Once you’ve decided on the type of architect that’s right for you, you can search our members database to find the right architect for you.

Request for Proposal (RFP)

This procedure is a good mechanism for transparency and demonstrates good corporate governance in an organisation. For larger, architect-led projects, organisations (i.e. institutions, government ministries and state enterprises) often send out a request for proposal requiring submission of the proposal in a 2-envelope system, where one proposal is a technical proposal and the other is a financial proposal.

The technical proposal (submitted in one envelope) will require information that will demonstrate a firm’s capability to perform the task and typically requires information about the firm or group of firms as a team of consultants is often required (i.e. firm profile, organisational chart, cv’s of the team that will be working on the project, proposed schedule for delivery of the task, work stages, demonstration of experience including project related experience, financial capability, availability, insurance, demonstration of understanding of the task as well as the approach to the project or methodology. These criteria are evaluated on a qualitative basis based on the client’s weighting criteria.

The financial proposal (submitted in a separate envelope) generally requires the fee for the task and often a breakdown of the fee in stages. The Board of Architecture of Trinidad and Tobago (BoATT) Code of Conduct prevents Registered Architects from competing on the basis of fees, so technical proposals must be opened first and only the financial proposal of the highest-ranking firm must be opened. If negotiations with the highest-ranking firm are successful, the remaining financial proposals are to be returned unopened to the unsuccessful firms. If negotiations with the highest-ranking firm are unsuccessful, then negotiations are to begin with the next highest-ranking firm until an appointment is made.

The RFP should also include important information about the project such as the site, the user’s brief including space requirements, timelines, budget (if available), question and answer periods, evaluation criteria and weighting and of course deadlines.


For larger projects, sometimes, organisations may invite architects to pre-qualify in order to narrow down the field of submissions to architects or teams that are capable of providing services for specific project types. The pre-qualified firms would be later invited to submit proposals as per a Request for Proposal (see above). Typical Prequalification requirements include a firm profile, organizational charts, CVs of the team, related projects, financial capability, and insurance.

Architectural Competition

This form of appointment is often used to get the best solution, given a number of criteria for a unique project or important national site. It typically has specific rules to ensure fairness such as detailed project information and brief, a jury (which should include at least one architect), adequate timeframe for registration, submissions and judging, specific submission requirements and of course prize money. This form tends to be more expensive to a client and requires more time than a typical appointment, but is useful for engaging public discourse and selecting the best solution rather than the cheapest or fastest. (Note: in the French Overseas Territories (Guadeloupe, Martinique), all buildings are done by architectural competition by law, which indicates the importance of the design of buildings to the public in these societies). In Trinidad and Tobago, all competitions (i.e. invited, ‘open’ or international) need to have a requirement for collaboration with a local registered architect, in order to ensures better awareness of local environmental, social, and cultural factors and ethical and legal standards as well as compliance with local laws governing the practice of architecture in Trinidad and Tobago (

For more information or advice about Architectural Competitions please contact the President of the TTIA.