Architecture Project Types - Architecture Career Guide
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what kind of architect are you

Architecture Project Types

what kind of architect are youWhat type of architecture do you do?

One thing most people don’t understand, or understand only on a very basic level is that architects work on many different project types that can vary greatly. From houses to shopping centers to multiunit developments, architecture can take many forms. Architecture firms can be generalists that work on many of these different types, diversifying their market, while others are specialists, focusing on one particular project. These project types can run the gamut from interiors to skyscrapers, with the sizes of the firms growing accordingly. Below are some of the most common project types architecture firms work on.

Custom Residential Design

A large majority of Architects focus their work on custom residential design work for single family residences. These projects are typically for a single client that is looking for an architect to design the house they will be living in personally. The architect will be brought in early on to help the client determine their needs, budget, size and type of building. The architect can be involved in assisting the owner in choosing a site, and selecting a contractor as well. Custom residential architects will design the building from the ground up, coming up with the form, aesthetics, finishes, appliances, sometimes down to furniture. They will assist during the construction of the house to ensure the owner is getting the best quality house for their money.

Other Residential Projects

As a subset of residential design, there are other projects that architects can work on from remodels to builder/developer design. Many architects will work on a residential remodel project at some point in their career, either early on as they are just starting, or for a family friend who needs help. Remodels and additions can be simple interior remodels to complex second story additions, and are generally a side focus of many firms and not the primary focus. Some architects also work on designs for a builder or developer who is building multiple speculation (spec) houses, but this is not common.

Mutlifamily

Increasing in size, multifamily is larger and sometimes more complex than single family residential in that it deals with larger buildings and developments. This can be in the form of apartment complexes or condo developments that house multiple families in the same connected building. These project will involve more code requirements and planning department coordination and have to deal with factors such as parking, acoustics and floor-area-ratios (amount for floor area you can have on a given site).

Commercial Retail

These project types deal with things from single building stores to mutlitenant shopping malls. These projects deal with more complex factors as parking, site flow, selling areas vs. storage and display areas. Specialists firms that are hired by large franchises will either be hired to do a “prototype” design that can be replicated numerous times, or will work for that one company only.

Municipal

This category is a mix of numerous project types, but all of them deal with a public client. This means that the owner can be a city, county, state or federal client. These projects have special rules set by the government in how the services can be contracted and bid out. Architects on these project types have to deal with numerous clients as it will be a board or committee that make the decisions. Municipal work can take the form of City Hall, Fire Station, Police Station, Libraries, etc.

Education

Education architects specialize in schools of varying levels from Pre-K, K-12 to higher education. Most architecture firms that work in the education sector are specialists in providing the right spaces for the students and dealing with numerous entities that have their hand in the use of the building. Each grade level has different needs and requirements that education specialists are experts in.

Healthcare

With all of the regulations and special needs, most healthcare designers are specialists in this field. They know about all of the specialized equipment, bed counts, insurance regulations and safety needs for these buildings and are best fit for this type of work. Healthcare can take the form of doctor’s offices, hospitals, emergency centers and medical-office-buildings (MOB’s).

Office Buildings/Tenant Improvements

Office buildings ranging from duplexes to multi-story skyscrapers have special needs. The number of tenants that can fit, the number of elevators, parking and rental rates are all key factors that are important for property managers. Architects working on this type of project need to be familiar with BOMA calculations (square footage calculations), demising partitions and acoustics. Tenant improvements is a small subset of this project type and deal with the interior design and changes when the tenants have turnover or change in space needs.

Other Commercial

Beyond these specialty commercial types there are many others that can’t be easily categorized. Community centers, recreational facilitates, museums, hotels, art galleries, warehouses, and factories can all be considered commercial or even industrial and each have their own special requirements. Some architecture firms can specialize in just one of these types of add it into their portfolio of building types.

As you can see, there isn’t just one type of architecture and each type has their own special needs and requirements. The best way to find which type is a good fit for you is to try them all. Most schools will expose you to a number of the types throughout your years there, and you can try different firms when interning. The great thing about being an architect is that you are trained to work on any one of these types, so you can learn about them early on until you are able to specialize in one.