National vs Local: The Right Architect For the Job

Updated: Sep 26, 2019

The debate rages on. Nikon vs Canon? Coke vs Pepsi? Apples or Oranges? You get the idea. Another less obvious comparison is this. Should you use a national architect for the design of your franchise site, or a local one? And since most new franchisees have probably never used an architect before and may not understand entirely what it is they actually do, the question is a fair one. Architects are required on most commercial projects in the United States in order for you to get a building permit and eventually build out your site. The rules vary slightly from state to state and you should check with your state for specifics. But you shouldn’t look at an architect as a necessary evil or just a means to an end, because they provide so much more. Architects make sure your site is designed correctly for the health, safety and welfare of the public. They can keep you out of law suits. They also coordinate the many consultants you may also need such as electrical, plumbing and mechanical engineers, structural engineers, kitchen consultants and interior designers. They make sure their plans are designed to the correct codes so you can obtain a building permit, and they also oversee the construction making sure your contractor understands what needs to be built. So what are the pros and cons of local vs national? A national architect is one that is registered to practice in many if not all states and can design in any location. A local architect is more often registered in only a single state and limits his practice to the more immediate area near his business. A national architect that comes recommended by your franchisor will know the specific needs and requirements of the franchise and will help you adhere to brand compliance. They will also most likely have designed several if not dozens of stores for other franchisees of your brand and will know to avoid all the problems that may confront a local architect unfamiliar with the brand. You benefit from their experience. A local architect may be more familiar with the people at the local building department and may better understand building practices common to that area. They may also have good relationships with local engineers. And with a local architect you may have a shorter path to getting your permit and your project may run smoother in other areas because it is designed with details more friendly to local contractors, subcontractors and building inspectors. But because of their lack of brand experience, those gains may be offset by their learning curve. A position you might regret being in. A national architect will probably not be on a first name basis with your local building official, but they are national architects in part because they have experience getting building permits ANYWHERE. And they will most likely use national engineers that also are also used to practicing anywhere. And the entire team most likely already has experience in your city if you live in a major metropolitan area. The choice is ultimately yours to make but having first been a local architect and now a national one, using local engineers and now national ones, the choice seems clear. In almost every case it will be to your advantage to go with a national architect that has experience in retail rollout or franchise work, and especially if the experience is with your brand. And if luck is really on your side you can have the best of both worlds if your national architect also happens to be local.

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