When you have a project that’s in need of a Long Beach architect, you likely want to hire the best architect for the job—rather than just hiring any architect. As you start your search for an architect in Long Beach, you will notice that some specialize in residential design, while others focus on commercial work. Still others do both. But what if you find a residential architect who you really like, but you have a commercial project. Does that matter? And does the size of the firm matter?
Do I Need to Hire a Large Architecture Firm in Long Beach for a Commercial Project?
In California there isn’t a separate license for commercial and residential architects—all architects have the same license from the California Architects Board. This means that any licensed architect can technically design for both commercial and residential projects. But does that mean you should hire an architect who specializes in residential design for your commercial project? Probably not.
Particularly if you have a large commercial project, you’ll want to hire an architecture firm that specializes in large-scale commercial projects. These projects have a ton of moving parts, and require many different types of specialists to be successfully completed. We’re talking about multiple engineers, ADA specialists, interior designers, landscape designers, and more. Yes, a small architecture firm can bring in outside professionals to help them complete large projects, but if this isn’t something they do regularly it can be risky for you, as the client. Best case scenario, your project probably sees a lot of delays if you use an architect who is inexperienced in large-scale commercial design.
Most architects who are sole proprietors or who have small architecture firms know their limits. They aren’t likely to take on large-scale commercial projects that they know they can’t handle, and will probably refer you to a larger architecture firm that specializes in these types of projects.
However, if your commercial project is on a small-to-medium scale, like a tenant improvement project, you could absolutely go with an independent architect or a small Long Beach architecture firm—but they should have some experience with these types of projects. Tenant improvement projects have different requirements than residential projects, so an architect who specializes in residential design may not be the best fit, even though they could technically do it.
At my Long Beach architecture firm, we work on both residential projects (custom home design and large-scale home remodels), as well as tenant improvements, but that wasn’t always the case. There was a time when we only did residential design, but over the years, we’ve found that we really enjoy working with small business owners to help them customize their commercial spaces for their specific businesses. We also quite enjoy the process of working with various specialists to meet all of the city’s requirements for commercial spaces and solve business-specific challenges. Fortunately, I had experience working with commercial clients from my time working at larger firms prior to going out on my own, so adding commercial design to our service offerings wasn’t a huge leap.
Since getting into commercial design, our firm has built a great team of talented professionals who can help us with all aspects of these types of projects, and we now have a great portfolio that showcases our work on tenant improvements.
To conclude, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that you should never work with an architect outside of his or her specialty. After all, we had clients who trusted our firm with their tenant improvement projects when we first ventured into commercial design—and we are grateful they did! Just be sure to do your homework. Ask lots of questions, and make sure the architect or architecture firm is actually equipped with the type of expertise your project requires.