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An architect is a person who is involved in the planning, designing, modeling and oversight of a building's construction. The word "architect" (Latin: architectus) derives from the Greek arkhitekton (arkhi (chief) + tekton (builder))") . In the broadest sense an architect is a person who translates the user's needs and wants into a physical, well built structure. An architect must thoroughly understand the building and operational codes under which his or her design must conform. That degree of knowledge is necessary so that he or she is not apt to omit any necessary requirements, or produce improper, conflicting, ambiguous, or confusing requirements. Architects must understand the various methods available to the builder for building the client's structure, so that he or she can negotiate with the client to produce a best possible compromise of the results desired within explicit cost and time boundaries. The idea of what constitutes a result desired varies among architects, as the values and attitudes which underlie modern architecture differ both between the schools of thought which influence architecture and between individual practising architects.
Architects must frequently make building design and planning decisions that affect the safety and well being of the general public. Architects are required to obtain specialized education and documented work experience to obtain a license to practice architecture, similar to the requirements for other professionals. The requirements for practice vary from place to place (see below).
Although the term "architect" refers to a professionally-qualified individual, the word is frequently used in the broader sense noted above to define someone who brings order to a built or non-built situation.
Architects in practice
The practice of architecture is a business, in which technical knowledge, management skills, and an understanding of good business practice are as important as creative design. In practice, an architect accepts a commission from a client (an individual, a board of directors, a government agency or a corporation). This commission may involve the preparation of feasibility reports, building audits, the design of a single building, or the design of several buildings, structures and the spaces between them. Increasingly, the architect participates in the development of requirements the client wishes to have met in the building. Throughout the project, from planning to occupancy, the architect usually acts as the coordinator of a team of specialists (the "design team"). Structural, mechanical, and electrical engineers, as well as other specialists, are generally retained by the client or the architect. The architect must ensure that the work of all these different disciplines is coordinated and fits together in the overall design.
Working hours are typically over a standard work week, but when working to tight deadlines it is not uncommon for architects to work long hours, including evenings, weekends and all nighters. Architects are predominantly office-based, but their work includes frequent out-of-office visits with clients and to job sites.
Increasingly, the architect participates in the development of requirements the client wishes to have met in the building. They design projects based on a client requirements, conditions particular to the site, and many other external needs and wishes. Architects must also pay attention to the economics and budget for a particular commission.
Architects deal with various government jurisdictions on local and federal levels, regarding numerous regulations and building codes. The architect may need to comply with local planning and zoning requirements such as required setbacks, height limitations, parking requirements, transparency requirements (windows), land use and other requirements. In many established jurisdictions, design guidelines and historic preservation guidelines must be adhered to.
Architects also prepare technical documents filed for permits (such as development permits and building permits) which require compliance with building, seismic and various other federal and local regulations. The documents (construction drawings and specifications) are also used for pricing and, ultimately, actual construction.
Architects typically put projects to tender on behalf of their clients, advise on the award of the project to a general contractor, and review the progress of the work during construction. They typically review subcontractor shop drawings, prepare and issue site instructions, and provide construction contract administration (see also Design-bid-build). In many jurisdictions, mandatory certification or assurance of the work is required.
Depending on the client's needs and the jurisdiction's requirements, the spectrum of the architect's services may be extensive (detailed document preparation and construction review) or less inclusive (such as to allowing a contractor to exercise considerable design-build functions). With very large, complex projects, an independent construction manager is sometimes hired to assist in design and to manage construction. In the United Kingdom and other countries, a quantity surveyor is often part of the team to provide cost consulting.
Alternate practice and specializations
Recent decades have seen the rise of specializations within the profession. Many architects and architectural firms focus on certain project types (for example health care, retail, public housing, etc.), technological expertise or project delivery methods. Some architects specialize as building code, building envelope, sustainable design, historic preservation, accessibility and other forms of specialist consultants.
Many architects elect to move into real estate development, corporate facilities planning, project management, construction management, interior design and other specialized roles.