Deciding on an architect is a big decision — and ultimately a big investment into your future, your comfort and your overall well-being. Creating truly custom and unique homes takes incredible vision and finesse that not every architect can execute. Asking the right questions up front means avoiding any issues down the road.
Here are eight pointed questions designed to help vet your next architect and to help lay the groundwork to see if they are the right fit for your next build.
What does the entire process look like?
This question is pretty broad strokes, but it does help you level-set your engagement and what you should expect throughout. Be clear up front with who you will be as a client, and what your expectations are.
Many clients aren’t looking for a set-it-and-forget it approach, so make sure both parties understand what is expected from them so there isn’t cause for confusion down the road when the stakes are at their highest. Some clients want the full service, which involves the architect to manage the contracts and act as the liaison with the contractor.
While discussing what the “entire process” looks like can be a pretty open-ended question, it’s good to follow up these:
- Who will be managing the project?
- Will you stay involved during the construction process?
- What will be your role with the contractor?
- Who will be the main point of contact?
- When will we meet?
- And how will the communication process work?
Getting out ahead of these questions all depends on your individual needs and understanding how involved the architect will be during the construction process.
Do you already work with a builder?
You never want to assume if the architect works with a general contractor. It is good practice to understand from day one if they work with builders, what is their working relationship like, what projects they’ve done together and which ones will be best suited for your needs.
And if they don’t have any builders on deck, ask for recommendations, and what strengths and weaknesses they would be bringing to the project.
How will you make this project on time and on budget?
High-performing architects will inevitably be very busy maintaining a large workload, so it’s important to find out how accessible they will be to help you while working on your design. Understanding the timelines and workflows in a straightforward solution that matches your budget, timeline and vision will provide incredible peace of mind as the build is underway.
What is your track record when dealing with issues in the past?
You would be hard-pressed to find any professional who has had a flawless track record when dealing with any project without facing any barriers or backtracks. Ask pointed questions about any roadblocks the architect has faced in the past and what they did to get past them.
Are there any challenges, hurdles or pushbacks you anticipate with my build?
This is a perfect continuation from the last point, because there can be residential development roadblocks or regulatory red tape you will need to bypass to clear a path for the project. Being upfront and transparent will help manage your expectations and if there are issues to anticipate on the horizon.
Can you provide examples from design to development on past projects?
Will there be models, drawings, alternate sketches, or computer animations done according to the specs? You essentially want to visualize your project before the construction process starts, and having a variety of tools can give you a better feel for the possibilities.
How can we be more ‘green?’
When looking to reduce your environmental impact, start the conversation with your architectural firm about what will be done to develop sustainable design strategies. Many leading firms look to create more environmentally sustainable buildings by leveraging the benefits of using LEED.
Healthy, highly efficient and cost-saving green buildings are now more the norm than the exception, and it’s an important question (and often a differentiator) to ask when sourcing an architect. Ask if they are certified and what tax benefits might be available if going down this route.
How do you charge?
Valid question, and never one to be overlooked. Get out in front of what is and is not included in the fee structure. Inquire about what extra costs might be anticipated and if there are additional construction administration hours or amendments that might be built in down the road.
While this is originally framed as eight questions, it’s really designed to open up a lot more subcategories that need to be tabled before you start working together. Remember, you’re interviewing them for your build, and in order to have a positive and productive working relationship, it means asking the tough questions from day one.