Form & Function: Things to Ask When Hiring an Architect
- Design and Living Magazine
- Jackson Strom
- October 4, 2020
Starting a home project, whether it is building new or remodeling, can be an exciting, yet unfamiliar process. Inspiration images, timeline, budget, square footage, material selections…these are just some of the unknowns that may keep you up at night. So much time and investment go into a new project, and you want to be certain you’ve selected the right architect to guide you through the process, making it not only a positive experience but an exciting one as well.
In this edition of Form & Function, we suggest key questions we feel are important to ask when hiring your architect.
“Are you an architect or a designer?”
Architects are required to meet rigorous education requirements, pass a licensing exam and complete continuing education to maintain their license. An architect will ensure the proposed design is able to be built the way it was presented. There should be little that differs between the final rendering and the built project.
“What range of services do you offer?”
Beyond the design and construction documents, is your architect able to assist throughout the project? Even with the construction documents in hand, there are many decisions that need to be made throughout the project, and we suggest involving a professional to assist, ensuring the project is constructed in line with your original vision.
A common misconception is that architects are not involved with the interior of the project. Architects take a holistic approach to design and spend as much energy on the interiors as any other area. Ask about an interior 3D model. This model provides the vision for the interior and assists with finishes and material selections.
“What is your design aesthetic?”
While some firm’s work has a similar aesthetic, others offer a diverse range of styles. You will want to review the work to see what speaks to you and your project.
“Can you provide a preliminary estimate for the design?”
Based on the client’s proposed budget, the architect should be designing with the appropriate square footages, materials and details in mind. With that, construction costs fluctuate, and until a builder is able to put numbers to the schematic plans and specifications, nothing is certain. We suggest engaging select builders after the schematic design, and prior to construction documents, to provide an estimate ensuring the project is on the path to meet the proposed budget. The estimate does not provide the final construction cost, but it tests the project midway through, either giving peace of mind that you are on the right path, or allowing time to revise the plans and details before the final construction documents are complete.
“Do you have a reference?”
Ask your architect about past clients and builders they have worked with, and then reach out to the references they provide. All projects, big or small, are the product of many relationships. Some of these relationships are lasting, some aren’t. Your architect’s goal should be that you are just as excited to work with them at the end of the project as you were at the beginning. Reaching out to their references provides you with insight on what to expect for your project and relationship.
Timeline & Budget
“How long does it take to design the project?”
Whether you are in a hurry to get in the ground before snow falls, or you have all the time in the world, it is best to understand the architect’s workload and the general amount of time dedicated to a new design. Often the architect can provide a general timeline based on past projects of a similar scope of work. With that, we would suggest requesting a proposed timeline of your project from your architect to ensure the project proceeds in a timely manner.
“What do your services cost?”
Does the architect bill hourly or provide a fixed-fee for the project? This is a personal decision, and you will need to find what works best for you. Often architects will tailor their proposal to your preferences upon request.
“Who builds the project?”
Does your architect have a preferred list of builders they work with? Are they open to working with a builder you have already selected? We suggest clients have at least three builders bid on the project, then review the bids with the team. We often suggest touring a few of the builder’s past projects to better understand their quality of work. If the architect is committed to a single builder, this could possibly limit your project’s opportunities and reduce accountability.
The process of a new project is a journey, and with the right team in place, can be an exciting one. You will not regret spending additional time upfront to understand the differences between firms and find the right architect for your project.