An architect does not just design a building. They can manage not only the entire design aspect, but the entire construction process as well on your behalf. What separates architects from other building designers who are less qualified is the fact that they typically boast a minimum of 5-years university training, practical experience and a registration examination, both of which are mandatory. An architect works in the construction industry and is typically involved in the design of new buildings, alterations or extensions to existing buildings, or providing advice for the conservation and restoration of old properties.
You may hire an architect to work on large redevelopment schemes or on individual buildings, and be responsible for the design of the surrounding spaces and landscape. The architect you hire should be able to work closely with their clients to ensure that their projected designs match their individual needs, and are safe, economical and functional. Architects will typically control the project from beginning to end, and work with several construction professionals including engineers and surveyors to produce specifications and drawings that the construction team works on.
There are specific questions that you ought to ask before you hire an architect. In certain instances, these questions are also important to ask during the working process with the architect that you have hired. If you are in the initial stages of planning your architectural project, it may be wise to have these questions reviewed, ranked and answered in order of importance. When you do so, you are able to immediately narrow down your focus and determine your architect search and project priorities criteria. This will provide you with a decision-making tool that is at your disposal and ready for use in deciding which architectural firm to hire.
For instance, you may have ranked “Who from the architecture firm will I be dealing with directly? Is it the same person who will be designing the project?” as the first priority question on your list. This may be due to the fact that you wish to directly deal with the principal at the architecture firm without your design being delegated to somebody else. You find value in having the principal directly involved as they are the most invested ultimately in the success of your project. You also wish to directly communicate with the principal or designer so as to ensure effective and efficient communication. During your evaluation of the firms, you discover the following:
- Firm A is a small architectural firm with a principal that is directly involved in each project and every decision is made as a response to the comments of clients. You therefore feel confident that you will be able to directly and regularly communicate with the principal or designer through the duration of your project.
- Firm B is an architectural firm that is slightly larger so you will deal with multiple individuals, the principal sometimes and one of the employees of the firm at other times. You therefore feel less confident about being able to directly and regularly communicate with the principal or designer through the duration of your project.
By referring to your list of ranked questions and answers, Firm A rates better in meeting your overall requirements and should be a logical choice for your architectural project.
It is important to interview multiple architects before you make your decision so as to ensure that your highest priorities are met with regards to comfort, convenience, design goals and budget. Below is a list of 15 valuable questions to ask your architect before you hire them. The prospective architect should be able to provide you with detailed answers to each of the questions below.
- What sets your architecture firm apart from other firms that have experience similar to yours? Do you have experience with the building size and type of my project? How much experience do you have in the type of project I am considering? Could you share with me a portfolio of similar projects and give me a list of your client references? What type of services do you offer? Are you ready to provide just the services that I require?
- What are your architectural qualifications? Are you a professionally trained architect? How many years of experience do you have in the field of architecture? Are you a licensed architect?
- What will be your approach to my project? How will you organize the project process? How will you collect information regarding my goals, needs, etc.? What are the challenges you foresee in my project? What do you view as the important issues or considerations for my project? What are your preliminary thoughts on my project?
- How busy are you? What is your estimated timetable for this project? Do you have enough interest in my project to make it a priority? How do you usually prefer to collaborate with your clients? How will you assist me in fully understanding the sequence and scope of this project along the way? Will you use sketches, drawings, models or computer animation?
- What is your philosophy of design? What steps are included in your design process, and how do you organize them? Who will design my project?
- What criteria do you use to establish priorities and make decisions regarding design? What do you wish me to provide you?
- Who from the firm will I be directly dealing with? Is this the same person who will design my project?
- Will you manage construction as well as design? What services do you offer during construction? What will be your role during construction? Am I expected to directly work with the contractor?
- How disruptive will the construction process be? How long do you expect it will take to complete my project?
- Do you have any experience with “green” or sustainable design? Do you integrate strategies on low or no cost sustainable design regularly into your projects? How much experience do you have in green building, affordable design, energy-efficient design, passive-solar design (or whatever your special interests are)?
- Taking into account the numerous areas that may be impacted by sustainable design, how will you determine the options to pursue?
- When you implement sustainable design technologies, do upfront costs exist that may affect the budget for construction? What are the pay back times you expect?
- How do you determine fees? In anticipation of a formal proposal with costs, what do you expect your fee for my project to be? What do you include in your basic services and what services would incur additional fees? What is the average construction price per square-foot for this sort of project?
- Do you charge a fixed fee or a percentage cost of construction? Do you charge an hourly fee? Should the scope of the project change later, will additional fees arise? How will you justify these fees? How will you communicate this to me?
- Are the fees negotiable? What is your experience with cost estimating? What is your track record for completing projects within their original budget?
The questions above should enable you to identify an architect that can help you in setting a realistic and viable budget, provide guidance during the town planning process, get competitive quotes for your work, manage consultants such as engineers and surveyors, monitor your budget and administer your construction contract. The architect will critically inspect the work through the entire construction period so as to help you obtain the level and quality of finishes you desire. Architects are able to see the big picture. And you should be able to find one who does by asking the right questions from the very get-go.
The architect you end up hiring should be able to assist you in defining and creating what you wish to build, offer options you may not have previously considered, and assist you in getting the most out of your budget. An architect does not merely design – they create environments, inside and outside, along with well functioning spaces. Your architect should be able to produce inspired solutions to commercial and residential needs that are often complex. Creative thinking, functional performance and attention to detail underpin all that an architect does. By using the questions listed above in your interview process, you should be able to successfully identify the best architect for the job.
Every architectural task requires specialist skills and disciplines, which when combined, can produce a prospect that is frustrating, daunting and time-consuming. Having to make a large capital investment in an architectural project that embodies abstract elements of taste and style, as well as tangibles such as materials and costs can prove overwhelming for even the best of us. It is therefore important to employ an effective selection process that provides criteria and clarity when choosing your architect. With a good list of questions to ask your prospective architect, you will increase your odds of getting the right man or woman for your project.