Sunday, January 22, 2006

Narrowing the List: Questions for Architects

As we move into the phase of meeting and interviewing architects, I've been doing some research on all the questions we should ask as well as things we should look for in a firm.
I've found some helpful sites.

This set of 20 questions pops up all over the internet and seems to have originally been generated by the American Institute of Architects:

20 Questions to Ask Your Architect

1. What does the Architect see as important issues or considerations in your project? What are the challenges of the project?

2. How will the Architect approach your project?

3. How will the Architect gather information about your needs, goals, etc.?

4. How will the Architect establish priorities and make decisions?

5. Who from the architectural firm will you be dealing with directly? Is that the same person who will be designing the project? Who will be designing your project?

6. How interested is the Architect in this project?

7. How busy is the Architect?

8. What sets this Architect apart from the rest?

9. How does the Architect establish fees?

10. What would the Architect expect the fee to be for this project?

11. What are the steps in the design process?

12. How does the Architect organize the process?

13. What does the Architect expect you to provide?

14. What is the Architect’s design philosophy?

15. What is the Architect’s experience/track record with cost estimating?

16. What will the Architect show you along the way to explain the project? Will you see models, drawings, or computer animations?

17. If the scope of the project changes later in the project, will there be additional fees? How will these fees be justified?

18. What services does the Architect provide during construction?

19. How disruptive will construction be? How long does the Architect expect it to take to complete your project?

20. Does the Architect have a list of past clients that you can contact?

The Boston Society of Architects has a great page that goes a little deeper, including this list:

Recommendations from People Who've Done It

1. Remember that you get what you pay for — be sure to hire a qualified architect, not the least expensive one.

2. Do not expect to save money by hiring non-professionals.

3. Execute a contract or letter of agreement detailing fees, schedules, budgets, and tasks, and monitor the process outlined in the agreement every step of the way. (A contract is essential.)

4. Take time to plan for your project — and allow your architect and contractor the time needed to properly design and build.

5. Do not allow your architect or builder to rush you to decisions (about detailing, materials, etc.).

6. Make all design decisions before construction begins — it gets very expensive to change your mind later. (It is far easier to erase a line than to remove a wall.)

7. Resist revisiting decisions once you make them. Every decision affects work done after it; changes can be costly.

8. Carefully conduct necessary surveys, title searches, and similar research.

9. It is not reasonable to expect that a building project will heal a marriage, friendship, or company; it won’t.

10. It is unwise to try to fit your needs into a beloved design. Instead, allow a design to grow from a thorough understanding of your needs.

11. Ask many questions until you get the answers you need in language you can understand.

12. Monitor construction and ask questions about anything you don’t understand.

13. Do not substitute “bargain” materials for good materials.

14. Allow budget contingencies for both design and construction.

15. Observe construction so you will be more likely to catch errors early.

The same site also offers this great workbook, downloable in pdf format, that takes the homeowner through several steps to guide the selection of an architect, the decision to build a custom home, and establish expectations. A great resource.

If YOU have any other points to consider, please leave a comment rather than email me directly, so that other readers have access to the information.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't forget about the magical ingredient of mojo. When you meet with your potential architects, it is important that you jive with them as a person, not just as a client.

My two cents.

5:39 PM  

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