Updated: May 17, 2022
What to Ask the Architect
Come to the interview prepared with questions to help you understand fully what you can expect from this partnership. These might include:
What is your design philosophy? You should already have a sense of this from your research, but here’s the chance to talk about the vision this architect will bring to your project. Is their focus on sustainability? Preservation? Low cost? Whatever is important to you should be important to your architect.
What is your process? Most architects follow an established path for each project, although that process varies a bit from firm to firm and project to project (more on that later). Typical phases include initial consultation, preliminary (or schematic) design, design development, document preparation, bidding and negotiation, and construction administration.
What projects have you done that are similar to mine? You want to make sure the architect is comfortable with the size and complexity of the project you’re proposing.
Who will I be working with? If it’s a large firm, you will want to clarify who will be designing your project, and who your contact person will be.
Do you foresee any problems with this project? If you’re dealing with a difficult site, a limited budget or other complications, be upfront. How the architect reacts to these challenges will tell you whether they’re suited to the project.
How much time will the design process take, and construction itself? Be sure the architect has the time to devote to the project and can bring it to completion in a timely manner. Remember the architect can account for his or her time, but not delays caused by your indecision or a contractor’s scheduling conflicts.
Can the architect provide references, particularly for projects similar to yours? It may even be possible to view similar work they’ve done on other houses. If so, take advantage of that opportunity. When you call references, ask specific questions. How did this architect save you money? How did he or she handle conflicts? Was the project completed on time?
How will plans be presented? Will you be able to view your project on a computer screen in 3D, or do they rely on paper? Neither is an indication of a “better” architect, but if you’re more comfortable with one than the other, bring this up.
What will you be responsible for, and what will I be responsible for? Designing a major remodel is a partnership. Make sure both of you understand what is expected of the other.
What is your fee, and how is it structured? Don’t leave the interview without a firm understanding of what the architect’s fees are, what they are based on, and how and when you will be billed. For example, will you pay for all services at the end of the project? Or pay for half at a predetermined midway point?
An A. Hays Town sketch for Debbie Bourgeois circa 1988