In this the first of our new short features we’re going to cover the 10 questions to ask your Architect before you employ him or her. We can’t stress enough how important it is to make sure your Architect understands what you want. If you both clearly understand what you want at this early stage, it may prevent problems as the project progresses.
Having decided you need an Architect and having found a few Architects that you would like to interview, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty.
1: Do you have references?
This one is recommended by RIBA, as well as the Architects we regularly work with at Wiggs. Ask your Architect about past clients and builders they’ve worked with, and then don’t be afraid to follow up on the references they give. Knowing that you’re working with a dependable firm from the get-go will spare you potential headaches caused by an unreliable firm.
2: How much time will you need me to dedicate to the project?
Architects deal with clients are are hands-off and clients who want to be involved in the nitty gritty decisions. Be clear about the type of client you are, and ask your Architect the kind of time commitment they expect from you.
If you have a busy schedule with work and you’re just not available to meet during normal business hours, then make sure your Architect is able to meet at weekends, early in the morning or after work.
3: What are your costs and fee structure?
Many Architects use different fee structures to charge for their services, and any reputable firm will be able to lay this out right away. Always be upfront with your budget in your initial conversations with your Architects as complicated and/or high quality work can be expensive.
Make sure your Architect is open with you about any and all additional costs that may not be spelled out in your contract. If you anticipate additional costs for items like redrawing and amendments, then it won’t come as a surprise later. Ask the question and get a detailed response from the architect of any potential scenarios for additional costs.
RIBA also recommend asking the Architect’s experience and track record with cost estimating and completing projects within budget. The best way to get an honest answer? Ask the clients and builders your Architect has provided as references.
4: Do you have experience in projects similar to mine?
Any potential Architect should be able to supply you with examples of projects that were of similar size, scope and building type. Have them tell you in detail what approaches he or she took in order to overcome specific challenges and achieve the best results possible. This can be a great time to gauge the Architect’s level of interest in working with you, as this may affect how high of a priority the Architect makes your project.
Your Architect should be able to provide at least three projects and corresponding client references complete with names, telephone numbers and addresses. Take the opportunity to ask the Architect how long the projects took and see if the Architect would be willing to let you see a finished job. In addition to client references, it’s also good to inquire about professional references, such as suppliers, subcontractors or financial institutions – especially on larger projects.
5: What do you foresee being the biggest challenge in the project?
Make sure your architect to assesses your home and the potential project carefully. Have them explain what (in their opinion) is currently working and what’s not. Have the architect paint a picture of the vision he or she has for the project and what strategies, techniques and design solutions would be used to achieve optimum functionality and beauty.
6: How will the construction process affect our daily lives?
This question is most relevant with renovation projects and extension projects. Here is where you can ask your architect how the project will affect the household and the level to which it might disrupt your everyday routines. A good Architect will work closely with the builder and have strategies for creating convenience for you throughout the build process.
7: How long will the whole process take?
Your Architect should be able to outline a tentative timetable for the various phases and steps of the design and build process. This another chance for your Architect to prove his or her professionalism and organisation, as they should be able to identify where possible hold ups and delays could arise and how to best avoid them in order to stay on track.
8: Who will be designing my project? Who will be my everyday contact?
Unless you’re hiring a sole proprietor, there’s a chance the person you initially meet isn’t the one who’ll handle all your design work. Very often a lead Architect will meet you and be the face of the company, they then pass off the work to a subordinate. This is okay, as long as you know this up front and can be sure your Architect is able to ensure your vision for the project will carry across. Good communication remains crucial to a successful project, so you’ll need to meet the lead Architect before you hire the firm.
9: Do you have a deep understanding of onsite construction methods?
Other similar questions could include: Do you know how to build? Have you worked on a building site before? Do you have an intimate knowledge of individual trades that will work on my site? Knowing that your Architect knows how a building is actually constructed in the real world will ensure that they can plan for any eventuality.
10. Do you provide project management services?
This is a massive question as some Architects do and some don’t. Many can do more than come up with just the design and blueprints. They can also:
- Manage your project
- Help you hire contractors
- Check the contractor’s work as the job proceeds
- Make design adjustments as the work progresses
- Review invoices to ensure that payments never get ahead of the work
- Obtain necessary waivers and insurances from all contractors so no one can make a claim against your property later
Make sure you ask your Architect which services they provide, and what they cost. Some services, like site inspections and revisions, should be part of your contract – others come at an extra cost.
We hope you found our first ‘10 QUESTIONS’ article helpful our next one will be about some of the specific trades you’re likely to see working on your projects.