20 Questions To Ask Your Architect

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

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 decision?

5. Who from the architecture firm will you be dealing with directly? Is that the same person who will be designing the 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 sketches?

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?

20. How long does the architect expect it to take to complete your project?

20 Questions To Ask Yourself

1. Describe your current home. What do you like about it? What's missing? What don't you like? 

2. Do you want to change the space you have? 

3. Do you want to build a new home? 

4. Why do you want to build a house or add to or renovate your current home? Do you need more room? Are children grown and moving on? Is your life-style changing? 

5. What is your life-style? Are you at home a great deal? Do you work at home? Do you entertain often? How much time do you spend in the living areas, bedrooms, kitchen, den or office, utility space, etc.? Do you have disabilities that might affect the design of your home? 

6. How much time and energy are willing to invest to maintain your home? 

7. If you are thinking of adding on, what functions/activities will be housed in a new space? 

8. What kind of spaces do you need, e.g., bedrooms, expanded kitchen, bathrooms, etc? 

9. How many of those spaces do you think you need? 

10. What do you think the addition/renovation/new home should look like? 

11. If planning on a new home, what do you envision in this home that you don't have now? 

12. How much can you realistically afford to spend? 

13. How soon would you like to be settled into your new home or addition? Are there rigid time constraints? 

14. If you are contemplating building a home do you have a site selected? 

15. Do you have strong ideas about design styles? What are you design preferences? 

16. Who will be the primary contact with the architect, contractor and others involved in designing and building your project? (It is good to have one point of contact to prevent confusion and mixed messages.) 

17. What qualities are you looking for in an architect?  

18. How much time do you have to be involved in the design and construction process? 

19. Do you plan to do any of the work yourself? 

20. How much disruption in your life can you tolerate to add on to or renovate your home?

What Do Architects Do?

There are many misconceptions about why you would need an architect and how they can help you with your project. Here a just a few... 

All I need are four walls and a roof...I don't need an Architect. 

Not True. Architects help make decisions. After talking with an architect, many people are surprised at their own definite ideas in what they want in a house. Architects help you think about how a building functions. They can design a house that is flexible enough to grow with a young, working couple and who expect children later. They can design an inexpensive, energy-efficient, fully accessible home for retired people on a fixed income. They can show how a house built for one family can be remodeled into apartments.  

Anyway, all I need is a builder or contractor. 

Not True. The architect is the single professional who has the training and experience to guide you through the entire building process. The architect serves as the owner's agent. As the head of a team of specialist (engineers, landscape architects, contractors, etc.), an architect's first obligation is to look out for your interests. Architects' drawings and construction documents, which tell the contractor precisely what to build, set down your exact requirements. Your architect follows your contractor's work to make sure there are no surprises - you know what you will get. 

An Architect is a luxury I cannot afford. 

Not True. Architects' fees are not just added on top of your project costs. They can save you money in many ways. An Architect oversees your budget and negotiate to get the best materials and workmanship at a good price. Much more importantly, an architect's design can greatly reduce your energy and maintenance costs, which add up to many times the purchase price of the home over time. They can turn a difficult lot into a successful building site. They can spend time planning and developing your ideas fully to avoid costly refinements after construction is underway. They can make sure that bids for construction are based exactly on what you wanted and expected so you really do get the best price. They can find parts of the project that you can do yourself, or show you how to act as your own contractor. 

Architects just do blueprints. 

Not True. Today, the best answer to the question, "What do architects do?" may be "What do you want them to do?" Renovation? Energy analysis? Site selection? Interiors? Cost analysis? Construction management? In designing your project, architects can add a porch, a skylight - or design a complete house. They can adapt an old building to a new use and keep its character. They can provide a cost estimates. They can make a building safe for occupancy. They can fit a building to a difficult site. They can find skilled craftspeople. They can enlarge your present house so you no longer need to move. Or they can just talk to you about how you want your house to.

Architects see the big picture. They solve problems creatively. They help you get the most from your construction dollar. They make your life easier. If you want an architect who is serious about his or her profession and providing you with the best your money can buy, just look for the "AIA." 

Questions are provided courtesy of the American Institute of Architects: http://www.aia.org/