Selecting the right architect, for you, is the most important decision you’ll make in creating your new home. You’ll be spending quite a lot of time with each other discussing your dreams for your home, as well as talking about your habits, lifestyle, family and taste, so the relationship between you and your architect is very personal and thus important to get right.
To help you, we have put together a list of 10 questions you may wish to consider when meeting with an architect for the first time:
Why do I need an Architect?
A good architect should be able to take your dream and help make your vision a reality. They will be able to create a design tailored to your needs and will also point out any possible obstacles, including some you may not have been aware of.
Listening to the architect speak about this will give you a glimpse into how they approach problems and identify potential solutions.
How will the Architect know my requirements?
Your architect will need to gather a lot of information from you.
They should advise you to prepare a written brief that sets out your requirements in as much detail as possible. They should also suggest that you put together a scrapbook of design ideas to further illustrate your taste and expectations. Pinterest is a great tool for this and images may be shared to communicate different ideas, all the way through the design process.
The ultimate success of your project depends on the quality of your brief, i.e. your ability to describe to your architect clearly the requirements for your home.
Will the Architect listen to me?
When interviewing an architect, chances are they will present various ideas there and then. Be careful that they don’t steer you away from your desired plans. Their role as a specialist is to develop your brief, but to also make sure they listen to what you want and not try to change it.
Many homeowners will express their delight that their architect was able to design a home better than they could have imagined; just be careful that they don’t influence you to sacrifice certain elements you desire.
Will the Architect’s current workload and capacity be a problem?
The architect should be honest about their existing workload.
There is no point in getting excited that you have found the perfect architect only to find later on that they are too busy to give your project the attention that it will need, leading to disappointment and a frustrating relationship.
What are the stages in the design process and timeline for building a home?
Normally a project is broken down into stages of work and the architect should explain these carefully so you are aware of the process, and exactly when your input is required.
This is essential in helping you manage your expectations and also gives a clear understanding about what is involved and more importantly, when your house will be finished.
With this information you can also plan your finances accordingly so that funds are available at the right time.
Will the architect respect your budget?
Some architects will only work out a basic estimate at the outset and then wait until the design is complete and your project is sent out to tender to confirm the final cost. The problem with this is that if the project becomes over budget it is too late to make changes economically and you may need to start again. It is always better for them to conduct detailed cost evaluations during the design process.
It is easy for both parties to get carried away during the design phase so don’t be afraid to ask the architect as to how he intends to control the building cost, in order to reduce the likelihood of being over budget once the final prices come back from the contractors.
Be upfront with your architect and yourself from the outset, so that they too will be realistic with you in terms of what can be achieved within your price range. Many may persuade you to add architectural features so be aware as this may also take your project over budget.
What tools will the Architect use to explain and visualize the project design?
This will give you an insight into how they intend to help you visualize your home during the design phase. Some architects work only with traditional plan drawings and do not include full 3D images in their services.
If this is the case, they may request additional fees so if you feel that you need the assistance of this service ensure you discuss this from the outset.
What is their fee structure?
Ask them directly about their fees, as most architects calculate them as a percentage of the total build costs, broken down into staged payments. Ask them to set out each of the staged payments, when they will be due and what work will have been completed up to that point.
If they give a vague estimate about expected costs, ask them to be more specific, and to calculate the total costs if possible, before appointing the architect.
If the scope of the project changes later, will this incur additional fees?
During the design phase, changes in the scope of the project are possible, especially if you decide to make changes to the brief. You’ll need to know how the architect handles fees in this kind of situations.
Some architects work on the basis that if the scope of work changes to a certain predetermined amount during the design process, the architect will have a method to recalculate the fees, and should make you aware of this before work starts.
Can the architect provide a list of references?
It’s a given that the references will be clients who had a positive experience with the architect, but these conversations can be helpful in getting a feel for what the architect’s specific strengths are.
If the architect is also willing to give you these references, for you to contact and meet them alone, then this is a bonus as it will allow you to have a more direct conversation.
To make things go as smoothly as possible when working with an architect, here are a few more tips to help you, the client:
- Choose an architect you feel comfortable with. Feel free to work closely together to create your brief, but give them the freedom to use their unique skills to suggest ideas, they will often improve your own.
- When selecting an architect, don’t be driven only by cost. The architect’s fee is a small percentage of the project cost, so choose by reputation, personality enthusiasm and skill set.
- Communication is very important so feel free to ask questions. Designing a home is a complex and interactive process and you must be a part of it all. Talk, talk and talk!
- Be disciplined with yourself regarding changes, make sure you are happy with the plans and the design at the early stages before you develop it further. Whilst some things may inevitably change, it’s important to understand this could have cost implications and may impact the project timeline.
- Be collaborative, your views are hugely important but remember that an experienced architect brings years of professional expertise to help guide you.
Building a home is a unique and exciting opportunity and should be an enjoyable experience!