Before beginning to ask this set of questions, describe for the architect or designer your basic goals, where you are in the planning process, approximate scope of the project, the quality level you’d like to be able to achieve (possibly with a few images from magazines or books), and your approximate budget. Remember to tell the architect or designer that you realize you are not an expert in what architects do, or what things are likely to cost. Check with them up front to make sure that you are at least in the ballpark with your expectations i.e. that what you are planning is within the realm of possibility, given your budget. If not, they’ll be able to tell you up front, saving both of you a lot of time.
There are a lot of questions here, and sometimes if you go down the list one by one, the interview can become a bit on the formal side. An alternative is to give the architect or designer your list ahead of time, and then let him or her address them at their own pace during your interview. You can then review your list at the end to make sure your questions have been answered.
Either approach works, but the flavor of the meeting is quite different. When you ask the questions, you are in control. When the architect or designer is privy to the list ahead of time, he or she is allowed into your agenda, and may be able to talk with you in a more relaxed and straightforward manner. This can give you a better read of the potential chemistry between you — an extremely important ingredient in any successful home project.
Please keep in mind that every firm has their own way of doing things. Some will be less expensive, but offer less service. Some will offer a wide variety of services while others will do things only one way. Some will have a favorite style that they work in, while others will work in a variety of styles, depending upon what their clients are looking for. For this reason, just because you don’t like some of the images or drawings of past projects, it doesn’t mean they won’t be a good fit for you. They may have provided exactly what that particular client was looking for. Be sure to check references before making hasty assessments, based on your own likes and dislikes. However, if you don’t like most of the plans or images the firm shows you of his or her past work, you can be fairly certain they aren’t a good match for you.
I recommend interviewing no more than four architectural and/or design firms or you’ll drive yourself mad. Do some preselection using the web, and then call to arrange a time to meet those you are interested. It can be really an enjoyable process when you are well organized and have done your homework. Good luck and happy home to you!
1. After hearing about our project, does it interest you? If not, could you suggest another firm or firms that might be better suited to our project?
2. Does your firm have time to give us the service we need?
3. What is your firm’s design philosophy?
4. What kinds of services do you offer? Is there more than one way to engage your services?
And if so what are they?
5. What are the challenges you see in our project?
6. Have you worked before on projects similar to ours?
7. If we were to work with your firm, how would you approach the project?
8. Who will be the project leader if we retain your firm for services?
9. If not the person in the meeting, may we meet this person and see some of his or her work? What are his or her credentials?
10. Will we be meeting directly with the person who is doing the design work?
11. Are there more players on the project team who we won’t be meeting with?
12. Does your firm carry liability insurance?
13. May we have a list of past clients that we can contact, who have worked with the person who will be in charge of our project if we decide to proceed?
14. How long do you estimate the design process will take for our project?
15. What would you anticipate the length of the construction process to be for a project of this
scale and scope?
16. Would you describe the steps involved in the architectural process?
17. How do you establish fees for a project? Are there different ways in which
you structure your fees?
18. Will there be any engineering consultants involved in our project? Are their
fees included within your fee?
19. How frequently do you bill?
20. How do you manage and communicate about money during the process?
21. Is there any cost estimating involved along the way?
22. What can we do to help keep our project on target related to our budget?
23. If the scope of the project changes as it proceeds, will there be additional fees?
24. What services will you provide during construction for our project?
25. If the project is a remodeling, how would you describe the anticipated degree
of disruption in our lives created by the construction process?
26. Are there any other issues we haven’t asked about that you’d like to tell us?