Part 1 of the ‘Hiring an Architect’ series discussed how to go about finding and hiring an architect, you can catch up here Hiring an Architect: Part 1- The Search. Part 2 of the series provides questions, you as a residential client, should ask yourself prior to talking with an architect. I’m a firm believer in educated clients who are vested in their projects. I want my clients to ask questions and be an integral part of the design and construction process. I don’t want a client who tells me “I have an unlimited budget, just design me something that you think is good…oh, and I don’t want to be involved with the process.” I know, I know, this goes against the stereotypical belief of what an architect wants. Wait, what? Let me re-phrase, I’ll be more than happy to work on such a project, but I prefer an involved client who has ideas/beliefs about their project.
There are several things as a client you can/will do when it comes to working with an architect. The first thing you can do is ask yourself some questions in preparation for meeting with an architect. However, at this point, don’t get caught up in specifics, keep it fairly loose and general. After you’ve answered these questions, you will be better prepared to meet with an architect. To get you started, below are 20 questions and 1 bonus essay! Feel free to add your own as you see fit:
1. What is it about your current home that you like? What do you dislike?
2. What is most important to you in the home?
3. How long do you plan to be in the home?
4. Do you, or any frequent guests, have special accessibility needs?
5. How do you ‘live’ in your home- entertain a lot, work from home, hobby specific requirements (i.e. dark room, music, media room, etc.)
6. Who will reside in the house? Include ages.
7. Do you use your yard- If yes, how? If no, why not?
8. Why do you want to change your home/build a new home- are you expecting children, are children grown and leaving the home, do you need/want more or less space, have your needs changed, etc.
9. Will you use the new/renovated home differently than your current?
10. Are there features you wish to include in the new home?
11. What do you envision the renovation/addition/new home to look like, both inside and out- clip images from magazines and such that you find appealing and organize them in a binder.
12. How much time can you, or do you, want to be involved during the design and construction process?
13. Do you plan on doing any of the work yourselves?
14. How much can you afford to spend on the project? Be sure to consider both the Construction Budget vs. Project Budget
15. If your budget, quality of construction, and size of project are incompatible, will you:
a. Retain the budget and compromise on less important features and qualities.
b. Adjust the size and quality where they will have negligible impact and increase the budget slightly if required to avoid further compromise.
c. Build what we want regardless of what it costs.
d. Employ less expensive materials while retaining desired size of house.
e. Employ high quality materials but reduce the size of the house.
16. Are there strict time constraints to the schedule?
17. Are there any covenants, restrictions, or outside design review committee required for your property?
18. Have you worked with an architect before?
19. What is it that you think an architect does and how can they benefit your project?
20. What qualities are you looking for in an architect?
*BONUS* Imagine that your house is complete and a newspaper wants to feature your house in an upcoming article about architectural design. Typically the first paragraph gives an overall sense of the house; its general aesthetic, setting in the landscape, materials, key features, etc. Write that first paragraph.
This is not meant as an all-encompassing list, but rather questions to start thinking about and serve as a catalyst for in-depth discussions with your architect. I personally use a 30 page questionnaire that I ask clients to fill out. While it may seem like a lot of work, most clients like it because they start thinking and dreaming of things that haven’t previously crossed their minds. It also serves to enhance the fact that they are an integral part of the process.
You’ll notice specifics are kept to a minimum in the questioning. At this point, the goal is to inform the architect how you live, not the kind of house you want. If your answers and discussions with the architect are detailed and informative, you’ll end up with the house you want. The more detailed information you can provide, the easier it will be for you and your architect to address your needs and reach a solution that fits you and your lifestyle.
Part 3 of the series will discuss questions to ask your architect, stay tuned!
** Sorry, no scantron to answer these questions.