Many homeowners feel challenged by a major renovation project. If you are planning an upgrade of an old house, hiring the right architect is at the top of your list. Your friends can point you in the right direction but beware of putting too much stock in word of mouth recommendations. The architect for your friend’s project may not work out to be the right one for you.
After you decide that your project needs an architect, the best way to make the selection is to interview several professionals before settling on one.
What should happen in the first interview?
Use your first meeting to discuss the budget, timetable, and your ideas for the project. Keep in mind that you will be spending lots of time with the architect you choose. You’ll want to walk out feeling confident that you can work with this person. Bring photographs or drawings of your ideas – both of your existing home and your vision of the completed project. It will help the architect determine if your budget is adequate for the changes and if they want to take the job.
What questions to ask an architect in an interview?
When you hire an architect for your home renovation, you start a partnership. The purpose of an interview is to help you understand how the architect approaches a renovation project, and if the partnership will work for you. This Old House suggests the following questions:
1. What is your design philosophy?
You should already have a sense of this from your research, but here's the chance to talk about the vision this architect will bring to your project. Is their focus on sustainability? Preservation? Low cost? Whatever is essential to you should be relevant to your architect.
2. What is your process?
Most architects follow an established path for each project, although that process varies a bit from firm to firm and project to project. Typical phases include initial consultation, preliminary (or schematic) design, design development, document preparation, bidding and negotiation, and construction administration.
3. What projects have you done that are similar to mine?
You want to make sure the architect is comfortable with the size and complexity of the project you’re proposing.
4. Who will be my contact?
If it’s a large firm, you will want to clarify who will be designing your project, and who your contact person will be.
5. Do you foresee any problems with this project?
If you're dealing with a challenging site, a limited budget, or other complications, be upfront. How the architect reacts to these challenges will tell you whether they're suited to the project.
6. What will the timeline be?
How much time will the design process take, and construction itself? Be sure the architect has the time to devote to the project and can bring it to completion on time. Be aware that the timeframe may be subjected to delays caused by your indecision or a contractor’s scheduling conflicts.
7. Can the architect provide references?
Look for references from. successful projects similar to yours. It may even be possible to view similar work they’ve done on other houses. If so, take advantage of that opportunity.
8. How will plans be presented?
Will you be able to view your project on a computer screen in 3D, or do they rely on paper? Neither is an indication of a “better” architect, but if you’re more comfortable with one than the other, bring this up.
9. What is your fee, and how is it structured?
It would help if you had a firm understanding of the architect's fees, what they are based on, and how and when you will be billed.
When you've decided on the architect, you’ll need to sign a contract. The contract will typically include the scope of the work, what services the architect will provide, the schedule for the project, how much the architect will be paid, and when.
Source: This Old House
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