Need an architect for your project? Ask these questions first

By Melissa Eure, President and Director of Planning, GC Garcia Inc.

 In the initial stages of planning a project, determining the many subcontractors that will bring your vision to fruition is a key component, which includes the lead architecture firm. The role of an architect is to bring together the creative ideas and visions of the client, guiding the look, feel and functionality of the building. Technical knowledge of construction is a must, as well as knowing building and safety regulations, local planning regulations, and restrictions.

While there are several architecture firms to choose from, knowing which questions to ask during the vetting process will determine the right firm that is the right fit for your project:

Experience. Before you select the winning firm, it’s essential to know if they have the knowledge, background and history needed to ensure success.

  • Are you licensed in my state?
  • What sets your firm apart from other architects with similar experience?
  • Do you have experience with the building type and size of my project?
  • Do you have a portfolio of similar projects? Can you provide a list of at least three client references?
  • Who from the architecture firm will I be dealing with on a day-to-day basis? Is this the person who will design my project? Will they be the liaison between your firm and the other design professionals/ contractor?
  • Are you able to refer professionals like engineers, surveyors, contactors etc?

Research on your project. Just like a job interview, it’s important for the prospective firm to show some prior knowledge of your company or research on your project to show their interest, commitment, and willingness to make your needs a priority.

  • What challenges or issues do you foresee for this type of project?
  • What is your estimated timetable for my project (including entitlements if needed, concept plans for entitlments and building permit plans) and how will you ensure we stay on time and on budget?
  • What presentation methods/tools will you use to help me understand the scope and sequence of the project? Models, drawings, or computer animation?

The design process. This will help you get a clear understanding of what it will be like working with the prospective firm.

  • Describe your approach to the design process.
  • What criteria will be used to establish priorities and make design decisions?
  • What information will you need me to provide during the initial design of the project?
  • What role will you have during construction? Do you stay involved from conception to completion? Am I expected to work with the contractor directly or will you act as liaison?
  • Which services are included in your contract?

Whether you’re interviewing two or eight prospective firms, these questions will help guide you in finding the right fit. It is also recommended to rank the following questions in order of importance. By doing so, you’ll immediately narrow your focus and determine your project priorities and criteria.