Whether you are renovating your existing home or embarking on a complete newbuild, your architect will play an integral role throughout the project.
Architects are more than just a technical service-provider; they will be your advocate in the construction process and help bring your dreams into reality. Asking the right questions at your initial meeting is crucial for selecting the right individual.
But what are the key issues to consider? From checking credentials to training and experience, working methods, budget, timeframe and next steps – we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of questions to help you select the perfect architect for your next project.
Establish your own goals.
Instead of starting with questions for your potential architect – what questions do you need to ask yourself first? Make sure that you attend your initial meeting fully prepared and ready to discuss your aims for the build. For instance, what are your must-haves or what flaws in your existing home instigated the project?
Bring plenty of images to show your architect as well – so they can fully understand your design goals. Establishing a clear vision from the outset will make things much easier further down the line. Think about the big questions such as:
- What do you want to create from scratch or change about your existing space?
- Why? What are your design aims for the project?
- How much time and energy can you invest in the design and construction process?
- What is a realistic budget for the build?
- Who will be the primary contact with the architecture and building teams?
Testimonials and Credentials.
When meeting an architect for the first time, make sure to ask for a portfolio of previous work – and trust your instincts. If you have a clear vision for your own project, finding an architect that can work with and enhance this brief is key.
They may also have their own opinions on taking on the project, so it is worth confirming that both parties are invested. In addition, double-check their work with previous clients and follow-up on any references provided – responsiveness, problem-solving and communication skills are all key factors. Consider asking:
- Are you interested in taking on this job?
- How busy are you? Are you able to fit this into your schedule?
- Can I see a portfolio of your previous work – do you have a particular design style?
- Do you have a list of past clients, references or customer testimonials?
- What sets your work apart from similar individuals or firms?
Training and Experience.
In UK law, anyone who calls themselves an architect must be professionally trained and registered. Making sure that your architect has the proper certification is crucial. Membership of the ARB is compulsory and ensuring they are also part of an accredited RIBA Chartered Practice will provide further assurance.
A complete home build or renovation is likely the most expensive project you’ll ever undertake, so don’t be afraid to enquire about your architect’s experience and qualifications.
- How many years have you been established?
- Are you RIBA accredited?
- Are you a member of the Architects Registration Board?
- Have you worked with local planning officials before?
- What is your experience with similar projects?
A hands-on architect is enormously useful for coordinating contractors and dealing with questions or problems as they arise – so make sure you understand their level of involvement. This starts with the design process, asking how they will explain the plans and discuss finishes, right through to the construction itself and liaising with builders.
Establishing working practices and who’s responsible for what will minimise misunderstandings as the build progresses. Try asking:
- How will you explain the design process? Will I see initial models or drawings?
- Can we arrange an initial visit to assess the house or plot in-situ? As the project progresses, do you conduct regular site-visits?
- Will you be the only architect involved in the project? If not, who will I be dealing with at the architecture firm – and will this be the same person throughout the process?
- How, and how often will I be updated about progress?
- What is your level of involvement with building contractors and tradespeople (i.e. project management) – who’s responsible for what?
Budget and Timeframe.
When meeting any architect or builder, be clear from the start on your own budget, as well as how their fees will be calculated and charged. Some architects provide full design, plan and build services at either a percentage of the project cost or a fixed fee – or depending on your needs, just seeing the designs through planning stages.
Whatever you require, it is essential this arrangement is in writing, setting out the specific responsibilities of each party. Make sure you understand the following:
- What is your fee structure and what are the timings for payments?
- If the scope of the project changes, will there be additional fees? How are these established?
- Are these designs practical and how much will they cost?
- What do you see as the important issues and challenges of the project?
- How long do you envisage the work will take to complete?
Once you are happy your potential architect understands your goals, the project is achievable, and you’ve understood their fees and working methods – finish off by asking whether your architect needs anything from you. Your architect may require information such as deeds, planning approvals or preferred contractors for instance.
Keeping the project moving forwards at an early stage is important, so aim to come away from your first meeting with a list of key action points and timeframes.
- Is there anything else you need from me – i.e. what does your architect expect you to provide and at what stages?
- What are the key phases in the design, briefing and build process?
- How long will it take for the architect to get back to you, after the initial meeting?
- What planning and paperwork is required to officially get started?
- Are you both completely happy with plans and ready to start working together?
From interpreting initial ideas into a stunning finalised design, to securing planning permission, liaising with builders and monitoring progress on site – architects are invaluable assets to any building project. It can be worth speaking to several architects before you make a firm selection, to ensure your project gets off to the best possible start. With these questions in mind you’re sure to find the ideal architect for you.