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9 Questions to Ask When Hiring an Architect

How does the design process work?

The phase of architectural design is typically split into 4 steps, which you can read about here. However, each architect has its own way of handling the design process, so it is beneficial to learn how your chosen specialist works.


What is the estimated timeline for my project?

With the hot market today, it is more important than ever to set practical deadlines for architecture and construction in order for a project to run smoothly. Find out when your architect is available to begin your project, and how long it will take to complete their estimate.


What experience do you have working in my area? (City? County? Subdivision?)

Each city, county and even subdivision can have their own rules for zoning and design. Depending on the location, permitting procedures and the length of time required to obtain a permit can vary greatly. Some subdivisions have stringent design requirements, and before being designed, new homes must be approved by a design review committee. Speak about their background in the region in which you are building with your architect. While this should not be a deal breaker, if your architect already knows the deal, it can be beneficial.


How do you charge?

Although cost should not always be the primary factor in choosing an architect, architectural fees can be challenging, so before signing the contract, it is very important to understand the fee structure of your architect. There are four key methods commonly used by architects to measure their fees: time spent (hourly), fixed number, percentage of the cost of the job, or based on the square footage of the building. 


What is and isn’t included in your fees?

Different architectural firms provide various service levels, so knowing what is and is not included in your contract is essential. Examples of service levels include: sets of builders, complete service and design / build. Each technique has its own particular pros and cons. Choosing what is right for you is a personal decision that requires looking, among other things, at your budget, project scope, and desired level of involvement.


How do you manage the budget?

Don't be afraid to ask questions about how the budget will be handled by your architect. It is a team effort to handle the budget, so find out what steps your architect can take and what steps you should take to ensure that you remain within your allocated budget.


Do you stay involved during the construction process?

Find out whether your architect will remain interested throughout the design process, and to what degree. The architect can have varying degrees of involvement when your project is being designed, depending on your needs. Plans are often turned over to the owner at the end of the design with no further time spent, although some projects need supervision during construction by the architect. Plans are not always flawless, so there will be concerns. In order to clearly describe goals, have the discussion up front.


Who will be managing my project and how will it be managed? Who is my main point of contact?

This comes down to a horsepower issue. All good professionals are busy in today's market. Make sure the workers are on hand to be able to handle and make the project a priority. It is important to make sure that not only you, but your contractors will be open to your architect.


What builders or contractors would you recommend for my project?

If you don't have a builder chosen already, the recommendation of an architect can be especially helpful in narrowing your search. Many design firms work with a number of builders and are familiar with their strengths and weaknesses, enabling them to recommend experts on the basis of the unique project's needs.

Are You Looking for an Architecture Firm to Design Your Home?


Ecobuild Architects provides exceptional design and construction administration services for residential, commercial, and mixed-use projects throughout California with an eye towards sustainable/ high-performance building solutions. We are experts in suggesting Cost-Effective/ Sustainable Solutions for any size project. If you are searching for an architect that specializes in Zero-Net Energy Building Envelope Design, Water Reuse, Healthy Indoor Air Quality, & Fire Resilient/ New Home Construction Practices, look no further than Ecobuild Architects in Oakland, California. Contact us today for your free consultation!

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