Process for hiring architect

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Topic: Process for hiring architect

Architecture February 10, 2013 at 10:14 pm

Process for hiring architect

Beginning the process of engaging an architect to commence a reasonably thorough (not quite gut) townhouse renovation.

Does anyone have a template of what topics to cover in an interview?

Will architects provide initial drawings and mockups of designs prior to selection?

How accurate should I expect them to be with respect to total project cost?

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Here are some good questions I’ve been asked by potential architects (I’m assuming you’re asking after discussing your needs/aims, and walking through the building with them):
- What will be the most technically difficult part of the project?
- Do they feel that your budget matches the scope of work?
- Have them describe their involvement once construction starts.  One thing that many people incorrectly assume is that all architect’s provide the same services.  But some deliver the drawings and are then very minimally involved.  Others are on site checking the contractor’s work at least once a week.
After meeting with you, the candidates should also give you a brief but detailed estimate of costs and schedule for both design and construction.  If they can’t do that, they probably aren’t a good choice.
You should not expect drawings or mock ups prior to hiring.  You’re hiring someone on the basis of the work they show you in their portfolio, their references, and on feeling that you’ll work well with them.  It would be too tempting for some owners to say “I like architect x’s sketches, architect y’s sketches are lousy, but her fees are 20% less…I’ll hire architect y, but have her use architect x’s sketches.”
Also be sure to get at least 3 references from past clients, and actually reach out to them.  I think you’ll learn much more about the architect from references than from the architect himself.  No one’s going to tell you “I’m going to underestimate your construction costs by 25%.”  But a reference will. 
Ask references:
- Did the architect deliver their work in keeping with the schedule they laid out at the start of the project?
- Did they accurately estimate the budget?
- Did they acurately estimate how long construction would take?  Were they readily available during construction when needed to keep things on track?
- Were they fun to work with?  You’ll be spending a good amount of time together, you might was well enjoy it!
For cost estimates, an architect should be able to provide a good ballpark estimate.  My contract stipulates that if my estimate is off by more than a certain percentage, I have to do the work to get things back on budget at no extra charge.  I also always have a contingency plan in my head so that if pricing comes back higher than anticipated, I’m ready to make quick adjustments to things so that the project is not delayed because the owner and I were unprepared for high initial bids.
Good luck with the project.
James Cleary Architecture

We have a landmarked home and wanted to make sure and do everything by the book, so I asked a lot about how much they had worked with landmarks and the DOB.  That actually helped narrow it down a fair amount and we ended up using someone who was great with LM and DOB stuff, which probably saved us a lot of hassles (I’ve seen neighbors get really screwed by trying to skip permits and knew the money spent was worth it).
Of course you want someone talented and good at design.  Also important to me was just that it was someone local so that it was easy for him/her to visit the house easily when things popped up.  That also meant people who were familiar with our home, which is common in the neighborhood.  One that we almost went with actually was just too abrasive and a little rude which made communication hard.  Finding someone that we communicatd well with made the project all much less stressful than I’m sure it could have been.  
Email me at upthestoop at gmail if you want more info on who we used (and that I highly recommend).  

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