Home and Cottage Architects work closely with their clients to assess and understand their needs, desires and resources. You will be working with your Design Architect for a long time and the most important thing to evaluate is whether the Architect is the right fit for your project, your budget and your family. When selecting an architect, it’s important that you ask each candidate a series of questions to gain a better understanding of the qualities they would bring to your project. Every architect has his or her own set of skills, expertise, and values, and your job is to select one that aligns with your project goals. To help you in your architect interviews, we’ve developed a list of 10 questions that will help you choose the right architect for your project. Top Ten Questions to ask your Architect 1. Considering size and type of building, what is your experience with comparable projects? If you are building on a narrow city lot or on an expansive lakefront lot, you will want to interview an architect with experience with the type of building that you are considering designing. Architecture firms are often full-service firms that provide commercial and residential services to a vast array of clients. It is important to choose an architect that understands your project and has experience with similar projects. 2. What sets your firm apart from other architects with similar experience? Specialization and experience set apart architects from one another. An architect that has never built a residential home or one that has never been to cottage country may not understand the specific needs and challenges of building your project. For example, building in cottage country with its short building season and many setback and environmental requirements requires specialized knowledge. 3. What do you see as important issues, challenges, or considerations in my project? Architects have insight about construction, city approvals, and design challenges you may not have been aware of and therefore this is a key question to ask. Every project will have challenges. Ask your candidates to identify some important considerations in your project and to describe some potential solutions. It wouldn’t be fair to expect an architect to have all the answers at this stage, but an architect with experience will be able to pull in examples from past projects. 4. What is the design process? Can you outline the steps for me? The design process is essentially the same for large and small projects. It starts out with the schematic design phase. The architect will take the information they have gathered from you and through field surveys to create a draft design. The schematic design will consider your aesthetic preferences and budget requirements. The design will then be further refined in the design development phase. In this phase, the design will be revised and further refined. Once a final design is settled, the next phase is the preparation of construction drawings. These are the drawings, notes, and technical specifications necessary for bidding, construction, and permit application. These drawings will then be used to bid out the project to contractors to get a final price on the design and a timetable for construction. 5. What do you think is an appropriate schedule for my project? It is important to ask about timing and scheduling of a project. Often architects will take on more than one project and it is important to ask your candidate about the timing of your project and it priority over the others currently in the design phase. 6. What do you think I should budget for construction cost and for all the costs of the project including fees and all contingencies? Architects use different fee structures to charge for their services, and any reputable firm will be able explain their fee schedule. It is also important to ask your Architect about any additional costs associated with the project. There are often additional construction administration hours or amendments to the drawings due to changes during construction that aren’t often included in the original design fee. 7. What form of agreement do you propose to use? The Ontario Association of Architects provides all architects with either a short form agreement or a long form agreement for them to use. Beware of professionals that do not use standard agreements endorsed by their professional association. 8. What is your role during construction? What are my options? Architects can either bid out the project to a contractor or help the client to manage the construction of the project. The latter is called Construction Management and architects can perform this role for an added fee. 9. Do you have references? Ask your architect about past clients and contractors they’ve worked with, and then follow up on the references they provide. Ideally, you want to work with an architect that has experience on your projects but also works with other experienced professionals. References also provide insight into how the architect handled tough situations, whether the project was on budget and time and how the overall experience was for the past client. These are things that a website, portfolio or even an extensive interview cannot provide. 10. How can we reduce the environmental impact? Most architects are happy to consult with, and work with you to design more environmentally sustainable buildings, and it is important to ask the architect if they will integrate low or no cost sustainable design strategies into your project.