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Hire an Architect: Things you need to know

Your Architect

Hiring an architect doesn’t have to be difficult or confusing.

When you are ready to hire a reputable and licensed architect, it’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed. Hiring an architect is, after all, a huge commitment of both time and money. How to find an architect is mostly about knowing what to look for and what to ask. It only makes sense to want to come prepared so you can get it right. With that in mind, let’s overview some things you need to know before hiring an architect and designer. This will help you be prepared to talk with an architect near you.

Come with lots of questions

Lots of questions, not just at the start of the job but ALL the way through. The architect may come with a list of questions and you should too. It is a goal to answer as many of the questions as possible at the start of a job, but things do change and questions will arise, I promise.  As the design takes shape more questions are asked, answers found, and decisions need made towards creating the best design. It is key to the successful construction of any building or space to investigate and know as much as possible, conceptual idea to built environment.

Communication, all sorts

Expectations and schedule will be laid out and updates relayed throughout the process. To lessen your questions or concerns there are a variety of ways an architect will communicate progress and their questions as they arise. During the construction process communication may increase, not only with your architect but with your contractor. You WANT communication and if there isn’t any, ask why and request updates. From your initial consultation meeting, through preliminary and design development, during production of construction documents and continuing to the completion of the project there needs to be open communication, both ways.

Sketches and Photos

In order to help communicate ideas, sketches of all kinds will be used to demonstrate what an architect is thinking. You may have sketches or photos to share too; they help immensely throughout the project. Images of any kind help communicate likes (and dislikes) allowing your architect to work more efficiently on the design with less guesswork. Expect sketches even after the construction documents have been delivered to solve some unseen hurdles that may occur along the way. Clients have been known to change their mind too, sketches help communicate those thoughts more effectively.

Fee Proposal (Contract)

While this may be an obvious answer it is still important to mention there is great value to what an architect brings to the project.  Don’t be too surprised by a fee that may be put together for you. Architects make sure that enough time is allotted in a project fee to make sure ALL questions will be answered and a final building created exactly as you had wanted. Did you know that there can be a conversation had about the fee proposal? Not that the fee can be negotiated exactly but do verify what has been written and understand exactly what you are signing.  The fee proposal is there to protect you as much as your architect moving forward, specifically spelling out what is to be discussed and delivered at the end.

Paper, of course

An obvious one but more than you may expect. With technology we rarely deliver printed drawings anymore but a complete set is required on your jobsite. Sketches are on paper, construction documents and specification books are eventually printed out for estimating, construction and coordination of trades. The permitting process can bring on lots of paper, communicating review comments, concerns and responses. During the construction process you can expect paperwork, mostly from the builder through the architect. Questions arise, as mentioned earlier, changes occur and there needs to be a record of everything for all parties involved.


Related to asking questions and communication, meeting face to face is the best way to go. Any opportunity you have to get the design team and decisions makers all in the same room boosts the schedule and increases productivity. While some jobs can be completed with limited personal meetings they tend to take a little more time. You can expect a meeting before you even say ‘go’ as we need an opportunity to interview you as much as you are interviewing us. Your architect needs to understand what you need/want as a client and you need to trust your architect will provide what you want/need.

To Wrap Up

Your experience may vary some depending on the architectural firm you choose. Since you will spend a significant amount of time with and talking to your architect it is important to talk to a few of them to find the ‘best fit’. Personality is almost more important than cost. While cost typically drives the decision of selecting and architect that can be misleading, if you don’t like who you are working with that can add time and cost as the project may not go as smoothly as you expected. You will have to trust your architect to hear what you have said (or not said) from beginning to end and transform all the information into a space that meets the needs you have expressed.

Finding an architect is a huge decision to make. After all, designing a custom home or commercial architecture is a massive project to take on. You’ll want to hire an architect you know is capable of handling the job and making your design process as easy as possible. With that in mind, keep the tips above in mind to help make the decision of hiring an architect a little easier. Armed with this knowledge, you should feel confident in your ability to find the right architect for your new building project.

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