INTERVIEWING AN ARCHITECT
The interview is crucial because it gives you a chance to meet the people who will design your project and to see if the chemistry is right. Remember, you will be working with the architect for a long time. You want someone with whom you feel comfortable.
Allow at least an hour for the interview. The meeting might take place at the architect's office-helpful because you can see where the work will be done. Or the interview could be held at your home or office-helpful because the architect can learn more about your project and needs - whichever feels right. The architect may show you slides or photographs of past work and describe how the firm's experience and expertise will help you. While many architects do not charge for this interview, some do. Before the interview, ask if there is a fee.
During the interview, ask questions. How busy is the firm? Does it have the capacity to take on your work? Who will handle the job? Insist on meeting the person who will actually design the project. What is the firm's design philosophy? How does the architect intend to approach your project? How interested is the firm in your job? Talk about your budget and find out the range of fees that the architect would anticipate for your project. Before making a final selection, have the architect take you to one completed project. It is proper to ask your architect for references from past clients. These references are invaluable.
If, during the course of the discussion, there is something you don't understand, ask the architect for clarification. If you feel intimidated or if the architect doesn't explain things in a way that you can understand, then he or she may not be right for you.
Making the Final Cut
Ultimately, you will choose the architect whom you trust and feel is right for your project. Unlike buying a car or a new appliance, you can't see the final product and test it out. The architect provides professional services, not a product. The right architect will be the one who can provide the judgment, technical expertise, and creative skills, at a reasonable cost, to help you realize a project that fits your practical needs as well as your dreams.
A Word about How Architects Get Paid
How architects charge for their services can be confusing to first-time clients. There is no set fee for a particular type of project. Fees are established in a number of ways, depending on the sort of project, and the amount and nature of the services best suited to your unique needs.
Some projects are best done at hourly rates; others for a stipulated sum per unit, based on what is to be built (for example, the number of square feet, apartments, rooms, etc.). Some architects charge a fixed fee; others charge a percentage of construction costs. Whenever you feel it is appropriate, discuss with your architect how he or she would expect to establish the fee on your project. The architect may suggest a combination of the above methods. The basis for the fee, the amount, and payment schedule are issues for you and your architect to work out together.
The best building projects are created when the client and architect work together as a team. Take an active role. Don't delegate decision-making to a spouse or business partner unless you are prepared to live with his or her decisions.
Designing a building is an exciting, creative challenge. The process can be fun, satisfying, and positive. If at any time in the design process you are uncomfortable, discuss your concerns with your architect. You don't want the architect to control the project to the point that the building is no longer yours. But you also want to be careful not to restrict the architect so much that you are not getting your money's worth in terms of design creativity.
Get It in Writing
Once you have found the architect, you are ready to put in writing the terms of your agreement on the scope of work, services, schedule, construction budget, and architect's compensation. This written agreement can take many forms. The AIA has developed a variety of standard contract forms which are used industrywide.
FIND AN ARCHITECT
How and Why to Hire and Architect for your Home Building Project (PDF)
The AIA Architect Finder can help you locate AIA Architects in your area. Focus your search by selecting "Delaware" and leaving the "City" box blank. Or, search for a specific firm by entering the name on the Firm Name tab.
How to Select an AIA Architect
Advice on selecting an architect whose personality and qualifications are a match for you and your project.
Questions to ask your Architect
Twenty questions to ask your architect at the start your project.
The Owner-Architect Agreement
Learn about the Standard Form of Agreement Between Owner and Architect, and what it means to you.