The reality of architecture is that if the project gets built, it needs a client to pay for it.  Consequently, the client has a great deal of control over the outcome of the appearance, budget and utility.  Having alignment between the client-owner and architect is critical.

While clients tend to interview several architects before selecting one, Architects also share tales of woe from the client choices they have not made at professional meetings,  and continuing education seminars to help one another avoid similar mistakes.

The initial interview is really a dialog and two-way interview and a gut-check at a fundamental “fit” level.  But since it is also a business transaction, where lots of time and money can be spent with poor result if the relationship is not good, many factors enter into the “pursue or pass” equation.  Here’s the short list: from our side

  • How many other projects are in house?
  • Is this project from a trusted referral or a tire-kicker?
  • Does this project fit within our skill-set and experience?
  • Did we just lose a project-or did another project just get put on hold due to approval hiccups or client indecision? (are we hungry?)
  • If it is not in our wheelhouse, are we willing to make less money at the benefit of expanding our knowledge base? or join with trusted consultants?
  • Do we have the staff or associates to handle the project?
  • What is the opportunity cost of taking on the project if something better comes along that we need to decline?
  • Can we make a fair profit on the project?
  • Do we have a good sense the client has the temperament, resources and commitment to see it through?

Yes, typically if we are interviewing for the project we are interested, we want the project – but it certainly depends how badly. There have a been projects we took in desperation and regretted later.  Since we run a business, and the financial pressure of Friday payday comes around quickly;  the reality of paying your guys and bills often trumps moments of reflection and selection.

Interviewing architects-

Let me suggest an approach that starts with some easy questions to interview architects then get into a few tougher ones.

Just to get the conversation going you may start-

  • 1. Like,”Tell me what you think of our project?”  or “Can you tell me a little more about the ___project that we saw on your website?”
  • 2. What kind of services do you offer?  Full package or limited? Are you involved during bidding and construction? How about approvals and permits?
  • 3. How do you bill?  Hourly, lump sum, square footage or percentage?
  • 4. What is a  typical schedule for similar projects?  Can you tell me a little about the various phases?
  • 5. What are your staffing levels, education levels?  How many are licensed?
  • 6. Is work done in-house? or subbed out?
  • 7. Do you have strong relationships with certain contractors? Who are they? Can you tell me a little about them?
  • 8. How much experience do you have in this type of project? Why should we choose your firm?
  • 9. How much experience do you have in this municipality?
  • 10. Can you tell me a bit about jobs that did not go well. What factors do you feel were at play here? How can we avoid that for our project?
  • 11. How do you like to communicate? Email, text, phone-call? Myspace?
  • 12. What percentage of your work is from referrals?
  • 13. Have you been involved in any judgments or law suits? What happened – if  you can share?
  • 14. Can you provide us with similar project references?
  • 15. How many project in your office? Can you safely handle all these projects?
  • 16. What else should I be asking?

Selecting an architect is an important step in the design-construction process. Don’t blow it.  We know we can’t be everybody’s choice  of architect, but we frequently recommend some good ones with more expertise in certain areas with no remorse.

Let’s answer those questions, call Steve now at 914 980 5532.

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Phew, that was cathartic and cheaper than therapy!  Thanks for reading. Give me a call and tell me what you think. 914 980 5532

Article by Steven Secon