Great Expectations for Client and architect

Realistic expectations?

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Yep, Really?

Whether a project is breaking bad or good depends mostly on one issue: construction project expectations being met or not.

To meet or exceed expectations is critical.  This occurs through conversations and observation about what elements the clients feel are important and which are not. From communication, to budget, appearance, utility,  construction inconveniences- they all have to be discussed, understood and vetted. And Agreed on. The earlier the better.

Accordingly, the conversation aftermath has to be deeply studied. If there is too wide a gap for expectations to be met, then it is essential that further discussion be fruitful, or perhaps the project should be done by another designer…Because if the understanding of expectations cannot be narrowed early in the process, they tend to become unpleasant issues later , and are much harder to fix.

Results and meeting deliverables , dates, completion, thoroughness are essential and understood.


Agreements that record the understanding of expectations are critical. This is why we use battle tested formats to hold each party accountable to honoring their duties-since we all know that our memories are prone to remembering things a certain way-  our way :).  The two primary agreements we use are:  an agreement letter between the owner and our firm, and an AIA (American Institute of Architects) Owner-Contractor agreement.

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To help reduce the friction,  we share our experience of over 400 projects to  convey how the process usually unfolds (also Youtube videos), with schedules and “look-aheads” so there are minimal surprises and expectations can be met.  We work hard with the contractors and owners to make sure information flows freely and in a timely manner so decisions happen in a way that do not delay the project.


Whether on the phone, screen or in person, meetings are needed to discuss information and gather feedback, plan and evaluate. Meetings are needed also for accountability on all sides to determine a direction, maintain a schedule and coordinate efforts. We maintain meeting minutes and a phone log to help document these meetings.

We also understand that many owners have a “design whisperer” in the background who is seldom at the meetings or on the email thread , but has the ear of the owner to be in the advisory roll…Since they are not on the payroll and usually offer advice with limited knowledge- they usually create havoc down the line. The Design Whisperer


We have little or no control over certain important factors:

Payment. To any owner that is serious about getting work done- do not fool around with payment. It is the number one source of agitation and leads to nasty consequences, Enough said.

It’s also critical that the owners understand that there are certain elements beyond our control like the approval process. This is usually related to obtaining a building permit and the related forms, review boards, and drawings that get reviewed by the municipality.  We have no control over the volume of projects being reviewed or the city’s staffing and competency. So predicting when a permit will be ready is just an educated guess….read on

Codes and regulations are wildly subject to interpretation and enforcement. Some inspectors are awesome, considerate and thorough and some are capricious, erratic and incompetent.  Nobody know who is going to turn up at your project on a given day after a fight with their wife and possibly  take it out on your project..

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