The selection of the right Architect is one of the first and most important decisions to be made toward insuring a successful project. In addition to asking for references and viewing previous designs, when interviewing a potential Architect, be sure to ask a few important questions…
Are you licensed by the State?
All those who call themselves by the title “Architect” have passed rigorous educational standards and examinations and hold a license granted by the State. If one is termed a “building designer” or “architectural designer” they may prepare drawings for you, but you will need to hire a licensed engineer to sign and stamp the drawings in order to obtain a building permit.
Are you insured?
In order to provide the maximum protection for your home, you will want to hire an Architect who carries Professional Liability Insurance (often referred to as an “Errors and Omission” policy). Be sure to see if the consulting Engineers who work under contract to the Architect also carry this insurance. A typical policy will insure in the amount of $1,000,000 and help to protect your valuable assets.
What are the scopes of your services?
The scope of services may vary widely between various Architects and it is important to match those services to your needs. An experienced builder may need only a basic set of plans which is the minimum required to obtain a building permit, while the first time owner of a custom home lot will require much more of the Architects time and expertise. Ask if the Architect will be concerned with the interior of the home and to what extent. Also, find out if the Architect will process the plans through the various approval stages in order to obtain your building permit and will he/she be involved during the construction phase for consultation, direction and guidance.
What are your fees?
There are four basic fee structures that Architects use: 1.) Hourly rates; 2.) Percentage of construction costs; 3.) Dollars per square foot of area; 4.) Fixed fee. Ask the Architect how services are billed and have the pros and cons of each method explained.
Selection of an Architect involves a number of factors as noted, yet perhaps the most important factor is communication. Once you are settled on issues of design ability, experience, scope of services and fees, select the one who will listen, will explain the issues and is available to provide first-class personal service. You and your Architect may well be in a working relationship for upwards of two years and good communication is imperative for a successful project.