Frequently Asked Questions
- How do I find an architect?
- Which comes first, the architect or the contractor?
- Will an architect work from my design?
- What does an architect do? What is included in the cost of hiring an architect?
- How much do you charge?
- What kind of timeline am I looking at for my project?
- What questions should I ask a potential contractor?
- What questions should I ask my contractor’s references?
Q. . How do I find an architect?
- The architect’s experience (Does he or she specialize in residential architecture? How long has he or she practiced? Can he or she give you references and a list of projects to drive by? Does he or she have a portfolio of work to show you?)
- The architect’s design preferences (Does the architect only design houses of one style? Does he or she design additions to look like they have always been there?)
- The architect’s fees and methods of charging for his or her work
- Your specific goals for the project
- Your budget for the project, including construction “hard costs” and the architect’s fee
- Your time frame for completion of the project
- The architect’s schedule for doing your work, including an estimate of the time it will take to do the project
A. When hiring an architect, you should talk to friends, relatives, and colleagues to see if you know anyone has worked with an architect in the past. Drive around your neighborhood to see if there are any yard signs advertising a particular architecture firm. If you see any remodeling projects in your neighborhood, ask your neighbors if they worked with an architect. If so, ask them whether they would recommend that firm or individual.
You can also find an architect by looking in your local yellow pages or on the internet. The American Institute of Architects maintains a searchable database at architectfinder.aia.org/frmLandingPage.aspx. You can input your project type (residential, for example) and your location, and you will be given a list of architects who specialize in your project type in your area.
Before you hire an architect, you should meet with him or her to discuss the following:
Obviously, you should hire an architect who can complete the work in a timely manner for a good price. However, you should also consider whether you are comfortable with the architect and whether you believe that he or she listens to you.
A. Either. If you know a contractor that you trust, you can ask him or her for the names of a few architects. Conversely, your architect should be able to give you the names of a few contractors in your area. If he or she has never worked in your particular neighborhood, you can ask your architect to help you interview and evaluate contractors.
Recently contractors have become less willing to bid on projects. This is not only because the economy has been strong enough that most of them are very busy. It is also difficult for a contractor to justify spending many hours putting together an estimate when the contractor has a one in three or a one in four chance of getting the job. Finally, many contractors believe that they can actually save you money if they are involved in the process from the very beginning.
Therefore, it is often a good idea to assemble a project team, which would include your architect and your contractor. With the team approach, both the architect and the contractor come to design meetings. The architect is the primary designer, and the contractor provides input about pricing. For example, the architect may propose two or three different schemes which accomplish your design goals. The contractor can provide an idea of the cost of each scheme, thus allowing you to make decisions through the process based on your design goals and your budget. One further benefit of the team approach is that, by the time construction is starting, the contractor will be very familiar with the design, including your goals and your reasons for making the decisions you made.
A. Absolutely! Most clients have a very good sense of what their architectural needs are. Even if you have limited ability to draw your ideas, your magazine pictures and verbal descriptions will be invaluable to your architect in understanding your goals for your project. Many times, the best projects start from a client’s design.
However, if you start with your own design, you should expect that your architect will offer additional suggestions and point out areas that may not work. Whether you drew the initial sketch for your project or your architect did, you should expect that, as the project develops, the design will evolve to better suit your needs.
A. Many people will call our office and ask, “How much does it cost to get a set of blueprints?” This is a difficult question to answer, because an architect provides so much more than a set of blueprints!
Architects provide a service, not a product. An architect will help you get from an initial concept to a finished project. Most homeowners have never hired an architect, thus, it is helpful to find an architect who specializes in dealing with residential projects and who has been through the process of building a custom home or adding to a house many times.
The first thing Studio Z Architecture will do is find out exactly what your goals are. Whether you are building your dream home or adding a family room to your existing house, there are many decisions that you will be asked to make during the process of design and construction. When we have a good idea of your goals, we can better assist you through the decision-making process
Studio Z Architecture will need to meet with you once or twice before starting to design. The reason for this is so that we have a clear idea of your goals and dreams. In addition, we will want to get a good idea of your personal taste.
If you are remodeling or adding to your home, Studio Z Architecture will schedule an appointment to measure parts or all of your existing home. This is because it is necessary to have a good drawing of the existing parts of the home. In addition, we will take a lot of photos of your house, so that we will have an accurate record of what your home looks like when back at the office.
Once we have a good understanding of your goals, your budget, and your existing house layout (if you are remodeling), we will begin to design. The first designs an architect produces are called schematic designs. Schematic designs can be freehand sketches or preliminary drawings produced on a computer. Either way, these drawings are intended to explore several possibilities for meeting your goals. Studio Z Architecture will usually present two or three schematic designs to you for discussion. We will always bring tracing paper to this meeting so that we can explore further design possibilities with you.
At the second design meeting, Studio Z Architecture will bring design development drawings. Usually, these drawings are created using all or most of the ideas discussed at the schematic design meeting. These drawings will contain more detail than schematic design drawings, and will include some dimensions and exterior views, if appropriate. Often, these two design meetings are sufficient to form a basis for the construction documents, which are the drawings and specifications required to get a building permit and to build the project. However, it is sometimes necessary to meet a few more times before you are satisfied with the design.
Whether or not you have included a contractor on your project team, it is a good idea to have a contractor provide an estimate of the cost of construction of the design before proceeding with construction documents. This way, you are comfortable with the design and the budget before asking us to complete the construction documents, the part of our work which usually takes the most time (therefore costs the most money).
Studio Z Architecture will want to meet with you at least once during the construction document phase. During this time, you should spend some time shopping for light fixtures, bathroom fixtures, and finish materials, if you haven’t already made these selections.
Finally, Studio Z Architecture will be available during the construction of your project. There will almost always be challenges during construction that no one could have anticipated. Both you and your contractor will have questions during construction, and we will be available to answer them. In addition, Studio Z will stop by a few times while the project is being built, to check that the project is going more or less according to plan.
At all points in the process, Studio Z Architecture will be interested in listening to your desires and concerns.
A. Studio Z Architecture charges a lump sum fee for most projects. Studio Z always gives clients a written estimate for the total cost of the project before starting work. You can see specific fee estimates for custom homes here and for remodeling projects here .
A. That depends. Most remodeling projects require at least three months of planning, including time for design and construction documents. Most custom home projects take longer – at least six months. That’s because there are a lot of things to think about, and a lot of decisions for you to make for either type of project. The more time you spend planning your project, the less time you will spend solving problems during construction. Other factors influencing the timeline include your availability for meetings, your ability to make decisions, your tendency to change your mind once a decision has been made, etc.
- The contractor’s experience (Does he or she specialize in residential construction? Does he or she specialize in remodeling existing homes? How long has he or she been in business? Can he or she give you references and a list of projects to drive by? Does he or she have a portfolio of work to show you?)
- The contractor’s fees and methods of charging for his or her work (Will the contractor charge a lump sum for the project, or does he or she use a “cost plus” method? How often will payments be due?)
- Whether he or she thinks your goals for the project are realistic and within his or her abilities.
- Whether the contractor thinks your budget for the project is reasonable.
- The contractor’s schedule for doing your work, including an estimate of the time it will take to do the project
A.The questions you ask a potential contractor should be similar to those you ask your potential architect:
- What kind of work did the contractor do for you?
- When did you work with the contractor?
- Did the contractor provide you with a clear contract, including the cost and schedule for the work?
- Did the contractor show up on time and work a full day? If the contractor didn’t work on your project for a period of time, did the contractor explain his/her absence in advance to you?
- How did you communicate with the contractor throughout the process? Was the communication clear?
- Did the contractor clearly explain changes to the project cost and/or schedule?
- If the contractor remodeled your home, were you and your family able to live in the home during the remodeling process? Did the contractor clean up at the end of each day so that your home was clean and safe? Did the contractor respect you, your children, and your pets? Did the contractor help you modify your home so that it was comfortable and convenient for you to live there during construction?
- Did you have any surprises during construction? How were those handled?
- Did you get the results you expected? Do you feel that the contractor’s work was worth the cost?
- Did the contractor pull a building permit for the project? If so, did the contractor’s work pass the building department inspections? If not, why not?
- If you had an architect, did your contractor work well with your architect?
- Would you hire the contractor again?
A. Here are some suggestions: