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Starting a Building Project: Key Questions an Architect Will Ask

July 5th, 2023 | 9 min. read

Starting a Building Project: Key Questions an Architect Will Ask

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Building projects occur for various reasons. Perhaps you need to accommodate a growing team or adjust to operational changes, or maybe your space is outdated, no longer reflecting your values and culture. 

While identifying the need is straightforward, starting the project can be challenging. Building projects are a new experience for most organizations, and it’s normal to feel intimidated by your first meeting with an architect. 

To make your first meeting more effective, it helps to know the key topics you’ll discuss. This article will outline the most common questions an architect will ask in an initial meeting, including questions about your goals, spatial needs, budget, timeline, and site. 

By the end of the article, you will be better prepared to meet with an architect to discuss your project and understand the services available to help you assess your needs. 

7 Questions an Architect Will Ask  

1. What Are Your Goals? 

During your initial meeting, an architect will want to understand your goals and what you hope to achieve from your project. Project goals can range from tangible, such as the need for more space, to abstract, like creating a building that better reflects your organization’s culture. 

No matter the case, successful projects start with a clear vision. When making difficult design decisions, it helps to refer to the project’s original intent. Goals can also help your architect set performance metrics and measure the project’s success. 

In our experience, projects are most effective when stakeholders feel bought into the vision. We recommend engaging your team before starting the design process and setting goals in a visioning workshop. 

2. What Are Your Spatial Needs? 

In addition to your project goals, an architect will ask about your spatial needs. They may ask: 

  • What is the estimated square footage of the proposed project? 
  • What types of spaces do you need? 
  • What spaces are a priority, and which are “wish list” items? 

Some organizations will develop a program—a document that outlines the necessary spaces and their sizing requirements—before working with an architect. Other organizations need help developing this document.  

If you do not have a clear program, an architect will likely recommend a programming study before starting design work. 

3. What is Your Budget and Timeline?

After establishing goals and spatial needs, your architect will need to understand your budget and timeline. Budgets drive all design decisions, and an architect will need to validate if the proposed budget fits your vision. 

If the budget does not align, you may need to adjust your project’s scope or explore additional funding opportunities. 

As with your budget, your architect must determine if the proposed project can be completed within your desired timeline. Building projects can be long and complex, so it helps to establish realistic expectations about the schedule. 

4. Who Are Your Stakeholders?

Project stakeholders are those who occupy and benefit from the completed building. For some organizations, stakeholders may include employees and facilities staff. Other organizations may engage clients or the public within their building. 

Before starting the project, your architect will want to understand who the building will serve and who they need to engage during the design process. 

At the same time, they may ask about your decision-making process. There are thousands of decisions on a building project. Before starting, it helps to determine who will meet with the architect and be a part of those discussions. 

5. Do You Have a Site?

If you plan to construct a new building, your architect will ask about the site. A building site impacts various design decisions—from the building’s orientation to its size. Zoning and planning laws can even dictate the building’s height and the type of materials used. 

If you don’t have a site, an architect can provide a site selection study that includes test fits and analysis of sustainability metrics and zoning regulations. In our experience, engaging an architect before selecting a site is the most effective way to find a location that aligns with your project’s goals. 

6. Do You Have Existing Building Documentation? 

If you plan to renovate your space, your architect will ask about existing building documentation. Specifically, they will need the drawings (commonly called blueprints) to assess the space and its systems.

drawings for a building

For renovations, an architect will need existing drawings. 

If you do not have the original drawings, an architect can visit the site and document existing conditions. To better understand your project and its constraints, they may recommend a feasibility study. 

During the study, they will assess various factors, including: 

  • Code and accessibility compliance 
  • Building systems 
  • Utilities 
  • Building envelope (wall, door, window, and roof) issues

They will also assess how you use the current space and the challenges occupants face. By analyzing the existing facility, they can better understand the constraints and opportunities of your renovation project. 

7. What Are Your Mission and Values?

Thoughtful, customized design solutions occur when your architect understands your organization and its culture. 

When you first meet with an architect, they will want to learn how the building project aligns with your larger goals. The completed building should be a physical manifestation of your values, helping you and your team better achieve your mission. 

On commercial projects, an architect may also ask about your business plan. They will want to understand your growth projections and potential operational changes to help you achieve a building that fits your evolving needs and provides a return on investment. 

Learn more by reading about the top factors to consider before starting a workplace design project. 

Learn More About Working with an Architect 

Building projects can feel daunting, especially if this is a new experience for your organization. 

Understanding what you will discuss in your first meeting with an architect can set you up for success. Your architect will likely discuss your spatial needs, budget, timeline, stakeholders, and site. At the same time, they will want to understand your culture and what you hope to accomplish with this project.

When starting a building project, you may meet with more than one architect. Building projects are long and complex, so it’s important to find a trusted partner who understands your vision. 

To find the right fit, read about the top questions to ask when hiring an architect