NEUMANN MONSON ARCHITECTS

Hiring an architect
Best Questions to Ask Before Hiring an Architect

Hiring an architect is a big decision. Depending on the scope of your project, you may work with the same team for months or even years, so it’s important to hire a trusted partner who understands you and/or your organization. 

This begs the question: how do you determine which architect is right for you?   

With over 40 years of experience, we know finding an architect is a process of establishing alignment. You need someone who aligns with your values and understands your vision. To help with your search, we compiled a list of questions you should ask before hiring an architect. 

This unbiased guide will include: 

  • Questions we often receive from potential clients 
  • Questions we find useful (but aren’t frequently asked) 

After reading, you will be better prepared to interview architects and find a team that can bring your vision to life. 

Frequently Asked Questions in Architectural Interviews 

The following questions are ones we frequently hear in interviews with potential clients. Although they are often asked, they can be incredibly useful. Asking them will help you determine how an architect works and how they will charge for their services.   

What will the design process look like? 

Before starting a building project, it’s important to understand the architectural process, how long it will take, and your level of involvement. Most architects will have a similar process, but every firm will have a slightly different approach. Asking this question will help you differentiate between firms and better determine which one aligns with your goals and values. 

What’s included in your fee? 

Budgets are one of the most important aspects of a building project, and before hiring an architect, you need to determine how much you will pay for their services. While it’s important to discuss how much an architect will charge, it’s equally important to discuss what’s included in their fee. 

Most architects divide their services into two categories: basic and supplemental. These services can either be charged hourly, at a fixed rate, or at a percentage of the construction cost.  

Every firm will divide services differently. For example, some firms may charge interior design as a supplemental service and others may include it in their basic fee. If you are thinking of hiring an architect, be sure to establish expectations when it comes to pricing. Ask them how they divide their services and ask them to walk you through a typical fee schedule for each phase of the project.  

By asking these questions, you will better understand the value you will be getting with each firm.  

What’s your average change order rate?

This question is meant to gauge an architect’s commitment to quality assurance. During construction, inconsistencies or missing information in construction documents can lead to change orders. In theory, an architect’s change order rate should reflect the accuracy of their drawings and specifications.   

However, change orders occur for a variety of reasons, including changes requested by the building owner. Perhaps a better question would be “how do you make sure your construction documents are accurate?” or “what is your approach to minimizing change orders?” These more open-ended questions will better reflect the architect’s quality assurance process. 

Architects reviewing drawings for quality assurance

Quality assurance reviews can help prevent change orders.

What’s your experience with solving our particular problems? 

When meeting with an architect, you should always ask about their past experience. In addition to your building type, you will want someone who has experience solving the problems you are facing in your current space.  

Perhaps you need to consolidate your operations into one location or perhaps you need a workspace that will attract and retain talent. Discuss these problems in your interview and ask your architect how they have helped clients in similar situations.  

How will you bring value to the project? 

This is a great question for determining how much your architect has thought about your project. If not properly prepared, someone is likely to give a vague, cookie-cutter answer. 

The ideal answer will reflect your project and organization. You are looking for someone who has thought about the challenges and opportunities you face and understands how their skillset can help.   

Useful (But Not Frequently Asked) Questions 

Admittedly, we are not asked these questions often (but we would like to hear them more!). The right architect will align with your values and goals. These questions will help you discover alignment and better understand how an architect will work with your organization. 

How will this project help us succeed? 

Your architect should consider your organization and its potential before meeting with you. Every project presents opportunities for change, and your architect should aim to create something that will help your organization thrive. 

Perhaps your new building will improve talent attraction and attention. Perhaps it will reduce your utility and maintenance expenses. Or perhaps it will reflect your values and improve your ability to achieve your mission.  

Regardless of your goals, you want an architect who is committed to bringing them to life.   

How would you describe your design approach?  

Asking about an architect’s approach to design can help establish alignment. In most interviews, architects will prepare a presentation of past projects, but it’s always useful to ask them about their philosophy and approach. After all, architects are passionate about design. Hearing them speak about their passions will help you better understand their values and the way they work.  

What is your experience with sustainable design? 

Sustainability is one of the architecture industry’s top priorities. If you are interested in sustainable design, ask your architect about their experience and how you could integrate green building strategies into your project. The architect may discuss their experience with green building rating systems or how they can integrate sustainability at no added project cost

Like previous questions, you are trying to align your goals with what is possible. Discussing sustainability in the early stages of the process will help you find solutions that reduce your environmental impact and provide a long-term return on your investment. 

How much of your business is repeat clients? 

Building projects can be stressful and hectic. A quality architect will guide you through the process, prevent problems during construction, and help you make the best decisions. To gauge an architect’s level of service, ask them about repeat clients. 

When clients are satisfied with an architect’s service, they are more likely to use to the same architect for future building projects. Simply put, firms with a higher number of repeat clients are more likely to value client experience.   

What is your process for receiving feedback? 

To further gauge an architect’s commitment to service, ask about feedback. The architect/client relationship is long-lasting, and successful partnerships are founded on collaboration and trust. Architects who are committed to client experience will accept feedback, follow up, and adjust their approach. At the end of the day, you are looking for an architect who wants to form a partnership.  

How will you engage my team? 

A building project is a chance to transform your organization’s culture. The most successful projects occur when all stakeholders have buy-in and feel like their voice is being heard. Therefore, your architect should be ready to engage your organization and include as many people as possible in the design process. 

When you are discussing an architect’s process, dig deeper by asking follow-up questions like: 

  • How will you consider the needs of different building occupants? 
  • How will we establish project goals? 
  • What techniques will you use to help us establish a vision? 
  • Once a goal and vision is established, how will you help us stay on track?  

Ideally, you are looking for someone who can help you explore ideas and establish group consensus. Everyone in your organization should feel like they contributed to the final project. Your architect’s communication skills are just as important as their design abilities. 

Group of stakeholders in a visioning workshop

The most successful projects occur when stakeholders have buy-in.

Thinking of Hiring an Architect? 

Hiring an architect is a big commitment. Luckily, asking the right questions can help you find the best fit. In addition to frequently asked questions about process and pricing, be sure to ask questions that help establish alignment. 

Remember: you are looking for someone who aligns with your organization’s values and can help you achieve the most successful project. To learn how Neumann Monson can help you with your project, contact us and schedule an exploratory meeting with a project manager.  

Ready to learn more?  

Now that you are better prepared to interview architects, it’s time to learn about the design process. Read our guide to architectural programming to learn how an architect can help you establish definable project goals.