Architects meeting with clients
What Do Architects Expect From Clients? 6 Expectations

Starting a building project can seem daunting—especially if it’s your first time. At first, you were dreaming of the possibilities the project presented. Now, as you get closer to hiring an architect, you are suddenly overwhelmed. 

You may be wondering: What are my responsibilities as a building owner? What is my role in the process? What does the architect expect of me? 

Fear not. At Neumann Monson, we know the best projects occur when everyone is on the same page in terms of roles and expectations. Our goal is to educate anyone starting their first building project and help you achieve the most successful outcome. 

In this article, you will learn six expectations architects have of building owners during the design and construction process. These expectations include: 

1. Fulfill contractual obligations 

2. Make time for meetings (and communicate this expectation to others)

3. Discuss budget expectations 

4. Appoint a construction representative 

5. Educate your team (especially about building performance) 

6. Keep an open mind 

After reading, you’ll understand your role in the process and what you need to do to keep your project running smoothly.    

6 Expectations Architects Have of Building Owners  

1. Fulfill Contractual Obligations 

In a standard architectural contract, a building owner is responsible for fulfilling several obligations, including: 

  • Establishing a budget 
  • Providing site surveys 
  • Providing geotechnical surveys 
  • Providing hazardous material removal 
  • Furnishing any other tests, inspections, or reports required by law  
  • Furnishing legal, insurance, accounting, and auditing services 

Although these services are necessary to complete a building project, they are beyond the scope of basic and supplemental architectural services. As such, you may need to consult a third party. 

If you do not know who to contact, your architect can point you in the right direction and help you procure these services. Contractually, however, the building owner is responsible for making sure these services are completed.  

2. Make Time for Meetings (and Communicate this Expectation to Others) 

Throughout the design and construction process, you will meet with your architect regularly. After an initial kickoff meeting, you may partake in a visioning workshop where you will establish goals and explore ideas. 

These early workshops may include a broad range of stakeholders, including building occupants. For example, a visioning workshop for a K-12 school project may include teachers, administration, facilities staff, and students. 

After these initial meetings, your architect will continue to meet with you to test concepts, update budget expectations, and make design decisions. Some of these meetings will include a large group of stakeholders. Others may only include those who are closely involved in the project. 

No matter the circumstance, make time to meet and communicate with your architect. The time you devote to the building project may be beyond the scope of your daily job, but efficient communication will keep the process running smoothly. Before your initial meeting, establish expectations with your team about the time commitment. 

Clients in an architectural visioning workshop

Clients explore ideas in a visioning workshop.

3. Discuss Budget Expectations 

Before starting your project, discuss budget expectations with your architect so they can design accordingly. Successful projects occur when budgets are clear from the beginning.  

Additionally, discuss who will be managing your budget. Will you be handling the budget on your end, or do you want the architect to manage it on your behalf? On any building project, your architect will track construction costs, but they can also track project costs if you do not have an internal system in place.   

Read our overview of construction and project costs to understand the type of costs you can expect to encounter. 

4. Appoint a Construction Representative 

Before construction begins, appoint a dedicated representative to facilitate communication with both your architect and contractor. Construction can feel fast-paced, especially when operating on a tight schedule. Having a dedicated person to relay messages from the construction team to your internal stakeholders will help maintain the schedule.  

Handling Change Orders  

Additionally, you should establish a streamlined process for handling change orders. Change orders are any addition, deletion, or substitution to the project’s original scope. For example, if your contractor notices that additional site work is needed after construction begins, a change order will be issued. 

Although your architect will work to avoid change orders, they are likely to occur on any project. As such, you should establish a system for reviewing and approving these requests. With an efficient change order process in place, construction is more likely to stay on schedule. 

5. Educate Your Team (Especially About Building Performance) 

As construction concludes, you may need to teach building occupants the best practices for using the space, especially when it comes to building performance. The building may not fulfill your operational goals if occupants are not using the spaces as intended.  

For example, you may need to teach occupants the best habits for energy consumption. If a room is designed to maximize natural daylighting, you will reduce utility costs by not using electric light during the day. However, some occupants may be used to turning on lights whenever they walk into a room and will need to be reminded not to flip the switch.   

Keep in mind: building occupants are likely to change over time, especially in commercial and educational settings. To get the most out of your building, integrate operational education into your internal processes.   

6. Keep an Open Mind 

From the early stages of design to the end of construction, keep an open mind and trust the process. The most successful projects occur when clients are excited to explore new ideas, break from the status quo, and accomplish something great. 

For example, we’ve had clients who assumed they needed a new building, but after some initial studies, they determined a renovation would better fit their needs. By exploring this option, they ended up with a more successful and sustainable project. 

While you explore ideas, be sure to balance your vision with a healthy dose of reality. Remember your needs, especially in terms of budget and maintenance. Your architect should strive to find unique solutions that fit your organization and help you get the best value for your budget. 

Clients in a site planning workshop

Keeping an open mind leads to the most successful projects.

Learn What to Expect from an Architect

Although building projects can seem initially daunting, establishing expectations with your architect makes the process more manageable. Regular communication, efficient internal processes, and an open, curious mind will help keep your project running smoothly. 

Now that you better understand your role, learn what you can expect from your architect. Read about the programming process to learn how an architect can engage your team. 

If you are still feeling overwhelmed by the design and construction process, remember your architect is here to help. A quality architect will help you procure all necessary services, manage your budget, and keep you organized. 

To learn about Neumann Monson’s approach to project management, contact us and schedule a no-strings-attached exploratory meeting.