Working with an Architect » 20 Questions

Architects want to create the design for your new living space that meets your needs, your budget and your sense of pride in ownership. The process begins with a self-assessment of what you want and need and how to find the architect that's right for you. An architect's services are an investment, not an added cost, because their designs can capture energy savings, improve the efficiency and productivity of your operations and can add market value to your property because good design sells. The information on this page is available as a brochure titled '"Architecturally Designed Homes and You." Click below to download a pdf copy or call the AIA Minnesota to request a free paper copy be mailed to you.
Architecturally Designed Homes and You (pdf)

20 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Getting Started

Where do we live now?
What do we like about it?
What's missing?
What don't we like?

Do we want to change or add to the space we have?

Do we want to build a new house?

Why do we want to build a new house or add to or renovate our current home?
Do we need more room?
Are children grown and moving?
Is our life-style changing?
Are parents or children returning to live with us?

What is our life-style?
Are we at home a great deal?
Do we work at home?
Do we entertain often?
How much time do we spend in living areas, bedrooms, kitchen, den or office, utility space, etc.?

How much time and energy are we willing to invest to maintain our home?

If we're thinking of adding on, what functions/activities will be housed in the new space?

What kind of spaces do we need, e.g., bedrooms, expanded kitchen, bathrooms, etc.?

How many of these spaces do we think we need?

What do we think the addition/renovation/new home should look like?

How much disruption can we tolerate to add on to or renovate our home?

How soon would we like to be settled into our new home or addition? Are there rigid time constraints?

If planning on a new home, what do we envision in this home that we don't have now?

If we're contemplating building a home, do we have a site selected?

Do we have strong ideas about design styles?
What are our design preferences?

Who will be the primary contact with the architect, contractor, and others involved in designing and building our project? (It is good to have one point of contact to prevent confusion and mixed messages)

What qualities are we looking for in an architect?

How much time do we have to be involved in the design and construction process?

Do we plan to do any of the work ourselves?

Regardless whether its an addition or a new home, how much can we realistically afford to spend?


20 Questions to Ask Your Minnesota Architect

What does the architect see as important issues or considerations in our project?
What are the challenges of the project?

How will the architect approach our project? What process will be used?

How will the architect gather information about our needs, goals, etc.?

How will the architect establish priorities and make decisions?

Who from the architecture firm will we be dealing with directly? Is that the same person who will be designing the project? Who will be designing our project?

Is the architect truly interested in this project?

How busy is the architect? Can this project comfortably fit within other office projects?

What sets this architect apart from the rest?

How does the architect establish fees?

What would the architect expect the fee to be for this project?

What are the steps in the design process?

How does the architect organize the process?

What does the architect expect us to provide?

What is the architect's design philosophy?

What is the architect's experience/track record with cost estimating?

What will the architect show us along the way to explain the project? Will we see models, drawings, or sketches?

If the scope of the project changes later in the project, will there be additional fees? How will these fees be justified?

What services does the architect provide during construction?

How disruptive will construction be? How long is it expected to take to complete our project?

Does the architect have a list of past clients that the firm has worked with?

The Steps Involved in Design and Construction--What to Expect

Design and construction projects involve several steps. Typically, projects go through the following six phases.
However, on some projects several of these steps may be combined or there may be additional ones.

Step 1 Programming / Deciding What to Build


The homeowner and architect discuss the requirements for the project (how many rooms, the function of the spaces, etc.), testing the fit between the owner's needs, wants, and budget.

Step 2 Schematic Design / Rough Sketches


The architect prepares a series of rough sketches, known as schematic designs, which show the general arrangement of rooms and of the building on the site. Some architects also prepare models to help visualize the project. The homeowner approves these sketches before proceeding to the next phase.

Step 3 Design Development / Refining the Design


The architect prepares more detailed drawings to illustrate other aspects of the proposed design. Floor plans show all the rooms in correct size and shape. Outline specifications are prepared listing the major materials and room finishes.

Step 4 Preparation of Construction Documents


Once the homeowner has approved the design, the architect prepares detailed drawings and specifications, which the contractor will use to establish actual construction cost and build the project. These drawings and specifications become part of the building contract.

Step 5 Hiring the Contractor


The homeowner selects and hires the contractor. The architect may be willing to assist in making some recommendations. In many cases, homeowners choose from among several contractors they've asked to submit bids on the job. The architects can help you prepare bidding documents as well as invitations to bid and instructions to bidders.

Step 6 Construction Administration


While the contractor will physically build the home or addition, the architect can assist the homeowner in making sure that the project is built according to the plans and specifications. The architect can make site visits to observe construction, review and approve the contractor's application for payment, and generally keep the homeowner informed of the project's progress. The contractor is solely responsible for construction methods, techniques, schedules, and procedures.