What are some questions I should be asking?


My wife and I are about to start interviewing architects to design our house. What are some questions we should be asking? For some context we are looking for a main house, pool, and guest house/pool house/mother-in-law house. We are looking to build on a little over a half acre.

Jul 16, 20 1:32 pm

Well to start, you need to interview the correct firms. They should have multiple built projects of the type you are trying to hire them to design. Or if they are young with slim portfolios, they should have demonstrated success on other built projects of a wider range of types.

Jul 16, 20 1:40 pm  · 

Ask about:

Experience - how long have they been doing your type of project and how long have they lived in the area. 

Past work - you want to see what they have done

Services - exactly what are they providing

Process - have them explain what their design process is like and what they are expecting from you so that it runs smoothly

Past Clients - some past clients may be willing to speak with you ask to see if there are any 

Documents to Review:

Proposal - this will have a lot of things in it specific to your project - fee, scope of work, schedule, ect  - have a lawyer look at it (this is often considered a contract)

Contract - if you have one separate from a proposal have a lawyer review it.

Jul 16, 20 1:48 pm  · 
1  · 

maybe a Schematic Design drawing set & a Construction Documents set too

Non Sequitur

ask if they provide construction admin as part of their regular services.

Jul 16, 20 1:52 pm  · 

In the US CA is always an added service. Or do you mean ask if the firm provides CA services at all?

Non Sequitur

yes, to your 2nd question. CA is required in my area... we (or the registered building designer) have to sign a form during permit submission demonstrating our commitment to regular site visit. I suspect many projects in the US take the permit docs and rely on the builder to do the CA instead of paying the architect additional fees.


In the area's that I've practiced (MN, UT, ND, SD, WI, CO) most counties give the owner the option to choose who does the CA. It can get weird with pay apps though as most banks require someone licensed performing the CA to sign of on the draw.


Oh and while in many areas of the US the owner can choose who does the CA I've never been on a project with a cost of $750k and up where the architect or a third party wasn't used for CA.

1  · 
Non Sequitur

Good to know. I suspect the "no arch CA required" crowd is the same as those that think custom-designed home plans come from a catalogue that someone can stamp for $500.

1  · 

Pretty much.

atelier nobody

All good advice so far. I would add:

  • Ask them if they have experience with permitting in your jurisdiction (depending on where you are, this may be more or less important - I would never hire and architect for a project in Los Angeles without LA permitting experience, but LA is a special animal).
  • In addition to their own portfolio, ask them about their influences and inspirations - write these down and after the interview go Google them; they can sometimes tell you as much (or more) about someone's design aesthetic as their own portfolio.
Jul 16, 20 2:04 pm  · 
2  · 

When considering experience, built buildings are a huge plus.  Many small firms' websites show lots of (sometimes elegant) renderings of designs but few photos of finished buildings.  

^ And Atelier's advice on permitting is spot-on.  Experience in design is important, but so is that with the code and entitlements process.

Jul 16, 20 2:05 pm  · 

Ask to interview contractors that have worked with the architect on a project such as yours.

Not a deal breaker if not available, but can be insightful to see how the design work is received by the builder.

Jul 16, 20 2:10 pm  · 
1  · 

Google found this:


  • What is your design philosophy?
  • What sets your firm apart from other architects with similar experience?
  • Do you have experience with the building type and size of my project?
  • Will you share with me a portfolio of similar projects and provide a list of client references?
  • Who from the firm will I be working with on a regular basis? Is this the person who will design my project?


  • Are you interested enough in this project to make it a priority?
  • What challenges do you foresee for my project?
  • What do you see as the important issues or considerations in my project?
  • What is your estimated timetable for my project?
  • What means will you use to collect information about my needs, goals, etc.?
  • How will you help me to fully understand the scope and sequence of the project? Will you utilize models, drawings, or computer animation?


  • What are the steps in the design process, and how are they organized?
  • What criteria will be used to establish priorities and make design decisions?
  • What do you expect me to provide?
  • How disruptive will construction be?
  • What role do you have during construction? Am I expected to work with the contractor directly?


  • Do you have experience with “green” or sustainable design?
  • Do you regularly integrate low or no cost sustainable design strategies into projects?
  • Considering the many areas that may be affected by sustainable design, how will you determine which options to pursue?
  • If sustainable design technologies are implemented, do upfront costs exist that may affect the construction budget?
  • What are the expected payback times?


  • How do you establish fees?
  • In anticipation of a formal proposal with costs, what would you expect your fee to be for this project?
  • What is included in your basic services and what services would incur additional fees?
  • If the scope of the project changes later in the project, will there be additional fees? How will these fees be justified? How will this be communicated to me?
  • What is your track record of completing a project within the original budget?

Jul 17, 20 6:35 am  · 

Dang Rando - it looks like the OP didn't need to even ask us for advice. 8-)


Maybe they're not American and know of your AIA, don't know of any American who would ever spend money on housing the mother-in-law...on their own property :)


Block this user

Are you sure you want to block this user and hide all related comments throughout the site?

  • ×Search in: