Architectural Excellence: Must-Ask Questions for Engaging Your Architect

Front exterior elevation features concrete pavers leading to covered entry porch with rooftop patio above - Meadow House - Franklin Township - Indianapolis, Indiana - HAUS | Architecture

Architects play a crucial role in shaping our built environment. From designing homes and buildings to creating innovative spaces for work and play, architects can bring our visions to life.

When beginning a new design project, it is important to have a clear understanding of what you want to achieve so the architect can help you get there. To maximize success in your design, it is essential to ask the right questions and have open communication with your architect. In this blog post, we will discuss some of the top questions you should ask your architect to ensure a successful project.

Why Should I Hire an Architect?

Hiring an architect is a crucial step towards realizing your architectural dreams. Architects possess the knowledge and expertise to bring your vision to life in a way that is both sustainable and efficient. An architect can help create a custom design that not only maximizes the value of your investment but also provides a comfortable, healthy, and functional space for you and your family.

By hiring a qualified architect, you are ensuring that your project will be thoughtfully designed, taking into consideration all the necessary factors such as building codes, site constraints, and budgetary considerations. An architect can also provide innovative design solutions that may not have been previously considered, adding a touch of creativity and uniqueness to your project.

When it comes to designing your dream home or building, hiring an architect is the first step towards achieving your vision. You can rely on an architect’s experience to guide you through the process, resulting in a space that not only meets your needs but exceeds your expectations. So why settle for anything less when you can hire an architect and unlock the full potential of your project?

Front Living Room expresses a historic vibe complete with reclaimed oak herringbone flooring, panelized walls, and marble fireplace surround - Modern Villa Urban Home, Old Northside, Indianapolis

What Is a Realistic Cost Expectation for My Desired Scope?

This is one of the most challenging questions initially – how much does a bag of groceries cost? Well, it depends on what is in the bag. This is true for each unique project – it depends on what the scope is! When embarking on a new architectural project, understanding the realistic cost expectation for your desired scope is crucial. It allows you to plan and budget effectively, ensuring that your project stays on track financially.

Open riser stair with treads clad in Eastern White Pine + Viewrail cable railing system highlights the main entry - Lakeside Modern Cottage (H-LODGE) - Unionville, Indiana, Lake Lemon

So, what should you expect in terms of cost? Well, it’s important to remember that every project is unique, and costs can vary significantly depending on factors such as the size and complexity of the design, the location, and the materials and finishes you choose. However, an experienced architect can provide you with an expert opinion based on their knowledge and expertise. They will consider all aspects of your project, including labor costs, materials, and any additional expenses such as permits or consultant fees. They will be able to give big picture cost opinions based on recent projects, as well as more refined opinions as the project develops and becomes more detailed.

By discussing your budget with your architect early on, you can ensure that your design aligns with your financial goals while still achieving the desired level of quality and energy efficiency. Remember, investing in a well-designed and energy-efficient space can save you money in the long run by reducing energy consumption and maintenance costs. So, don’t hesitate to have an open and honest conversation about cost expectations with your qualified architect. They will help guide and find the best solutions to meet both your vision and your budget.

What Should My Timeline Be?

When starting an architectural project, it’s crucial to have a clear understanding of the timeline involved. Time is a valuable resource, and knowing what to expect can help you plan accordingly and avoid unnecessary delays or stress. This one is like the question above, regarding the cost – it depends!

The timeline for your project will depend on various factors such as the scope of the design, the complexity of the construction, and any potential site constraints. It’s important to discuss your timeline expectations with your architect early in the process. They can provide valuable insight and guidance based on their experience and knowledge of the industry. Additionally, having open communication with them throughout the project will allow you to stay updated on the progress and make any necessary adjustments to the timeline. Remember, patience is key, as quality design and construction take time.

By working closely with the architect and setting realistic expectations, you can ensure a smooth and successful project from start to finish. If you have any specific considerations regarding the timing, be sure to let the team know up front. For example, are you planning a big party for your birthday and want to be sure the kitchen renovation is complete for this? Let the team know your goals and expectations!

Open concept Kitchen + Dining + Living optimizes natural light and panoramic views of Grandview Lake - Modern Lakeside Retreat - Grandview Lake - Columbus, Indiana - HAUS | Architecture For Modern Lifestyles

What Are Some Considerations We Haven’t Made?

There are many considerations to make, but there are a few which we believe stand out from the bunch.

Relocating During Construction

In numerous cases, clients express a desire to reside in their space throughout the construction phase. However, some may advise against inhabiting a construction site.

While there might be exceptional circumstances, in almost every scenario, it is beneficial for all involved parties if you do not occupy the space during construction. Aligning your schedule with the contractor’s can be stressful and potentially add extra effort and costs for them, as they may need to implement additional measures for dust and noise control. Contractors typically commence work early, and sharing your living space with the sounds of saws and hammers during breakfast can be far from pleasant.

Drawing from both personal and professional experience, experts may firmly advocate against staying in a construction zone. Even if only temporarily, planning to relocate during this phase will undoubtedly provide you with greater comfort.

Existing Geometric House Circa 1960s includes large floor to ceiling glass offering corner views to site (Owner -guided house renovation underway) - Modern Barn - Mt. Vernon, Ohio
Kitchen anchors the open living spaces with contrasting wood, stainless, and quartz - Sapele Mahogany - Back40House - Pendleton, IN
Eliminating Combustion Appliances

The second consideration may be a bit more controversial – eliminating combustion appliances. Eliminating combustion appliances from your living space holds immense significance in fostering a healthier and safer home environment.

Some architects who feel they are deeply invested in overall well-being may advocate for this change for compelling reasons. Combustion appliances, like gas stoves, furnaces, or fireplaces, release harmful gases and particles such as carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter. These pollutants can lead to severe health issues, including respiratory problems and allergies.

By opting for cleaner electric alternatives and relocating these appliances outside the living areas, you not only improve indoor air quality but also significantly reduce potential health hazards associated with combustion byproducts. This shift not only contributes to a sustainable lifestyle but also ensures a safer, healthier haven for you and your loved ones.

Minimizing Unnecessary Costs

The third consideration regards changes. Within the design phase, alterations can be implemented relatively smoothly due to the digital nature of the design process. Shifting elements around digitally is a manageable task.

However, once the project transitions from design to the construction phase, modifications become notably more challenging and, notably, more expensive. Most adjustments initiated after the project commences its construction phase incur increased costs. This holds true for both the design and construction aspects. Changes necessitate comprehensive documentation to effectively communicate with the construction team.

Picture this process akin to preparing a ship for departure: before setting sail, we can load the vessel with various items, yet once the ship embarks, revisiting for different cargo incurs additional resources and expenses. Therefore, it’s imperative to carefully consider and finalize design decisions before the construction phase to optimize efficiency and minimize unnecessary costs.

North Exterior Modern Tudor Elevation (Rendering) - Modern Tudor Renovation + Addition - West Lafayette, Indiana

Why Is It So Important to Keep the Architect Involved During Construction?

It may be tempting to think that the architect is no longer needed once the design phase is finished. However, keeping the architect involved during construction is crucial to ensure that your project is executed according to the intended design and vision.

The architect is intimately familiar with the project and can provide valuable guidance and oversight during the construction phase. They are your advocate, ensuring that the design intent is being followed and addressing any issues that may arise. By having the architect on-site, they can monitor the progress, answer any questions from the construction team, and make any necessary adjustments or clarifications. This level of involvement not only ensures that your project is built to the highest standard of quality but also allows for any design refinements or improvements to be made during construction.

In short, keeping the architect involved during construction is essential for a successful and seamless transition from design to reality – you didn’t just spend time and money on your dream to have someone change it for you!

View from Future Screened Porch to Grandview Lake (large shed roof cantilever) - Modern Lakeside Retreat - Grandview Lake - Columbus, Indiana

Why Are You More Expensive Than a Draftsperson?

Architects are often more expensive than draftspersons because they bring a higher level of expertise and experience to your project. While a draftsperson may be able to produce basic drawings, architects offer a more comprehensive and holistic approach to design.

Architects have undergone extensive education and training, then further experience enables them to understand the intricacies of building codes, construction methods, and design principles. Architects can also provide innovative and creative solutions to design challenges, ensuring that your project stands out and meets your specific needs.

Section Rendering - Primary Living Space - RIDGE HOUSE - Bloomington, IN - HAUS | Architecture For Modern Lifestyles, Christopher Short, Indianapolis Architect

Additionally, architects typically offer a higher level of service and involvement throughout the entire design and construction process. They will guide you through each stage, from conceptualization to completion, and provide valuable insight and oversight along the way. This level of involvement and expertise comes at a cost, and is well worth it if it’s important to you to ensure a successful and transformative project. And it’s important to note that extra cost in the planning/design stage frequently saves cost during the construction phase.

By investing in an architect, you are not only getting a set of drawings but also a partner who is dedicated to realizing your dreams and creating a space that exceeds your expectations. So while the cost may be higher, the value and benefits you receive from hiring an architect are incomparable.

Can You Recommend a Builder? Or Do You Partner With Any Builders?

Many architects will be able to recommend partners in the industry to build your project. The architect has had past and frequent success with this partners, and feels comfortable that this industry partner will achieve the architect’s design-intent. For HAUS | Architecture For Modern Lifestyles, the operational structure is centered around design-build practices, facilitated through their sister company, WERK | Building Modern.

Acting as both Architects and Construction Managers, our team ensures a seamless integration between the design and construction phases. The individuals engaged in crafting your design, handling documentation (including drawings, finish selection, 3D modeling, etc.), are often the same professionals who oversee the construction phase.

We’ve discovered that this approach significantly heightens the likelihood of success by streamlining communication channels, usually consolidating responsibilities to a single point of contact.

Lakeside Elevation - Lakeside Modern Cottage (H-LODGE) - Unionville, Indiana, Lake Lemon

Written by Paul Reynolds.