5 Vital Questions to Ask an Architect Before You Hire Them

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Having practiced for more than 25 years in Los Angeles, I have been asked some amazing questions about the design and construction process. If you are considering a home renovation or building a new home, here are five of those really good questions to ask your design professional:

  1. What about my project is inspiring, interesting, or challenging? This question gives the designer the opportunity to express their vision of your project. You are able to see if their vision aligns with yours. Is he or she as excited as you are? If so, that is a good sign that this will be a good partnership!
  1. How do you come up with the design options, and how many options do you provide? There are architects who will draw exactly what you ask for, and there are architects who will inspire you with further possibilities. Although we only present the best alternatives to the client, I can come up with endless options even when it seems there’s only one at the onset of a project. This is the most important part of the design process, the “what’s possible.”
  1. What experience do you have working in my city? How knowledgeable are you of the local codes and the permitting process? This question is extremely important. You want a designer who is familiar with local codes and regulations. Without proper permitting and planning, missteps can be costly and waste valuable time.
  1. What is your involvement during the bidding and construction process? It’s important to understand the difference between types of design firms. Is it a design-only firm? If so, the design professional’s obligation ends before bidding and construction. Or does the firm also offer construction administration services? Will they also build your project? A design and construct firm takes projects from inception through project completion.
  1. What is and isn’t included in your fees? Different architects offer different levels of service. Make sure you understand what level you are getting. What will be the deliverables? How about kitchen and bath design? Are interior elevations included? What about lighting design? Materials specifications? Site design? Or is it just a simple builder set?

BONUS QUESTION: What is your commitment to sustainability and resilience? Will you guide us to design and build green to reduce our environmental impact? California building codes require designers to comply with stringent environmental regulations. There are many ways to go above and beyond code requirements to be more sustainable. Make sure to ask these questions early on in the process.

Abeer Sweis is CEO and Design Partner at SweisKloss in Los Angeles. She is passionate about all things design. While she also has intimate knowledge of construction and structural engineering, it is her innate ability to look at a potential project and see myriad design possibilities that has helped make her company a success. Since 1995, Abeer has taught at UCLA Extension, Cal Poly Pomona, Pierce College, Woodbury University and other Los Angeles area design schools. A leader in her community, she is a distinguished past president of the Kiwanis Club of Santa Monica.