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You and Your Architect

Selecting an Architect  |  21 Questions to Ask Your Architect  |  Resources  |  Understanding AIA Designations

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Selecting an Architect

You will benefit by involving an architect in your project as early in the process as possible. The most popular, and usually the best, way to select an architect is by interviewing several candidates. You can also learn about reputation and ability of architects in your community by visiting completed projects, talking with clients and users, and checking design awards programs and professional design publications.

A brief call to an architect can help determine if his or her expertise is appropriate to your project. When you find a few with related experience, set up interviews with them to discuss your project and review photographs and other samples of their work. You will then be able to narrow the list and, after more meetings, it will become obvious to you which architect is best for you.

Check the architect’s education, training, experience, and references. Most importantly, however, is good “chemistry” between you and your architect — you will need to feel comfortable with each other and will get to know each other well. Your architect should be a good listener, responsive to your phone calls, clearly interested in your needs, and able to communicate without using jargon. Be patient: This process will take some time and it is one of the most important decisions you will make to shape the success of your project.

21 questions to ask your architect

  1. What does the architect see as important considerations in your project? What are the challenges of the project
  2. How will the architect approach your project?
  3. How will the architect gather information about your needs, goals, etc?
  4. How will the architect establish priorities and make decisions?
  5. Who from the architecture firm will you be dealing with directly? Is it the same person who will be designing the project? If not, who will be designing it?
  6. How interested is the architect in this project?
  7. How busy is the architect?
  8. What sets this architect apart from the rest?
  9. How does the architect establish fees? When will fee payments be expected? How will you be able to relate fee payments to milestones in the architect’s scope of work?
  10. What would the architect expect the fee to be for this project?
  11. What are the steps in the design process?
  12. How does the architect organize the process?
  13. What does the architect expect you to provide?
  14. What is the architect’s design philosophy? Does the architect have a specific design style? Can he/she show examples of past design work?
  15. What is the architect’s experience/track record with cost estimating?
  16. What does the architect know about and say about sustainable and energy-efficient design options?
  17. What will the architect show you along the way to explain the project? Will you see models, drawings, or sketches?
  18. If the scope of the project changes later in the project, will there be additional fees? How will these fees be justified?
  19. What services does the architect provide during construction? How does the architect work with contractors on a project?
  20. How disruptive will construction be? How long does the architect expect it to take to complete your project?
  21. Can the architect provide a list of client references?


You and your architect
Stewart Associates Architects, residence,
Photo by Joseph St. Pierre

The AIA website has a wealth of information about hiring and working with an architect:

How Design Works

Working with an AIA Architect

Find an Architect: Link to our Find an Architect database

Understanding AIA Designations: (see text below)

5 Reasons Architects are Worth the Money to Redo Your Home: From Popular Mechanics 10/2009




Understanding AIA Designations

The following explanations may be helpful for your understanding as you work with AIA Architects and Associates.


Any architect who is currently licensed under state law to practice architecture is eligible to be an Architect Member. Good standing in the profession and in the community shall be demonstrated. Architect Members may use, in connection with their names and titles, “Architect Member of the American Institute of Architects.” The acronym AIA is copyrighted and its specific use is limited to an individual architect member. This designation following the name means that the architect is a member in good standing of the American Institute of Architects and that the person holds a license to practice architecture.


These initials signify that an individual architect has become a Fellow in the American Institute of Architects. It means that a jury of peers has examined the architect for extraordinary accomplishments and exceptions.

Associate AIA (Assoc. AIA)

An Associate member is an individual without an architectural license who meets any of the following requirements:

  • Employed under the supervision of an architect in a professional or technical capacity;
  • Faculty member in a university program in architecture;
  • Is eligible by education or experience and is in circumstances recognized by licensing authorities as constituting credit toward architectural license;
  • Has a professional degree in architecture