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What to expect from an architect - How to prepare for the interview? | Project38LB

Updated: Sep 20, 2019

In four short days, I will start my largest remodel project. Up to this point, I have done about fifteen residential kitchens and bath remodels. Mostly working with rental units; the floor plan and material were almost identical. Not too difficult. A little like laundry rinse, wash and repeat.

The property is a 1243sqft residence built-in 1938 needed a complete floor plan change and footprint expansion. The vision is to restore some original 40's character, improve functionality in the kitchen, baths, master bedroom and expand much-needed closet space. This project needed more than my cookie cutter remodeling experience. I hired Daniella Carter of Pretty Smart as our architect. She had an in-depth knowledge of space functionality and a creative eye. She lived and worked in the same city as the property, definitely a big plus. Her resume listed Marmol Radziner Architecture as her employer. A firm that would never do a small budget project like mine in a million years.

Before working with Daniella, all my design services were with draftsmen. Who would draw up "as-built" site plan and new floor plan for city submission.

I interviewed three architects and contacted a dozen more by email. Each one had tons of ideas about space design and functionality. All three architects seem to shy away from discussing budget, and local codes. Certainly, nobody wanted to be held accountable if things went sideways during construction. In each conversation.

Seems like, the only build and design teams discussing construction costs are on reality shows like HGTV, Fixer Upper, or Property Brothers. Most of the episodes the client went over budget anyway because of design change or an unexpected problem.

Today, on the eve of demo day, I wish I asked more questions about local code restrictions, building costs. and the architect's design steps. Daniella did a wonderful job designing a beautiful and useful floor plan. It was my plan to work with the contractor from start to finish on interior and exterior details. I created my own construction budget and now wonder if I missed anything. Yes, my final budget after design is about 40% more than originally planned.

If I could roll back time, I would have asked my architect questions about building codes and budgets on completed projects like:

1) What type of project are your working on now?

2)How many total will you working on this year and next?

3) Which projects in your completed portfolio are similar to my project?

4) What design work did you do for this project?

5) What were the space requirements of the client?

6) When did you research the building codes before or after the floor plan design?

7) Describe the specific local building codes you were required to follow?

8) *What was the design budget set by the client?

9) *Was your design within the client's budget?

10)*How far over or under was the estimated budget?

What structural problems came up and how did you solve them?

11) *How many of your design projects were never started? Why?

12) * What are your fees per square foot for concept development?

13) * What are your fees per square foot for construction documentation?

* Note - If the candidates do not answer questions 8, 9, 10 and 11 directly with solid answers, FIND MORE CANDIDATES AND KEEP INTERVIEWING


Take time out to read, read and reread as much information you can get your hands on. The best sources are architectural news sites, local or regional professional referral services, and architect associations. My favs are,,, and Swallowtail Architecture. I was disappointed not finding interview techniques on The site is 100% focused on advertising and may not a good reflection of the architectural community.

Definitely check your architects license with the local or state architect board. Each architect does have to follow a state code. It is good to know the code and will later on help you better communicate their design obligation. I used the license search with California Architect Board or CAB.

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