Thursday, June 10, 2010

20 Questions the AIA says you should ask your Architect

The American Institute of Architects has a fantastic website The consumer section entitled "The Value of an Architect" addresses "How Design works for You", "Find an Architect" and "20 Questions to Ask Your Architect".
The AIA has done a great job advertising on the radio and news programs promoting their site and it is working, because today's web savvy clients are calling with the same 20 questions for me, so I thought I would take a moment to give you:
Clawson Archtiects, LLC's official answers to the AIA's 20 Questions to ask Your Architect:
1. What does the architect see as important issues or considerations in your project?
Site unseen, the most important issues and considerations are your goals and your budget.
2. What are the challenges of the project?
Meeting your goals within your budget while meeting local Zoning Laws and Building Codes.
3. How will the architect approach your project?
With enthusiasm and confidence and an ear to your needs, likes and dislikes.
4. How will the architect gather information about your needs, goals, etc.?
We interview you about your life style and during our discussions and working sessions we draw in front of you...working out the overall schematic design ideas based on your program requirements.
5. How will the architect establish priorities and make decisions?
We will establish priorities during the interview process with you and make decisions based on your overall goals, budget and priorities. We have a wealth of experience and knowledge, we will guide you in the decision making process by giving you the most professional advice and the most up to date information so that you can make informed decisions.
6. Who from the architecture firm will you be dealing with directly? Is that the same person who will be designing the project? Who will be designing your project?
The team at Clawson Architects works together tapping the strengths of each individual on the team. There will be both a principal partner in the firm directly in charge at all times, and a Project Manager that you will be your primary contract for the project. However, Marvin and René (the principal partners) are always available to you.  They as well, know their strengths and call on each other to add to projects where their expertise will benefit the outcome. If at any time you prefer to work with one principal or team member over the other, please voice the preference and you will be accommodated accordingly.
7. How interested is the architect in this project?
We look at each new client and project as an opportunity to meet someone new and to create something unique and wonderful that will enhance the environment of the individuals and community around it. We look to create both sustainable architecture and relationships. When we engage in a contract for services it is not just a project for us, it is about helping someone achieve their goals and the relationship that develops with the client during the process we hope will be a lasting one. We are proud to say that we also have repeat clients- ones that have moved up, moved on or are adding more.
8. How busy is the architect?
We are blessed with a successful practice and will do our best to meet your expectations. If we are not able to meet them from the start, we will let you know.
9. What sets this architect apart from the rest?
We are an experienced, client focused, design firm. We work with each client individually involving them in the creative process of meeting their program requirements and working along side them to include and enhance any design ideas they may have. The amount of attention and service is based on the clients needs. We are available to be there from the beginning to end overseeing the details if requested. We will not abandon you with a half baked plan. We are not wed to a single style only excellence. One only has to look at our website to see that no two projects look the same. We listen to our clients and look for cues in their environment to make each project uniquely theirs. We are up to date, keeping abreast of trends and technologies and watching for opportunities to enhance the quality of life for our clients where appropriate. Besides being licensed and registered and insured Architects, Marvin and Rene are both Certified Interior Designers in the state of New Jersey. Marvin is a professor of Interior Design at the #1 design school in the nation, the Fashion Institute of Technology and lectures at Institute of Classical Architecture and Classical America where he is a Fellow. René is a LEED Accredited Professional keeping abreast of the latest green technologies.

10. How does the architect establish fees?

Our fees are hourly for services rendered. Today's clients are very educated and we work with them allowing them to participate as much or as little as the like. Many have envisioned there projects and know exactly what they want, but need help with the details and pulling the ideas together. Others prefer full service and only know that what they have is not working and need our help to envision what the possibilities are and help them find solutions to the meet their goals. If fees are a concern and the clients have time, they often participate by shopping for finishes and fixtures and even work on their own variance applications.

11. What would the architect expect the fee to be for this project?

The answer to this requires detailed information about the project the client and their goals.

12. What are the steps in the design process?
13. How does the architect organize the process?

For answers to 12 and 13 please visit our website where the process and working with Clawson Architects is discussed in detail.

14. What does the architect expect you to provide?

Goals, Budget, Survey of property by a licensed engineer in the state, any information regarding historical significances, deeded restrictions and hazardous materials and prompt payment for services rendered.

15. What is the architect's design philosophy?

Simple Elegance.

16. What is the architect's experience/track record with cost estimating?

We work with contractors or cost estimators at very early stages to reconcile the plans with your budget to keep them in alignment and to eliminate value engineering and change orders at the end.

17. What will the architect show you along the way to explain the project? Will you see models, drawings, or computer animations?

We have model building, hand drawing and computer rendering capabilities and based on the clients ability to visualize we can do any or all of the above. Another reason that our fees are based on services required.

18. If the scope of the project changes later in the project, will there be additional fees? How will these fees be justified?

We work to build your project on paper so that you will know exactly what is going to be constructed. We work to make sure the client understands the spaces--either with drawings, computer renderings, models or even staking it out with string on the property or chalk on the floor with in an existing space. Our fees are hourly and we feel that this helps the clients stay on task and focused on their priorities, goals and budget. We continually weigh the ideas that are generated against the priorities, goals and budget that were established at the beginning. If the priorities goals or budget change that is fine, but moving targets can become very expensive to hit.
19. What services does the architect provide during construction?

We provide Construction Administration which includes the following services by us during the construction phase of the Project:

A. Site visits on an average of one (1) site visit per week to document the project progress.
B. Preparation of a Field Report and/or meeting notes that documents the conditions of the site, progress of the work, conformance with the Construction Documents and list open issues related to the progression of the work.
C. Review of shop drawings provided by the contractor for the cabinetry, windows, doors, custom mill work and other items, as required by us.
D. Review of samples provided by the Client or Contractor for the building components and building materials.
E. Review of the Contractor's Request for payment for accuracy relative to the progression of the project.

20. How disruptive will construction be? How long does the architect expect it to take to complete your project?

This is very Job specific. Many clients prefer to live elsewhere during renovation projects, however, this presents added costs. You will want to consider the hazards of renovation that are articulated in the EPA's pamphlet: Renovate Right and consider the additional cost of moving out during the demolition process. If your project is new construction, every attempt is made to disturb as little of the surrounding environment as possible. The length of the project is based on many factors including but not limited to:

1. The local Building Department
2. The skill and organization of the contractor.
3. The number of changes made in the field.
4. The finish materials, fixtures and number of custom elements.

20+1. Does the architect have a list of past clients that you can contact?
(Yes, the AIA actually had 21 questions listed under the heading 20 this is the bonus question)

Of course we do. We usually like to know more about your project so we can match you up with a meaningful references from someone that did a project of a similar size or scope or worked with a contractor you may be considering for the job. If your project is residential in nature, please check out our review on 

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