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What to Know When Hiring an Architect

An interview with Echt Architects.

Presented by Chic on the Cheap May 30, 2019

So, you’re building a house—congratulations!  Let the dreaming begin. Think of all the possibilities! 

But where to begin?  You have a blank slate.  I can tell you from the perspective of an interior designer, it is an exciting and terrifying adventure at the same time.  Who should you engage with to get your project off the ground? 

Most people start by hiring a general contractor or an architect.  If you choose the latter, there are a few things to consider. Luckily, Kortnee Gonzalez and Andrew Etter of Echt Architects sat down with me to talk about what you should know when you’re in the market for a pro to help guide you through the process of building your dream home. 

Let’s start at the top. When someone sets out to build a new home, what role does the architect play?

Echt Architects: An architect pioneers and tailors the design, orchestrates the development process and advocates for their client and the design intent through construction.  An architect’s job is to help arrive at the best solutions for their client by carefully listening to what they communicate about how they live and what they love.

What should someone ask when interviewing an architect to ensure the outcome is successful?

Echt Architects: During the initial interview, it is important to focus on the process as well as the end result.  Here are a few questions we have found helpful in setting expectations for the duration of the project:

How often will communication happen?

How do you handle revisions?

Who will be my point of contact and who will be doing the drawing (an intern, a manager, or a licensed architect)?

What triggers additional fees? 

What is included in the proposed contract fee?

What deliverables will I be receiving—and when—relative to project schedule?

How many meetings are included? How often will we meet?

Let’s not beat around the bush—it’s not exactly inexpensive to hire an architect.  What would you say to someone trying to understand the value an architect brings to the table? 

Echt Architects: We would counter that it is expensive to not hire an architect.  An architect brings their knowledge of design and building codes, ability to effectively and efficiently coordinate consultants, and experience with construction administration to the project.  The architect produces documents that articulate project goals through drawings and details, helping a contractor bring your vision to life on time and on budget.  We are the client’s advocate in the field—we know the design inside and out, and can carefully adapt details to unexpected conditions that may arise during construction. 

Can you point out a few key differences between an architect and a draftsperson?

Echt Architects: A draftsperson is an unlicensed architectural designer, with their own unique set of skills and knowledge.  We advise clients to engage with appropriately licensed and insured professionals for any construction project.  While an architect takes you through a process to fully understand your functional, spatial and aesthetic goals, a draftsperson takes direction from the contractor and client.  Typically, the number of drawings and level of detail produced is less than what an architect delivers.  We have known clients who have hired an unlicensed architectural designer, only to later hire an architect to take over the project because the drawings were incomplete, unsatisfactory or failed to meet code requirements.  An architect sees the project vision from start to finish, which is especially valuable during construction, whereas without an architect, the client can be left to sort things out directly with the contractor.

Thank you both for walking us through the ins and outs of hiring an architect.  I see the importance of asking questions related to process and logistics.  Architecture is more than just pretty pictures!

Registered Interior Designer Lic # 5736, LEED AP
Chic on the Cheap