The Initial Meeting with Your Architect
Spring and summer seem to be the prime time to move forward with your building project. The snow has melted, you’ve been gathering ideas, figuring out your preferences, and you’re eager to get started at once. You have chosen an architect (if you feel you can skip that step, you might want to read our post 7 Reasons to Hire an Architect) and here is what you can expect during your first meeting.
To start with, we recommend creating, on a larger scale, a wish list of everything you want in your house, and on your property, so that the architect can master plan them. At DMA, we like to think it’s not about designing a house from the inside out or the outside in, but rather how it will sit on the property and relate to it.
The architect, if a good listener, should engage in a dialogue by asking you numerous questions, from the general to the specific. It is a good idea to present your ideas by breaking them down into an outline fashion and avoid assuming they will know what you want, even the obvious such as a living room or a master bedroom. Do you dream of a contemporary or traditional home? Morning sun in your bedroom or a sunset from your office space? A gas or wood fireplace, or perhaps a stone one? There are, indeed, myriad things to address, but note that bringing up details such as light fixtures or cabinetry type would be premature: you probably want to wait until there is an actual design you’ve agreed on. You should also come up with your own list of questions about, amongst others, their portfolio, their experience, the time frame to expect.
Note that if you are looking into a commercial building, the questions asked and to ask are not that different, they are still be about space, time, cost, vision, but not so much about personal habits unless you would have offices included.
Because it can be overwhelming from the start as so many options are possible, if you are unsure about what you’d like, your architect will ask you many questions to help you define your preferences. This is where their experience and knowledge can be immensely helpful. So don’t be thrown off if they are point blank about what you consider spending.
Because, of course, the elephant in the room is always cost. In order to provide you with the right services, they will need to know about your budget, and, as well, they should be absolutely candid about specific considerations, such as a steep lot or if you’re building in Jackson Hole, since the cost of construction would be affected (The Cost of Building in Jackson Hole is a very useful article). At the end of the meeting, you should expect to know what the cost per square foot will be and have a budget penciled in. What you can’t expect is walk out with a set cost for the whole project as coming up with a number is a process and more information will be needed.
An hour or two later, your architect should understand the scope of your project and you should have enough of an idea of what to expect from a potential design direction from them: if they have done a good job listening to you, they should have clearly understood your needs, or help you define them, and you should leave with an general idea of the cost to build, what their fee may be in terms of engineering and other expenses (they won’t know until there is a design and they can reach out to the various engineers and tradespeople that the project may require), and, most important, a sense of whether they would be a good fit for your project.
In the end, remember they are experts, and relying on them, as long as they are that good fit, will relieve you of a good share of the challenges involved with building any structure. So choose your architect wisely, develop a good relation with them, and enjoy seeing your project come to life!