Ask an Architect

How To Prepare for Your First Call with an Architect

By Jeff Pelletier
October 24, 2017

When you first talk with an architect, what the heck should you be prepared to talk about?

Here at Board & Vellum, we work with a lot of people new to remodeling or building a new home. It is amazing to us how little accurate information there is out there about how the design process works and so we end up (happily) answering a lot of basic questions to get a baseline of understanding established. We’ve also found that it's not uncommon for people to call us thinking they need an architect, when they would actually be better served by going a different route, such as working only with a contractor, or even selling their house instead of remodeling it. (We’re always happy to refer them to a great realtor if that’s the case.) To sort this out before we go too far, we’ve developed an approach for making sure our eventual first meeting (if that's the right path) is as productive as possible. (Side Note: If "Do I need to hire an architect?" is your exact question, give this a quick read.)

For inquiries that come to us, we will typically email you out a few basic questions to help gather some initial information. It is perfectly alright if you don’t have any answers yet – this is just so our first phone conversation is as informed as it can be.

The questions we’ll ask ahead of time usually include:

  • What is the scope of your project?
  • Do you have a set timeline in mind, or are you more flexible about timing?
  • Do you have a firm budget you are working with, or are you looking for help understanding what current construction costs are?
  • How did you hear about us?
  • Have you worked with an architect or design professional before?
  • What is your contact information and address so we can look up your property online?

These basic questions help establish some initial information. From the information you give us, we can:

  • Look up your property and determine if there are any zoning or environmentally critical area (ECA) concerns that we should flag.
  • Understand if your goals for the project align with your budget, or if we’ll need to have some conversations around that. This is probably, as would be expected, the most common issue with initial inquiries. What cost $100,000 only a few years ago now costs a far different number and that’s often an uncomfortable conversation to have. We just ask you don’t shoot the messenger!
  • Hearing about where you found us helps us understand any relationships we may already have. Personal connections make every relationship better, so we always try to see if there are any.
  • Understanding if you’ve worked with a design professional helps us understand how much knowledge you may already have. While we pride ourselves in doing things a bit differently, there are still numerous similarities between what we do and a lot of other architects. We’re happy to start talking with you at any level of experience, but it helps to know where that might be!
  • Timeline generally helps us understand how much we have to crush your dreams. (I kid!) Well, not too much. Design and construction take a long time and, these days, it often takes some time until there’s a spot in our schedule. We’re happy to make all that time as productive as possible with homework and research you can do, but if there’s a critical timeline that we just can’t meet we want to be upfront about it and not waste your time.

Once we schedule our first call, we can then spend more time hearing about your goals and any big questions you have. We’ll also talk about how we work here at Board & Vellum. These calls typically take about 30 minutes. (Not sure what you should ask? Here are some questions to ask an architect in an interview, and some to ask a landscape architect.)

After our conversation – if it seems like we would be a good fit for each other – we'll set up an initial walk-through of your property. On site, we can dive deep into what you are looking for, and then follow up with a proposal if it still seems like we’re a good fit.

In general, remember that these initial conversations are meant to help introduce us to each other. Design is personal! We all need to get along, form a trusting relationship, and be prepared to collaborate closely together on something very personal. This is meant to be a relaxed and friendly conversation, not the purchase of a used car!

We aim to be your advocate, and we always look forward to speaking with you!

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