Choosing an Architect

Architects have a tough job.  Blending artistic endeavors with the functional is very demanding.  Everyone expects a building to be beautiful, and suitable as a living or working space for those who use.  Add to that the constraints of the laws of physics and that a design must be build-able and you have quite a difficult profession.  The great thing about it though is that successfully dealing with all of these potentially conflicting forces can be supremely rewarding which means most architects are passionate people.  Choosing the right architect is obviously very important.  You’re putting a lot of trust in this person – trust that they will find a way to make your dreams real.

After owning our land for almost a year, our search for the right architect took 2 very long months.  We were considering three very capable architects.  I met with each of them to discuss the project, including our budget, approximate square footage, location and major features we wanted.  Also, being so new to all of this I had a lot of questions about fees and payment schedules.

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#### Interviewing The AIA has a [list of questions](http://www.aia.org/value/questions/AIAS076356 "Questions to ask an architect") to ask in an architect interview, and you can find plenty of variations of these questions elsewhere online.  I used these as a guide, but I didn’t stick completely with the script.  You definitely want to get a feel for their design philosophy and how it lines up with your expectations.  You also need to get a feel how well you’ll get along with this person.  You’ll need to work with them for a significant amount of time so it should be someone you think you can work with and communicate with easily. #### What’s the bottom line? The fee schedule is what I was most interested in.  Based on my experience, I think you can expect an architect in Northwest Arkansas to charge around $100/hour for a typical residential home and this should come to somewhere around $4,000 for a plan of 2,500 square feet or so.  Some will charge a flat fee for this work.  Still others will charge a percentage of the total construction budget.  Expect approximately 3-10% for architectural work, and for full design/build packages 15-20% of overall construction costs.  These are just ballpark numbers and depend on many factors. #### Design/build? At first, we thought we wanted to go with a design/build package.  Design/build has its [advantages](http://www.dbia.org/about/designbuild/ "Advantages of design/build").We felt like that was the best approach to ensuring the house is built properly with the least hassle.  We eventually became more comfortable with using architecture services and general contracting services from different firms.  Our biggest fear pushing us that direction was that we would have a hard time finding a builder capable of building a modern home in Northwest Arkansas – an area with few modern homes.  Through working with some of these architects, we gained confidence that we would be able to find a suitable builder. #### And the winner is… I met with John Mack from [JKJ Architects](http://www.jkjarchitects.com/ "JKJ Architects") last.  He came highly recommended from my father-in-law who had worked with him in the past.  The unique thing about John is that he didn’t just have me come to his office to talk, he immediately wanted to meet on our site.  We walked the property as we discussed the project.  We hit it off pretty well, and he seemed genuinely interested in us and our project.  What had seemed like a very long two months obsessing over which architect to choose, the decision ended up being rather easy to make.
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