How to Select a Professional Building Designer

Working with a designer to conceive your new home and execute the plans for building it can be very exciting. The greatest reward may be the pleasure of knowing that the design is a functional work of art created especially for you. While designing your new home, a good designer will certainly consider your functional and aesthetic needs. But he or she will also take into consideration things such as the land form and orientation of your lot, wind patterns, surrounding vegetation, angles of the sun in the winter and summer, and — of course — your budget. The design process is a very personal matter and the chemistry between the designer and the client is most important.

It can be a bit intimidating to select the right designer — someone who can identify your needs, design that masterpiece called home, and design it in a way that fits a realistic budget. You will need to weigh many factors before you make your final decision. The designer’s education, training, talent, aesthetic sensibility, personality, reputation, ability to adapt to site requirements, and skill at giving shape to owners’ ideas and desires are all important and just a few of the things to consider.

Begin by making a list of designers based upon your personal regard for their work and the recommendations of builders who have worked with them. Call the firms on your list and describe your project. If they are interested, take the time for personal interviews. If they are not interested, don’t hesitate to ask them for recommendations.

Every firm provides different services, and every firm may well charge different fees for similar work. It is important to know exactly what you are going to get for what you are going to pay.

The following questions will help you make an objective decision about the right designer to design your dream home.

A relationship based on trust between you and your designer is critical to the success of your home building process. You and he or she need to be able to talk honestly and openly about what you want and what is possible. Believing that you can establish a high level of trust should bear a tremendous amount of weight in your final decision. Remember that a great personality is not an indicator of honesty and trustworthiness. Having confidence in your designer is critical to the success of the project.

Once you’ve selected your designer, keep the process moving. Designers can offer compelling arguments about why you should retain them before retaining your builder. We builders can be just as persuasive that the builder should be on board first. It’s really your call. No matter whom you decide to retain first, get your team together early in the process. This will save you a great deal of grief during the design and construction stages, because the builder has to be able to actually build whatever the designer designs. Their close cooperation is crucial from the very beginning. In addition, a strong designer/builder relationship will also help you make the most of your construction budget — something that rightly concerns everyone involved in the process. Because builders spend so much time in the field, they may be more aware than designers of actual construction costs

Questions to Ask your Prospective Professional Building Designer

 Here are some questions you should ask every Professional Building Designer you are considering.

What is your design philosophy?

What do you consider the most important issues or challenges involved in this project?

Can you describe the steps in the design process?

What do you expect us, as the clients, to provide?

Who will be our direct contact with your organization? Will that person design the home?

Has the lead designer worked on projects of similar size, type, site, functional complexity, and design aspirations? If so please explain.

How do you set your fees? An hourly rate? A flat fee based on services provided? A stipulated sum based on square footage? A percentage of construction costs?

How do you prefer to be paid? On a monthly basis? Semi- monthly in proportion to the services completed to that date?  Upon completion of specific stages of the design process?

Will you work with other professionals during the design phase, such as the builder or engineer? If so who are they?

If you work with other professionals during the design phase, who will pay their fees?

Do you anticipate any additional expenses that will need to be paid or reimbursed?

What will the total project fees and final cost for this project be?

If the scope of the project changes during the design or construction processes, will there be additional fees? If so, what will they be?

What specific services will you provide before and during construction?

How detailed and thorough will the set of construction plans be?

How busy is your firm and how interested are you in this project?

Can you provide a list of past clients to whom we can talk about your firm’s capabilities and expertise?

 

Questions to Ask the Designer’s Former Clients

Finally, you need to ask yourself if you believe you can trust and work with the designer and his or her firm. Here are some questions you should ask the designer’s past clients.

Was the designer a good listener?

Was the designer sensitive to your requirements or did he or she force an agenda on you?

Was the designer a team player or did he or she try to run the show?

Was the designer willing to incorporate your creative ideas?

Was the designer responsive to the builder and to you?

Was he or she congenial and approachable?

Was the designer organized and a good time manager?

Did the designer meet agreed upon time commitments?

How accurate were his or her estimates for when the construction drawings and specifications would be completed?

Did the designer provide enough detail in the plans and were they easy to follow?

Would you recommend this designer to your best friend?

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