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ASK other architects

Architectural practices range from large firms, small partnerships, to individual sole proprietors.  Each has advantages and disadvantages.  I strongly encourage you to interview several, before hiring one.  Not only will it be much easier to see the great differences in available services and fee structures, but I think my efforts will become very clear.  However, don't take my word for it, just ask the other architects a few of these questions...

1. Do they design anything other than houses?
Unlike other building types, a house commission often has two owners with differing tastes and goals for their home design.  To fully understand the nuances  inherently involved requires a practice limited exclusively to homes.  Consequently, a greater amount of time is needed refining the design, which is why many architects place a limit on the number of revisions covered by their fee.  Further, larger firms often pass residential design work off to their interns to save money, resulting in a home lacking the benefits of a seasoned designer.  By contrast, I have structured my practice as a sole proprietor, so every call, email, meeting is handled by me personally, with every design detail originating from my two decades of experience working only with residential projects.

2. Has their office ever been sued?
Every architect learns very early the horror stories of law suits by dissatisfied homeowners, in fact, it is rare for an architect to complete a career without one.  Professional liability insurance is a necessity and the industry standard agreement between homeowner and architect (American Institute of Architect's form B101) is specifically written to reduce the architect's responsibilities, thereby limiting liability exposure.  As a result, most architects are more concerned with avoiding ownership of decisions and writing disclaimers for their recommendations.   I prefer the reverse, the more hands on I am, the greater control I can have making a house meet your expectations.  More importantly, motivation to please my client is the best insurance policy against a homeowner with regrets.

3. How many projects are on their website?
Browse the typical architect's website, you will find great attention placed on a laundry list of flashy projects.  Quantity is too often mistaken for credibility and the race to accumulate a body of work soon over shadows the work itself.  The use of a public building for self promotion can be understandable, but a private residence is another story.  I value the relationships I have developed with my clientele and respect the personal nature of their family's home.  To preserve that intimacy, I am reluctant to publish a plan or photograph.  Life's pace is fast and stressful, I try to create homes that become sanctuaries where a family comes together to take refuge.  For an environment to feel truly safe, each room must be yours, shared by no one but those you invite in, a private place.  My practice tries to maintain that possibility.

4. Can their fees ever increase?
Most architects base their fees on a percentage of the construction cost, their trade organization (American Institute of Architects) recommends 6% to 12% or in other cases a job can be billed by the hour.  Rarely does a house remain the same size or quality of finish through the course of design and construction.  As it increases, architects try to capitalize on it, by increasing their compensation.  An experienced architect should be able to accurately assess a project's requirements from the beginning.  I do this and provide a quoted, all-inclusive, fixed fee.  What other architects view as extra services to be billed additionally, I include in my base proposal.  So once my services and fee are agreed upon, there is no more anxiety about time spent on the phone with me or requests to change the design.  My fee structure encourages dialog, so I get to know your needs better, to provide you with the best possible home.

5. What is their dream project?
And more importantly, have they gotten it yet?  Architecture is a creative discipline and those who enter it to become architects usually have a desire to create.  If they design the type of thing you like, that can work.  But many people have stories of architects that force their vision on a house, ignoring their client's pleas.  In my view, talent is necessary, but the most important skill of an architect is their ability to listen.  A perceptive architect is sensitive to your concerns over their own.  They should keep their personal preferences to their own house, not impose it on others.

Only a small percentage of architects design houses exclusively.  Of them, just a handful are sole proprietors, with a truly personalized attention to service.  Only one architect in the Pittsburgh region offers a complimentary Conceptual Design Package, to demonstrate their commitment and abilities.  Contact me, to find out why so many people value this service.

To learn about my design process and the services I can offer your home, please click on the What's Included link.

Contact Matthew Schlueb by phone at 724 . 934 . 7868 or email by clicking here.