Top Questions to Ask When Hiring a Commercial Architect

When it comes to running your business, there are many aspects that you might be able to handle yourself, but building the structure isn’t one of them. Hiring a commercial architect is the quickest and most effective way to reach your goal — provided you choose the right firm for the job.


Much of this decision depends on your research and recommendations from previous clients. But when you meet with an architect before hiring them, asking them specific questions can help gauge whether they fit you. 


What can you ask each commercial architect to narrow down potential choices? Here are the top questions to ask before agreeing to a contract.


1. What’s Your Specialty?


Hiring a commercial architect should never be a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Within the umbrella of this profession are various sub-specialties, including (but not limited to):

  • Office design
  • Retail space structure
  • Hospitality projects
  • Institutional facilities
  • Industrial buildings

Verify that the architectural firm’s specialty aligns with your work. You want to know that the people you’re placing your trust and resources in have the skills and experience to run your project thoroughly and prepare for any potential obstacles along the way. For more information about the role of a commercial architect, read this article by ZP Architects.


2. Are You Licensed and Insured?


This question may sound obvious, but many people forget to ask it. Don’t just take the architect’s word for it; ask for their license and insurance proof. If they’re not licensed to practice in your state or don’t have the insurance to cover your project in case of an issue, keep searching for a better candidate.


3. How Much Will Your Services Cost?


Note that this is not the same question as “How much will my project cost?” While the architect should be able to estimate the overall cost of your materials and other project resources, these numbers will vary depending on outside rates and other unpredictable variables. However, the firm’s fee structure should be predictable and consistent.


4. Can You Show a Portfolio of Relevant and Recent Work?


Look for examples of similar work the firm has completed, along with testimonials from their previous clients. Because your goal is to ensure their specialties align with your goals, it’s crucial to ask for relevant and recent work. Don’t look for the styles as much as the completed look, as in many cases, the style is client-specific. The final outcome, however, should be clean and high-quality, and testimonials should be specific and discuss the firm’s professionalism and dependability.


5. What Obstacles Do You Expect to Run Into?


Anyone who has been in construction for long enough recognizes that obstacles are more of a “when,” not an “if,” scenario. 


Most problems are easy to predict, such as prices higher than initially quoted due to material shortages, or delays because a particular item has been back-ordered. An experienced firm will warn you of any likely obstacles, such as a popular construction material that has been difficult to get lately or a coding change around the corner that could affect part of your project.


6.  How Will You Manage My Project?


Architects are, by nature, creatives, and some will want to be a part of every step of the process, while others are hands-off until their role is necessary. Make sure that their style aligns with your preferences. If you want to have them oversee the plans from start to finish, clarify this ahead. On the other hand, if you’d rather them let you handle most of the decisions and only come to them as you need to, that must be discussed, as well.


7. How Do I Contact You?


Finally, ask about communication. Many architectural firms have a team of staff who will be the point of contact between you and the main architect. Other commercial architects prefer you to talk to them, and they’ll provide their phone and email. 


Ask if they would rather text, call, or email, and what times they are available. Will they schedule regular briefings to update you on the status of the project, or will you need to check in to find the answers? What is the average response time between a question and a response?


As you work together, you’ll have mini-deadlines, milestones, and the projected date for each. You should receive communication that these goals were met, or, if not, how long the delay is expected to be.



Your commercial architectural firm should be dependable and have the experience and testimonials to prove it. Unless you prefer them to take a hands-off approach, their default style should include keeping up with each step and discussing any milestones or delays with you.


Early communication can lead you to the right commercial architecture firm to help you reach your business goals. Time spent researching the best architects for your needs will save you time and money over hiring the wrong firm in a rush.


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