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How to Interview an Architect for a High Performance BUILD

I read this terrific post on GreenBuildingAdvisor.com yesterday by one of my favorite bloggers Martin Holladay.  In that post he gives a great summary of the basics of Green Building (and Building Science), and he gives some tips to people who are interviewing Architects and Builders to build their dream house.  With Mr. Holladay’s permission here are his Architect questions from the article linked above:
Questions for your designer or architect
Before you choose a designer or architect, ask the candidates a few questions:

  • What makes a house green? (A designer who mentions things like “keeping the house small” and “keeping energy bills low” is on the right track. A designer whose first answer is “choosing green materials” may not be the one you want to hire.)
  • What design elements contribute to energy savings? (Good answers include “paying attention to airtightness” and “making sure that the walls and ceilings are well insulated.” You don’t want to hear, “Choosing a furnace or air conditioner with a high efficiency rating.”)
  • When you draw plans, do you indicate the location of a home’s air barrier? (If the designer says “yes,” that’s a very good sign. A designer who says “no” may be a good designer, but he or she will probably require some hand-holding and education.)

  I did a similar post on the AIA’s Top 20 Architect interview questions about a year ago at this linkThese three from Mr. Holladay are a great starting point on interviewing an Architect for a High Performance design, but here’s a few more off the top of my head. 
Matt’s Questions for Architect Interviews:

  • If one of my building goals is to build a house that’s dramatically more energy efficient than a standard home, how can you help me get there?  (I would look for a response that shows past experiences with High Performance houses, maybe past ratings with a local Green Building council, or a general interest in building better homes that the status quo.)  
  • How do you see your design relating to the long term durability of my house? (In my opinion, a well designed house will be well maintained.  Ugly houses or cutting edge houses tend to get torn down in X number of years, while pretty or architectually significant houses get remodeled)  
  • How have you studied Green Design and/or the principals of Building Science?  (Remember that it’s only been recently that Architecture schools have focused on Green Building including Energy Efficiency, look for a response that shows continued education & interest in Efficient, Durable, Heathy homes.)
  •  Tell me about a past design of yours that had a problem, and how you’ve used that failure to design differently?  (This is a tough question, but I believe that an honest answer about a mistake can show alot about someone’s character.  This question also speaks to my interview style of staying away from hypothetical questions.  Ask questions that require a response of: Situation, Action you took, and Result of those actions.)