For Architects: Best Questions To Ask Before Recommending a Builder

In this exceedingly busy time in construction, there may be times when you need to look for a new builder in order to move your client’s project ahead within a reasonable period of time. As a builder working with independent architects and designers, we have had our share of projects with architects who are new to us. We’ve learned what other architects look for, and how this may serve you as you interview your next builder.

hamish murray project manager meeting in the office
Hamish Murray Construction project manager team meeting

In another article, we wrote about an architect’s criteria for choosing a residential builder.

In this article, we share our ideas on how to interview a builder so that you can select a builder that gives you the best synergy, especially based on what we have learned from architects and designers.

You know your business. You know builders.

As an architect or designer, your job is to oversee a project from conception to completion. We know that you choose to consistently advocate on behalf of your client to a builder and that you do that well.

When working with any builder, we believe you should care about:

  • A builder keeping to a schedule and budget
  • The adherence and honoring of your design and plans
  • A builder that is a team player, working easily with you
  • The builder’s attention to detail
  • Ultimately, a profitable and satisfying project for you
  • A team effort that results in a happy homeowner     
  • Portfolio and good references are always a must
a home builder project manager talking to a trade partner about tile layout detailing
One of our project managers, Michael, discussing the tile layout detail with one of our trade partners. | Architect: Howells Architecture + Design

Ideas on how to interview a new builder before recommending to a client

There are certainly many choices of quality builders in Oregon. Beyond identifying those builders who have done quality work with good references, we have learned that there is a quality of interactions that can make a project go from “well done” to “excellent”. 

Here are some possible  interview questions when talking to a new prospective builder:

  • How often do you stay on budget and on schedule?
  • What sets you apart from other builders?
  • Tell me about your trade partners? How often do you work with them? How long?
  • Tell me about your project managers?
  • What kind of architect is your favorite to work with?
  • What are your favorite projects to do?
  • How do you work with a client with a full remodel?
  • Sometimes, construction drawings are not 100% clear, leaving some things up for interpretation. Can you give me some examples of how you use your judgment to involve or not to involve an architect or designer once construction begins?
  • When do you like to become involved in the design and planning process and why?
  • How do you keep up with the latest building science? Smart home technology? Building materials? Hidden parts of construction such as plumbing, electrical and HVAC? What innovations do you like to recommend to a client?

Some qualities of a builder cannot be assessed from actual questions. We believe that it’s very important that a builder can communicate in a way that is similar to you and the client. The homeowner should be comfortable with the builder. Having strong communication skills, and even being able to relate to the client on a social level is an advantage to the project.

You can also learn quite a bit from a builder on how they want to be involved in each stage of the design process, and how flexible they are to work within your preferred practice. For example, some architects enjoy getting input from a builder early in the design stage, asking for their input on things like cost effectiveness, current materials sourcing, smart home technology or building science, while others choose to bring in a builder once the schematics are finalized. 

two employees measuring the floor during a custom home build

About Hamish Murray Construction Inc.

With an office located in SW Portland, we solely work with independent architects and designers, and are all about building long-term lasting relationships. Teamwork and collaboration are key values for us; we find that the best work happens when we leverage all our best collective skills. Although we primarily build and remodel homes in the greater Portland metro area, we also do work on the Northern Oregon coast like Cannon Beach, as well as other cities in Oregon including Bend, Hood River, and more. 

We seek to build each project on schedule and on budget and always with top-notch quality results. Our portfolio can be found here.

Contact us

We’d love to meet you. Contact us or call us at (503) 460-7203 with questions you have, or ask us about our philosophy, experience, or any other question that is on your mind.