How to Get Started

Creating great architecture should be a rewarding experience that ensures clients get the project of their dreams. There are a lot of steps in the process, and it is important to be aware of and understand each of them. Newberry Architecture’s capabilities enable us to partner with you from start to finish, making certain that the design, development, construction, and completion of your home or office location is as collaborative as you want it to be. What’s more, all of our work is built upon the foundations that have shaped the firm: design and technical expertise, a willingness to listen to clients, making clients a key contributor to the process and a broad, deep team of professionals who realize your project is about you – not about the architect.
Choosing an architect isn’t as simple as it might sound. There are tangible and intangible factors that can drive your selection, and they should be carefully considered to help avoid surprises, headaches, and hassles. Newberry Architecture has developed a guide to assist you through this process, and we’ll be happy to provide it to you. Here are some of its key points:

  • Listening. In the first interview, did you feel like they listened to you and respected your ideas – or was it more about their egos?
  • Cost clarity. Are they absolutely clear on fee structures? Are the terms of the contract specific, including the potential for additional costs? Is the budget sufficiently detailed to cover both hard and soft costs?
  • Achievements. What is their work like? If you are unfamiliar with the firm, ask to see both photographs and the actual properties.
  • Managing the process. Do they allow suitable time for scheduled update and progress meetings or walk-throughs? Are they flexible enough to adjust if your ideas change? Are they willing to make you a part of the process, or do you sense they try to take it over altogether?
  • Accountability. Check references to see whether the firm has followed design and construction schedules, met budget goals, and communicated clearly and consistently.
  • Comfort level. A good working relationship is critical to a good design. Look for good communications and a comfort level. How do you get along with the architect? Will you enjoy working with this person for a year or more?
It is vital to consider the site where you plan to build, and whether it will enable you to realize the project you envision. This requires a comprehensive site evaluation that includes, but is not limited to, getting information such as fault line, flood plain, and hazard maps, a current survey, deed restrictions, preservation codes, and variance requests. As part of this, ask your architect to visit the site and assess landscaping and tree locations, drainage systems, utilities and power lines, and structures on adjacent properties that could influence the design. It’s also a good idea to conduct these site visits at sunrise, sunset, and mid-day to determine how natural light could also affect the design.
Understanding your budget from the start is critical to the success of a project. It is not simply a lump sum. Rather, it consists of two distinct categories: construction costs, which are the actual costs of building the project and include site improvements and landscaping; and project costs, which are “soft” costs that range from expenses for consultants and interior designers to those for furniture and other materials.
The best project designs always meet both the functional and aesthetic vision of the client. So while it is important that the space be visually appealing, it must also be practical. So it’s important to develop a design program that specifies criteria such as the number and size of rooms, how each will be used, and how flexible they need to be (for example, do they need to accommodate intimate as well as group settings?).
One of the most important roles of any architect is to understand what styles work, and don’t work, for the client’s vision. This requires a constructive dialogue about aesthetics in which the architect knows the right questions to ask about preferences in things like colors, textures, and materials – and then listens carefully to what the client has to say.
It’s a good idea to assemble your team early on. Newberry Architecture can help you determine what professionals you may need based on the specifics of your project. These professionals or consultants may include, among others, a general contractor or builder, structural engineer, civil engineer, geotechnical engineer, interior designer, landscape architect, and lighting consultant.


Architects provide services that begin with schematic design and construction documentation and can go all the way through to construction administration. They work with a client to outline a contract and program, and then design a comprehensive and detailed approach that turns your vision into a reality.

If the architect has a role in the construction process, he or she will communicate with the contractor, consultants, or specialists involved and maintain the integrity of the design concept through to completion. Ideally, the architect should engage all the involved parties in the process and be an advocate for clients and their goals.

The scope of an architect’s work varies from project to project depending on the type of firm and contract with a client. Typical project duties may include:

  • Establish program requirements
  • Study feasibility of project
  • Provide schematic design and specifications
  • Develop design and document elements and details integral to concept
  • Communicate and coordinate with consultants, specialists, and civil and structural engineers
  • Request and evaluate cost estimates and construction timelines
  • Observe the construction and overall progress of the project