Things to consider before choosing an architect

Architects can help turn your dreams into reality.

When you decide to build a new home or add to your existing home, you are about to embark on an exciting journey, which is why it is essential to ensure that you choose the right architect.

What do you want to achieve?

Before you talk to any architects, make sure you really understand what you want from the project you are embarking upon. What space do you need and how do you envisage the rooms and building to look inside and out? Think about flexibility and whether your current needs will change as children grow up or you retire. Is energy efficient and/or sustainable design important to you?

What sort of architect do you want?

As well as experience and interest in your type of project, you need to think what else you want from your architect >

– Are you looking for inspiration? An architect strong on creativity can really help you here

– If you foresee problems with planning permission, finding a local architect who has a track record with successful applications would benefit

– If you have a listed building or are in a conservation area, find an architect with relevant experience

– Consider if you want a modern or more traditional build and choose an architect who has designed & delivered projects that align with your preferences. 

Have a budget in mind

Before approaching an architect, have a realistic overall budget in mind for your project and a contingency as you can easily get caught up with hidden costs along the way.

When you do communicate with an architect, understand that construction costs and overall budget for the project are not one and the same. The overall budget will include all professional and legal fees and expenses, the statutory charges for applications for planning consent and building warrants, a contingency sum for unforeseen events and other costs such as furniture, equipment, land acquisition, finance charges and VAT, in addition to the construction costs. 

What do you want your architect to do for you?

When considering choosing an architect, you also need to decide what extent of service you want from them. The range is >

– Feasibility Stage – Broad creative designs which help determine the budget and can be developed into more detailed drawings to obtain planning permission at Planning Application Stage

– More detailed Building Regulations architectural drawings that can be developed into tender drawings and specifications to obtain more accurate prices for the construction work from building contractors

– Overseeing the entire construction process until completion, including preparing & administering the building contract, and certifying work complete and payments due to the contractor at agreed stages. If you want your architect to keep a close eye on your building work, they should ideally be nearby and so be able to visit the site regularly

– Architects generally don’t project manage the work themselves, they oversee the main building contractor who does this and coordinates the subcontractors – bricklayers, kitchen fitter, electricians, etc

– Other consultants are often required at various stages of your project to assist the architect such as Planning Consultants or Structural Engineers for example.

Does the architect need to be qualified?

When choosing an architect, they should have the relevant qualifications in order to take on your project. The Architects Registration Board (ARB) hold the register of architects in the UK and RIBA, RIAI and RIAS are the professional bodies.  Architects must be registered with ARB in the UK and can elect to be a member of another professional body such as the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) if they choose to in order to acquire a Chartered status.  For more information visit the architects’ register.

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