Relationship with Architect

river 2046
2 years ago

Hi, just need some advice or hear of similar experiences and how you overcame the hurdle. We have engaged an architect to help us draw up plans for a loft extension and refurb of the flat including kitchen redo and bathrooms, including planning permission and going into tendering and project management next. Basically the whole works. T he relationship started out great and they were engaged and handson. We had pretty much let them run with it but once layouts were decided, we realised they had not factored in the limitations of the boiler placement in the kitchen and after much to-ing and fro-ing and us seeking advice from a few gas engineers as to realistically what we can do, we had to change the kitchen layout option (from one with a kitchen island to a traditional u-shape) and happy to pay for the change to be made. Basically the change was not just because we decided we didn't like the first chosen layout but because of the complexitities and costs involved in order to make the first layout work, which was not initially flagged to us. Anyhow, we move on despite our own personal view that the architect should have at least have known before presenting the island layout as an option.

We were also presented with furnishes and materials (wall and flooring e.g) which diverged quite far from the initial imagery they had presented and what we had specified. Scandi - bright, airy and pastel light colours. Our furnishes options were dark and reflected a gatsby, parison bistro lux style if that made sense. Still fab, just not what had wanted. And we also questioned the costs as some of the tiles were almost £200/sqm which was way too extravagant for our budget (we had specified a £100K+- budget but they took that to mean £199K lol). Anyhow, we decided to do some ground work ourselves and came up with some alternative suggestion from say fired earth and asked if they thought some of the options would work together. Basically the response was just we'll make a note of that. Similarly when we mentioned we would like alternatives to a marble countertop as we are a young family with lots of cooking and need some level of practicality, it was met with unspoken "then you can source it on your own" kind of response.

Basically, we don't mind going around to source for tiles etc myself but surely they can at least come back to help feedback if the items will definitely not go together or materials are not good? we don't know. is that too much to ask? and we seem to get the impression that going with their suppliers would entail them getting a commission which if they had highlighted in the beginning, at least it was upfront and we can work with that. it was simply presented to us as "we prefer you use us to order the materials rather than the builder".

then, we also asked if we will see a 3D rendering to get an idea of how the place will look with the furnishes and was met with "this is outside of our scope" and we can show you as the project progresses but it is not a deliverable item. ????

finally, we had queried about a party wall agreement. effectively we were just giving a link to read up about what it is and what to do next? it was a builder who actually asked us if our architect had spoken to us about it prior to us asking the architect. now i am concerned there's other items we are suppose to be aware of which we assume would be flagged to us by the architect, but are not. are we asking too much?

Keen to know if this is a case of us not understanding the scope or being too demanding? and what are some recommendations if we stil want them to see the project through to finish. Appreciate all the advice we can get!

Thank you

Comments (7)

  • PRO
    Fern Architectural Studio
    2 years ago
    it's a pity it has gotten to this stage.
    did you get and agree to a fee proposal and scope of works prior to any design work?
    the good thing is they are involved in the process including selection of materials.
    I think they made a mistake with the boiler issue and I think you probably lost some faith in them at that stage.
    architects can be precious about their design, believe me, especially if the client starts making changes.
    it's not too late to resolve but it requires a sit down meeting and lay the cards on the table.
  • PRO
    2 years ago
    Did they not give you a breakdown of what your fees cover in the initial paperwork ? Such a shame when this happens :-(
  • PRO
    2 years ago

    Just reading between the lines of a complex story..................regards Architects in general..................I find that they are good with regards building structure and design, but when it comes down to furnishings, i'm not sure they are the right people for the job.

    A Concept planner might have been better................architects like the building design and flow, but can be inept with particular reference to budget. They often present and idea, but are not so great at tweaking it to fit a specific sum of money.

    For those that are inexperienced with the process, it can be daunting and I understand why you think you are not getting what you paid for. However, I think you were expecting too much of Architects and what they actually do. Mind you, saying that, if they said that they were offering and interior design service and sourcing of products on top of actual architectural duties, then that's what you should be getting.

    I agree with all points above.

  • PRO
    Fern Architectural Studio
    2 years ago
    man about the house- I think you have been dealing with the wrong architects. no offence to you at all.
    Budget control is (or should be) one of the main responsibilities of the architect.
    I hear that a lot though and I wonder if it's based on fees? some architects take on projects at reduced fees and then can not commit the required time.
    for a full scope of works architects fees are between 7-11% of contract sum or construction costs.
    i wonder how do people feel about that?
  • Rose Williams
    2 years ago

    Ive only experienced an architect once... loft conversion. I got a few layouts that were not thought out and impossible over 3 months so got rid of them. Interesting that you say the constraints were not factored, because I saw similar, impossible bathroom placements and windows that couldnt fit, unuseable fixtures due to head height, incorrect measurements etc... Fortunately I saw this quickly and can out financially unscathed. The trouble is, I NEED structural calculations, and more intricate calcs to satisfy building control and dont know where to turn. I have a 300 square meter roof that needs fixing urgently, but makes sense to do the rooflights at the same time.
    I agree with Fern, that things should have been resolved with a meeting/sit down. I attempted this, but after several no shows and cancellations from an architect who was clearly not engaged, overstretched, and constantly down the local football club, it resulted in sacking.
    It wouldnt cross my mind to think the architect be responsible for interior design choices such as colours or flooring choices, nor particularly the layout of furnishings beyond an indication of how the space is used.

  • river 2046
    Original Author
    2 years ago

    Thank you all for taking the time to provide the comments. I wanted to take the time to read and consider before responding further. And all very valid points.

    1. When we met with our now architects and others we considered, our brief strongly emphasised the need to meet the budget and solutions/plans/layout to meet our current lifestyle as a family.

    2. Interior design was a bonus as the now architects differentiated themselves as a firm that offered both services and the fee/package reflected and included for both.

    3. In terms of 3D rendering, it is indeed our lack of experience resulting us believing all firms provide the same output -ie drawings, models etc etc etc, which we now understand is not the case, but OK.

    4. Taking matters in our own hands - there were many attempts at stage 1 and 2 when we flagged to them about the costs/budget not being met from what has been proposed. We were told, wait for the cost analysis. We did. The cost analysis came back at double the budget. We were told, wait, they would strip out the furnishes from the cost analysis and a separate FFE schedule would show the breakdown between the build and the fixtures and furnishings. We did. The FFE schedule came back even higher after the architects provided the details of the furnishes they proposed. Again, we flagged not just from a cost perspective but also the colour palette/scheme was not to the initial mood imagery they had provided and the materials were not practical for us as a family. Another example - we went to the supplier for the carpet they had proposed to have a look in person. The supplier said to us straight away he would not have recommended that carpet to anyone who has a pet and/or kids. And immediately said the product is popular from an aesthetic point but for us, it would not be practical at all and we would regret it. We have also flagged this to the architects, ie the proposed items require some level of functionality and practicality to suit this particular client ie us, a young family.

    5. Changing the kitchen layout - we did everything we could to avoid changing the layout therefore we spoke to the gas engineers at the recommendation of the architects. In fact we feel that now having changed the layout, we ourselves have compromised on what we really wanted ie the first design we had selected. We were effectively told by the gas engineers that the layout was never going to work unless we did not have a boiler in the kitchen OR we end up with a floor boiler, which was pointless, as it was more expensive and wouldn't give us a better flow rate as it was the mains rather than the boiler that would affect in our case. And people who go the floor boiler mainly do us to achieve better flow rate or capacity. Whereas if we ended up with a floor boiler, it would purely be to force the layout to achieve. Plus, it defeats us moving the washing machine out of the kitchen to another room in the first place if we end up with a floor boiler. And finally, not only ending up with a floor boiler in order to make the original layout work, we would also have ended up with a stove at the kitchen island (initial design was a sink), which was also all along we told the architects, not something we would at all consider due to a young child. So therefore, the proposed solutions in order to keep to the original layout would not suit us.

    6. Maybe we are asking for too much but we gave an itemised brief to the now and all the architects we initially met with as to what we wanted to cover for each and every part of the space. We have constantly referred back to the brief to ask what about this? has this been factored in? what about that?

    7. In all our correspondences, we have taken care to explain where we are coming from and use a collaborative tone. The only one time when we really pushed back was on the kitchen layout and expressing our disappointment that we had to end up changing the kitchen layout because the boiler placement was not given due consideration prior to coming up with the layout.

    8. Finally, of course we have lost some faith in the architects but we are all about moving forward and wanting to maintain their engagement and commitment to the project to the end which we are finding tricky.

    For instance, the hard part in getting them to see that us proposing alternatives or not wanting to go with the proposed furnishes for e.g. is not dissing their taste but is us thinking the big picture of getting the project done aligned to the budget and scope (again, suitable for a family).

    In ANY type of project management, budgeting is an integral aspect we would have thought? We were told "we don't project manage" by the architects which is also why we are now spending our time to do this ourselves and having paid for services which we feel have not been met (like selling meat to a vegan).

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