Perhaps you would like to find architects to help you extend the kitchen and install bifold doors opening out onto a newly landscaped garden? Maybe the challenge is a loft conversion but you’re not sure how to make the most of the limited space up there? You might even wish to hire architects to help you build your own house from the ground up. Architects can help you to get a clearer idea of what is possible, both in terms of the land you own and the budget you have. They have extensive knowledge of architectural design, construction methods and building materials, not to mention a strong appreciation of ergonomics – warmth, light and flow within a property. Architects will also be far more capable of seeing the bigger picture – carefully balancing aesthetic appeal with structural safety – and navigating all those little steps from concept through to completion. And with their local knowledge, your architects will also often help to obtain planning permission and building regulations approval.
How do I choose the right architect?
Begin by determining the type of architectural service you require. Is it merely advice that you need? Or a detailed set of architectural design plans? Are you hoping to add a single-storey extension or are you really looking for someone to design you a custom home and handle construction management right through to completion? One of the most important duties of full service architects is to serve as project managers and supervise most aspects of construction as well as facilitate communication between all other contractors.
Architecture is an incredibly technical profession and one where getting things wrong can literally put lives at risk, so do background checks on your architect. Check they are registered with architecture associations such as the Architect’s Registration Board (ARB) and The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Being part of an architecture association means that an architect or architecture firm has met certain standards, qualifications and practices, and can be held accountable if they don’t meet these standards. It’s advisable to choose architects that specialise in the kind of project that you are undertaking as their existing experience will shine through in the completed design. Look for an architect that can provide references and reviews of their previous work.
Once you have determined the service level you need, your next consideration will be architectural style. Some architects specialise in designing for traditional housing such as period cottages and country homes, or even in designing modern replicas in a period style. Others have a knack for imagining bolder, more futuristic architectural design incorporating the latest green technology. Check their Houzz profile and website for examples of previous work. Early on, try to gauge availability – there’s no point in choosing an architect that’s going to be booked for months if you have a tight deadline. Some architects are happy to do all their work online or over the phone with you, but if you’d prefer to work with an architect in person then check that your chosen architects will travel to you.
What is the process to hire an architect?
At the first meeting, preferably at your property or building site, give as clear a picture as possible of the kind of home you are trying to create to your architects. Chat through your goals, projected budget, scope of work, schedule and feedback, together with any very specific requirements you might have. It is crucial that your architects are clear about their responsibilities and that these are documented in the contract. Ask them to walk you through the process, including the number of architectural design consultations, site visits and what they will be delivering and when, e.g. feasibility study, a technical drawing, tender package and/or planning application drawings. They could illustrate this using a previous client’s project. Also, what does the architect need from you? Deeds, rights of way, deposit, staged payments etc. Once you have covered all this detail, you are ready to make your choice and get started. The architecture company that you hire will likely start with concept drawings and finish with construction drawings and documents. Some firms even design with 3D renderings, CAD and videos, but this is by no means essential.
What makes a good architect?
You are looking for architects that have the right balance of creative flair, technical nous, practicality and impeccable service to see you through. Get a sense of whether they are a good listener, collaborator and problem solver. Checking their references will also be invaluable at this stage so look at their Houzz profile for past customer reviews. Ask to speak to previous clients, particularly regarding their responsiveness and ability to work creatively around a budget.
How much does hiring an architect cost?
There is no set payment structure for an architect. Some architects will charge an hourly rate, others base their fees on a percentage of the total construction cost or propose a fixed fee (payable in instalments) for projects such as house extensions or a complete home design. You may wish to pay in stages to safeguard against any possible dissatisfaction with the quality of service. Make sure the total figure and payment schedule is agreed as part of your contract, particularly if you are trying to accurately estimate the cost of building a house.
What are the important questions to ask architects?
How long have you been an architect? Are you part of ARB and RIBA? Are you part of any other associations of architectural design?
How would you improve my current property and what do you think is the best use of my available budget?
Please can you tell me about similar projects you have undertaken and why you are the right person for the job?
What will be some of the main challenges?
Do you have experience of managing the construction phase?
Will you be the lead architect on this project?
Can you give me an overview of this project and tell me who will be doing what?
How long will the project take?
What will you charge, and will that be based on an hourly rate, a percentage of the project cost, or a fixed fee?
Can you recommend builders and contractors in my area?
Is there other expenditure that I might have missed and and how can I sensibly cut those costs?
What happens if there is a dispute? How would you resolve it?
Do you have professional indemnity insurance?
How often will you be updating me on progress, either face to face or on the phone?
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