Choosing your architect

Choosing your architect

The average homeowner might only use architectural services once in their lifetime, which can make navigating the complex world of architects puzzling. Try to think about these 4 questions before contacting an architect.

Is my project ready for an architect’s input?

One phrase we hear from customers is “we’d never thought of that” – so don’t be too concerned about having the finer details of your design in place before you meet an architect. Try instead to focus on the broader aims and ambitions of the project. Faced with a fairly open brief, your architect may well suggest an idea you had never considered that might be more efficient and cost-effective, or simply a better use of space.

I already know what I want – do I really need an architect before I start?

The experience and creativity of a good architect will not only deliver something attractive but can help with a domestic project on so many different levels – what is and is not feasible, planning strategy, budget advice, choosing a builder and much, much more.

Let’s take the example of a loft conversion: it would seem logical to just go to a loft company, but think again! Most loft companies have one way of undertaking a loft conversion that might not take into account the peculiarities of your house or your style preferences. A good architect will talk through your needs and explain the possibilities (which in most cases are several) on stair position, room arrangement, day-lighting, headroom etc. He or she will also consider the exterior of your extension – designing an elegant and sympathetic loft extension takes skill and expertise, which is why so many people end up with clunky boxes plonked onto their roof.

Perhaps the main benefit of having an architect on board is that they can help you avoid many of the pitfalls that people so often fall into when running a project without experience – be it a misunderstanding of the local regulations, loss of control over your budget or last-minute surprises from some less scrupulous contractors.

How does it all work?

In most cases, architects can offer you a full scope of services, starting with sketch designs and feasibility, working through the different stages of detail, planning applications, building regulations, tendering and contract administration through to completion of the project. Generally, these services would be paid for in fees based upon a percentage of the total project cost. However, the design is a collaborative process, and for those customers who only want a partial service, the architect’s level of involvement can be adjusted to meet their needs.

How do I know if an architect is right for my project?

Architecture is a hugely diverse subject, covering a myriad of different building types. It is always worth having a look at an architect’s past work, but bear in mind that each project reflects what that particular client wanted, and what the architect could do for you should reflect what YOU want.

This said, arguably the most effective way to choose an architect is to get them do a limited amount of paid work with you. Only by working with an architect will you get a real idea of how they can help you with your project. Paying an architect to undertake a preliminary design exercise with you for a small fee will bring out ideas you may not have considered and will give you a sense of what the architect has to offer going forward.