Things to Consider when Looking for an Architect

If you’re either looking to build a new home or restore/extend your existing property, then you will need to invest in an architect to get the right advice for carrying out this work. You may already have some ideas in mind or you may be confused about where to start but an architect can help bring your ideas and tastes together to create the perfect design.

Having seen a variety of different building projects an architect will be able to point you in the right direction when it comes to the types of fixtures, materials and space that will work best for your property. They’ll be able to offer you their professional opinion on just how your home can have the X factor.

Equally, if you don’t know where to start with your building project some architects also offer a project management service so they’ll oversee various parts of the build for you, taking away the stress of organisation. So, an architect can help you with all the planning, all the red tape surrounding building regulations and they can also get quotes together, source builders and then manage the building project to turn those dream designs into a reality for you.

How to find an architect

Where do you start when it comes to finding an architect that will be right for your ideas and your project? Firstly, you will need to begin your search with The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) which will provide you with registered architects. An architect has to be registered with the Architects’ Registration Board (ARB) in order to practice, so it is vital that you have found them on this list first.

Another good way to find a reliable architect is to go on word-of-mouth; it’ll be surprising how many people have had to use one or know someone who has. Alternatively you could contact a builder or your local planning department for their advice.

How to choose an architect

It’s always a good idea to contact three or more different firms to get quotes and different ideas; but always look into what sort of work they specialise in beforehand to ensure that they have expertise in this area. Arrange to meet with a few of these to find out rough costs, what’s included and to throw some ideas back and forth.

The costs of an architect won’t be cheap but you should be looking for how they are going to help to maximise your property value and show why they’re a worthwhile investment in the long run. If you have got quite a low budget it may be worth asking your architect if they will work on an hourly rate so you can use them as and when you can afford to rather than paying a lump sum.

To see what their work is like, ask for various examples of what they have done before, some may even let you go and see previous clients of theirs to discuss the building project and to see the architecture involved. You’re going to be spending quite a lot of time with this person so you need to be comfortable speaking to them and feel as though you can question their designs, put your own forward and be confident that they will carry out the job you want.

What you will need to provide your architect with

You’re going to have to do a lot of consultation with your architect in order to achieve the best results, which will mean you’re going to have to be honest from the start what your budget is so they can ensure this is stuck to. They will also want to know what your ideas are and what you are wanting from the project – e.g. to increase your property price, create a spacious family home and so on. Ultimately, the architect is there for you to tell them what you want and for them to show you the ways in which this can be achieved so you have to lay all of your cards on the table.

Your architect will need to know things like what usage the space is going to have once completed, what sort of lifestyle you and your family lead, how you want the property to feel/look after completion – so try to consider all of these points before arranging your meeting. Another great way to convey your ideas is to have a scrapbook of all the different spaces and designs you like as it will allow your architect to visualise just what you are thinking.

Further down the line of designing your project you will probably find that you’re met with various decisions that you’re going to have to make. So it’s important to establish answers to the key issues that could surround your build beforehand: how is the build going to be financed; when will the work be completed; who is going to make the decisions once the building work is underway and what stages of the build are key?

By having a clear method in place this will help your architect to get together a project brief which will then help you form a formal agreement so as to clearly define any areas that could be disputed should anything go wrong.

How often should I see my architect?

This will all depend upon just what your building project entails and how long it is going to take.

For new builds you could expect to be meeting your architect approximately 12 times to run through all of the various design and processes involved in the construction of your home.

For smaller projects such as extensions, you could be meeting them around 5 or 6 times. Your architect will need to survey the site, show you their first sketches, show you defined designs (this could take several meetings) before meeting to finalise your designs ready to submit for planning consent.

What if there is a dispute with my architect?

If you do come to some kind of dispute with your architect then there are several steps you can take:

  • Before looking at other options try and resolve the issue directly with your architect. Look at the contract that you have drawn up with them to see what was agreed and who is right/wrong in the dispute. If you do need any further advice when reading through your agreement form or with the type of dispute then you can call RIBA’s information centre on 020 7580 5533 and they should be able to help you further.
  • If you are unable to resolve it directly with your architect then you may wish to look at arbitration or adjudication which is more formal but is legally binding so will deal with problems surrounding your contractual agreement. RIBA will be able to nominate an adjudicator for you.
  • The ARB does take complaints from the public and they operate disciplinary procedures, which will ensure that an architect will be removed of their accreditation should they be found to have been involved in serious professional misconduct.

Key things to remember are to be confident in your choice of architect; be happy that you can discuss your ideas and feel that you can be honest with them from the start about what you expect from the build.

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