More often than not, if you are considering building works you will want to consult with a designer or architect. Whether you are making changes to your home to future proof it for life, or you have some land that you want to maximise value on, an architect will be able to work with you to establish a brief, whether it be creating space for an additional shower room on the ground floor or looking to maximise the potential of development on that bit of land; often translating your fears and ideas into practical solutions, and finding spaces you wouldn’t have thought possible.
So, where do you start when choosing an architect? Here are some tips to think about:
Understand what you want
Having a clear idea of what you want will always help, but if you are not sure what is possible, make sure you chose an architect who will work with you to establish what is – your architect should be frank and honest about what is possible, but they should also be good listeners. Do they give you confidence that they can provide a solution to deliver what you want, both functionally and within budget?
Many people may never use an architect, but if you know someone who has, before you take their recommendation for face value, understand what they wanted, was it similar to your project? Don’t forget to ask them what added value they received. If you don’t know someone who has used an architect, you may consider using a planning search on your local council’s website to find someone who may have done something similar, or you can use the Royal Institute of British Architects’ ‘Find an Architect’ service; they will connect you with people that specialise in what you need and that cover your area.
There is a strong chance that you will be working with your architect for some time, some of the smallest projects can take upwards of 6 months, so don’t underestimate the fact that this may be a long-term relationship. There will be points you disagree on, but you should be comfortable that differences can be overcome. You should also expect to hear some things from your architect which you may not like, but try to understand their professional judgement, design can be opinionated, but there is much in the process that extends beyond.
Take the time to explore ideas
The potential for any refurbishment, extension or development can never be known at the outset without first exploring possibilities on paper. It’s extremely important that you gain an understanding of the project’s viability in terms of timing and potential uplift to meet your brief or personal circumstances. Having an architect in your corner as an ally during a project can save you money overall, as it is easy for budgets to creep upwards.
Ask your architect to demonstrate what they have done, how they will work and what their track record is; have they done the kind of work you are looking to do? What is their planning track record, do they have the right team in house and other consultants within their pool that you may need for the project?
Price is not everything
The architect’s value cannot always be measure purely on cost, but it does help to compare this with other architects. What are their payment terms and how do they calculate fees? Some will want upfront payment and others may seek to be paid at regular stages. Understand whether you want to use them for the whole project, you may find that some architects only get involved in getting planning, but if you want support beyond this you may want to consider other options from the outset.
Tina Patel, Chartered Architect and co-founder of Formed Architects & Designers; TrustedLand Approved ProfessionalLast modified: April 5, 2018