Whether you are thinking of a complete bespoke build, that perfect kitchen extension or just a simple loft conversion – choosing an architect to design your home can be a daunting experience. An architect’s skills, tact and knowledge can make or break any project, so choosing the right person is one of the most important decisions you’ll make.
If you are currently searching for a residential architect, make sure you’ve read our top ten tips. From being upfront about budget discussions to browsing quality portfolios and trusted client references, we’ve listed the ten most important aspects to consider.
1. The big picture
Architects have a unique ability to consider both the big picture and minute details of building projects, adding value to any development. Depending on your needs, an architect can help navigate planning laws and building regulations, guide on ergonomics (i.e. is there enough light, space, storage and warmth in the building?), research fixtures and fittings, and liaise with builders and craftsmen. Fully understanding your reasons for hiring an architect will cultivate a long-lasting constructive relationship.
2. Build your brief
Before contacting architects, make sure you have collated all your key requirements for the build, and any problems an architect could help solve. Think about how you want to use the space, if you have a specific style in-mind, as well as an overall budget and timeframe. If you have a strict budget or deadline, discussing this at an early stage will help avoid disappointment.
3. Check accreditations
When researching architects, double-check they are registered with the Architect’s Registration Board (ARB). Membership of the ARB is compulsory and making sure they are also part of an accredited RIBA Chartered Practice (Royal Institute of British Architects) will provide further assurance. Such practices all conform to stringent guidelines on insurance, safety and quality management schemes – vital for any project, big or small.
4. Your architect’s location
Where is your architect based? This may seem simple, but it is often overlooked. Your architect’s physical location will govern the ease of initial planning meetings, as well as the frequency of site visits. A personally involved architect is enormously useful for coordinating contractors and dealing with questions or problems as they arise.
5. Local planning knowledge
The benefits of hiring a local architect are not limited to site visits. They may have previous dealings and relationships with local planners, recommend builders, and be accustomed with designing homes that match specific building regulations and planning requirements. Some projects will always be controversial but employing an architect with experience of local planning authorities (and knowledge of past approvals) will be advantageous.
6. Work on similar projects
Does your architect work on similar developments? If you are looking for a small extension, it may be a problem if they work exclusively on large-scale projects. Many architects will have their own signature style, and it is important to think about whether this matches your own. Having said this, gambling on a new practice can sometimes produce great outcomes – so if you’re open to ideas, just make sure they’re on your wavelength.
7. A quality portfolio
When looking at an architect’s previous work, trust your instincts, and go with what you’re aesthetically drawn towards. Do you love their use of light, materials, building shape or avant-garde style? Use this to create your long-list. Many architects work across private and public projects, so see if you can visit any of their buildings. Getting a first-hand feel for their work will be incredibly useful.
8. Talking to several architects
Usually the initial consultation is free, so it is worthwhile speaking to several architects in the early stages. Once you have a firm selection, invite them on-site to meet and discuss your build. At this point you can judge proposals, personal rapport and whether your budget and timeframe are mutually realistic. You’ll be investing a great deal of time and money in both the construction and design phases of your home, so being able to comfortably communicate with your architect is key.
9. Researching references
When employing anyone, be it designers, painters, gardeners or builders – it is best to find someone recommended by people you know and trust. If you have any family, friends or neighbours that have recently worked with an architect, ask them. Discussing their experiences will give you a better picture of what to look out for. If your architect provides their own references, you can follow up on these. Ask about responsiveness, problem-solving and budget management for example.
10. Fee structure and project involvement
One of the final things to discuss is an architect’s fee structure and project involvement. For instance, can they provide full design, plan and build services? Fees vary, with some charging a percentage of the total project cost (usually between 8-12% for a full turn-key service, or 2-5% for initial design and planning permission) and others a fixed lump-sum or hourly fee. Whatever you require, it is essential this arrangement is in writing, setting out the specific services and responsibilities of each party.
Thank you for reading our article.
We hope that the above information will prove helpful when choosing an Architect for your next project. If you’ve got any further questions about the above guidance, then don’t hesitate to contact us on 020 8531 4441 and we’ll be delighted to help.