If you’re imagining redesigning your home, maybe dreaming of a beautiful extension, changes to the property you’ve just bought or a complete renovation… you may have also wondered what services an architect provides.
Whether to employ an architect is one of the most important decisions of any home improvement project. Despite this, many people are unsure what exactly to expect from an architect, what questions to ask or the benefits they bring to domestic building projects.
That’s why we’ve created your ultimate guide, with homeowners most pressing questions explained. From what an architect is, to the advantages they bring, qualifications and services offered – discover if an architect could give your project a helping hand.
What is an architect?
In short, architects design buildings. But they also do so much more than that…
An architect helps homeowners plan, design and manage the construction of renovations, extensions or complete newbuilds.
Architects are highly qualified professionals who develop concepts for structures and turn these ideas into practical images and plans. Whilst they are skilled at designing beautiful buildings, everything an architect does must be safe, functional and meet the needs of the people living in a space.
It takes around seven years to qualify as an architect in the UK, with practical work experience a key part of this process. This training means architects can support projects in many different ways, depending on your needs.
What services do architects provide?
Most architects tailor their level of service to your unique requirements. No matter how big or small the project, they’ll bring a unique blend of technical knowledge and creative imagination.
You might have plans already – but just need help adjusting designs for planning permission. On the other hand, you might want an architect’s help advising on costs and practicalities, right through to managing the build itself and certifying completed work.
Architects work on a massive variety of building projects, helping clients maximise the light, space and functionality of their home, as well as improving their return on investment.
Services could include:
- Preparing feasibility studies and identifying constraints in terms of budget, site or plans.
- Produce initial conceptual designs as well as in-depth floorplans and technical drawings.
- Help you gain planning permission (especially important with listed buildings), manage surveyors and building regulations approval.
- Overseeing construction and liaising with your general contractor (the main builder).
- Certify completed building work, confirming it’s in accordance with plans and regulations.
- Providing access to a professional network of builders, tradespeople, interior designers and consultants such as engineers or building surveyors.
Broadly speaking, these services fall into three main categories:
- Consult and Design: when an architect discusses and contributes to your plans and ideas, to create plans that comply with safety, planning and building regulations.
- Documentation: creating detailed technical drawings to ensure the design is practical, as well as making any changes based on your feedback.
- Construction: architects often visit construction sites and liaise with building contractors to sign-off on completed work or resolve any issues.
Why do I need to use an architect?
If you’re refurbishing a new property, building an extension (or conversion), or redeveloping your existing home, the help of an architect could be particularly useful.
To think about how an architect could add value to your project, consider the following:
Are you altering the structure of your home?
You don’t have to employ an architect for home redesigns. It’s completely your choice.
Nonetheless, working with an architect is useful for any larger projects impacting the structure, exterior appearance or interior layout of your home. This could include single-storey extensions, loft, garage or basement conversions. An architect provides peace of mind that you’re creating not only a safe and legal addition to your home – but one that will genuinely improve your life.
Even with smaller projects like knocking down walls, changing door openings or windows, an architect can spot opportunities you might have missed, as well as broader practicalities.
Do you need planning permission?
Architects don’t just help with drawing-up beautiful plans, they’re also experts at managing the UK planning process.
From putting together initial paperwork to liaising with councils, the help of an architect will increase your chances of planning approval – saving you time and money. If you’re working with a listed building or conservation area, in-depth knowledge of the rules and regulations is especially useful.
Do you know what you want?
This may sound obvious, but if you’re not sure exactly what design you want, an architect’s trusted vision is invaluable.
Starting with initial client meetings (and right through the build), they’ll provide ideas born from a wealth of practical experience and creative, solution-based thinking.
Can you manage the build?
If you’re planning a larger extension or home redesign, it can be difficult to fit this around work and family commitments. Especially if it’s your first major renovation, you might appreciate an experienced professional to keep everything on track.
If required, architects can help you manage the complete build, from navigating planning permission to managing contractors and signing-off on the project.
Can I use my builder’s plans rather than an independent architect?
Homeowners often work with trusted builders to both design and build their home. Indeed, many development companies and builders offer these types of services.
It’s a much riskier approach that could leave you in hot water. General contractors don’t need a specific licence or regulated training to design homes, whereas architects are bound by a statutory code of practice with years of defined study. They’ll also have Professional Indemnity Insurance in case any problems arise.
Builders don’t have the same experience in home design as an architect. Architects train rigorously to understand not only practical concerns, but the way light, space and functionality all interact in domestic buildings – to make your home simpler, more convenient, beautiful and fun.
An architect’s input is a smart financial investment. It will not only improve the value of your property, but also avoid additional renovations and changes further down the line.
What qualifications should UK architects have?
In the UK, the title “architect” is defined by law.
The title of architect can only be used by someone on the Architect’s Registration Board (ARB), which is a publicly accessible database. Many architects may also subscribe to become a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).
This doesn’t apply to titles such as architectural technician, designer, consultant or assistant however – so do spend time researching and getting to know your architectural team before committing to a project.
To qualify, architects must complete:
- An architectural degree recognised by the ARB
- At least one year of relevant, practical work experience
- A further two-year university course, such as a BArch or Diploma
- A year of practical training
- Passing a final qualifying exam
This typically means an architect takes seven years to qualify. It provides a rigorous mix of theoretical and practical training to ensure professional competence across a wide variety of building projects.
Considering updating your home?
Whilst hiring the services of an architect is entirely up to you, there are so many advantages a professional architect brings to home renovations and extensions.
Better quality design means you’ll get more functional, beautiful and enjoyable space for your money. In addition, architects help develop your design ideas and can even manage the entire build – particularly useful if you’re renovating for the first time.
If you’re thinking of updating your home, get in touch with our expert team at EV Architects. We’ll help you create something spectacular.