Working with an Architect for your home

October 26, 2015

Employing someone to design or remodel and build your most valuable asset is likely to be a nerve racking experience. Unless your project is very simple it makes sense to at least talk to an architect for advice before you get going. Architects are highly skilled and professionally trained to turn your aspirations into reality. They will guide you through the design, planning and construction process whether you are constructing a new building or adapting an existing property.




First things first


Before contacting an architect, you will need to draw up a project brief. This is your wish-list for the project. Focus on what you want to achieve, noting down all your requirements and highlighting any problems that need solving. Think in terms of how you will use the space now and in the future, rather than what needs to be built. You should also try to establish your overall budget. This will help you discuss costs upfront with the architect and avoid disappointment at a later stage.




Do you really need an architect?


Once you’ve agreed your initial project brief and budget, it’s a good time to consult an architect. Most architects offer one-off consultations and these can be incredibly useful. They will give you guidance on all the aspects of your project from design and cost through to planning and construction. In a short space of time you can gain an enormous amount of valuable information which will help you realise your project. If you need planning permission then it is likely that you will need an architect.




What does an architect do?


The first thing a good architect will do is ask questions, listen and understand what you are trying to achieve. They will work with you to develop your project brief and finalise the budget. It is essential that you agree this between you before starting the project. A good architect will develop solutions and propose ways to reduce costs whilst coming up with a design that will increase the building’s value. They’ll guide you through a whole range of processes – from coming up with an initial design to seeing the project through planning and construction to completion.




Finding an architect


Choosing an Accredited RIBA Chartered Practice will give you peace of mind. They comply with strict criteria covering insurance, health and safety and quality management systems. Look for a practice with experience of your type of project or one that shares your aspirations. Check how many similar projects they’ve actually built, their contacts with planners and their track record of approvals. Follow up their references too. Find out how responsive they were to changes and how effective they were at managing the budget. Our first consultation is always FREE.




Appointing an architect


Once you’ve made your decision, the first thing to do is tell your chosen architect and notify any others. You and your selected architect should discuss and agree on the scope and cost of architectural services before any work starts. It is important that this agreement is in writing, setting out the services to be provided and outlining the obligations of each party. We recommend you use the RIBA Domestic Agreement. This can be purchased from For smaller projects the agreement may be set out in a self-contained letter of appointment that outlines the obligations of both






Fees will vary depending on the location and complexity of the project and level of the service expected from the architect. Some architects will charge you on the basis of a total project cost, others on a fixed price lump sum or on a time charge basis. How much or how little you commission an architect is up to you – from coming up with an initial design to seeing the project through to completion.






Information taken from RIBA guide for clients Oct 2015


Images copyright; Nicholson Nairn Architects



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