Above projects from architectural designers on designforme.com – click on the image to see their full profile and shortlist them for your project.
Do I need an architect?
If you feel your project is very simple and straightforward, and perhaps you’ve found that you don’t require planning permission, you might ask: do I need an architect at all? This is a very common dilemma for homeowners, particularly those doing modest kitchen extensions or interior alteration work on a budget. The short answer is no, not necessarily. HOWEVER, I definitely wouldn’t recommend skipping the design/drawing phase of the project completely. A good design professional can help you find the best solution for your brief; they will advise you on where to spend your budget and where to save; some will be able to guide you through planning, building regs, freeholder consent and party wall issues; they can even help you appoint a builder, get the right price and, if required, oversee the builder’s work.
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So, I can’t just go straight to a builder?
You might want to start speaking to builders at the beginning of your project to get a rough idea of cost, and compile a shortlist for the detailed quote stage later on, but they won’t be able to produce accurate quotes without a decent set of drawings and specification. The design process is critical to the success of your project – not only will it result in you being happy with the end result, it will very likely save you time, money and headaches during the build. A good package of drawings and specification is a means to communicate with your builder. From these documents, you will be able to get accurate and like-for-like quotes, and they will ensure that you and your builder are on the same page, avoiding disputes and unexpected costs during the build.
What about a builder that has an in-house design service?
This route is called ‘design and build’, where the building company also do the design work and drawings for you. There are pros and cons of this route, which I’ll go into in next week’s blog. But in any event, we’d recommend having a meeting with their design professional, and carry out the same checks below as you would with an independent design professional, before you enter into an agreement with the building company.
What do you mean by ‘design professional’, how is this different to an architect?
An architect is a type of ‘design professional’: the phrase I’m using as a general term for a person qualified to help you with the design / drawing portion of your building project. Here is a brief, descriptive list of the most common design professionals:
This title is protected by the ‘Architect’s Registration Board’ (ARB) and you can check their register to see if a person is qualified to call themselves an architect in the UK.
Architects may well have higher fees but you should weigh this against the value they could add due to their rigorous creative and professional training in comparison with other types of design professional. You can be reassured that they will definitely be able to offer ‘full architectural services’ from concept design to detailed construction drawings and specifications, but also that they can administer the contract between you and your builder throughout the construction phase. Other design professions may not offer services past the planning stage.
Those who are part of the way through their architectural studies (Parts I, II and III) may well be able to help with small, simple projects. However, you should proceed with caution and unless they hold Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII), it would be inadvisable to use their services and information for construction. They may be able help up to the concept design and planning application stage of your project.
Architects registered in other countries
If they are not registered with the ARB, they would not be allowed to work under the title of “architect” in the UK. Architectural qualifications vary so be aware of this. Check their experience in the UK, specifically regarding statutory regulations such as planning and building regulations, as these requirements vary from country to country. Also make sure they hold adequate Professional Indemnity Insurance.
Chartered Architectural Technologists
Architectural Technologists also have a professional body – Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT), which has a similar Code of Conduct for its members as the ARB. Chartered Architectural Technologist, MCIAT members in particular, have undergone rigorous professional training and can offer and deliver ‘the full range of architectural services’ akin to that of an architect as described above.
So, what’s the difference between architects and technologists?
Technologists have often had more experience and training in the science and technology of building, e.g. how and why they are constructed in a certain way, using certain materials, than architects. Architects are typically more ‘design led’ with greater interest, experience and training in the aesthetic and spatial qualities of a project. However, there are certainly many architects who are highly technical in their approach and many technologists who are very creative, so individuals should be considered on their own merit.
Do not have to be registered with CIAT to describe themselves as such and may or may not have academic qualifications or experience to offer design services. See the checklist below.
Before you appoint your architectural designer – a checklist
In summary, with an architect (ARB) or Chartered architectural technologist (MCIAT), you can be assured of high levels of experience and training to undertake the full range of architectural services. If your project is relatively simple and uncomplicated, you may choose to speak to the other types of architectural designer mentioned above. If so, I’d strongly recommend this checklist before appointing them:
- Do they hold adequate insurance to protect you from errors in their work (Professional Indemnity Insurance)?
- If not, their drawings and specifications should not be used for construction. Instead, the design liability could to be passed onto your builder. For example, the architectural designer could prepare preliminary drawings for planning only. Then, the contractor can develop the design into detailed construction drawings and take responsibility under their own design insurance (note this insurance needs to specifically cover the design liability, which is different to a builder’s usual construction liability insurance).
- Have they done similar projects before? Ask to see examples when you meet.
- Get references from their previous clients.
Where do I start?
Design for Me is a free platform to help you quickly find the right design professional for your home project. As a residential architect myself, I started Design for Me after finding that talented and innovative smaller firms and individuals, who are perfectly placed to design new homes, extensions and/or renovations, can often get buried under the online profiles of large commercial companies.
Before Design for Me, the right person to design your home project was very difficult to find!
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