This simple guide – ‘how to write an architectural brief’ – is aimed at homeowners planning a house extension, renovation or a self-build house.
As an architect myself, I created this platform – Design for Me – to help homeowners find the best residential architect for their particular project. It’s free to use and we’re on hand to help if you have any questions along the way. You can post your job below, to create your brief in a quick and simple way – providing the essential information to attract, and start working with, your architect.
Once you register your project, we’ll match it with hundreds of top architects or architectural technicians in your area (there are thousands of residential practices all over the UK on Design for Me) and you can see who is available and eager to work on your project straight away.
But before you delve in, here are some key pointers from us on how to write an architectural brief.
1. You are allowed to be clueless
The vast majority of private clients will only do one or two building/renovation projects in a lifetime. Residential architects are well aware of this, and won’t expect you to bring a professional, extensive brief to the table. In fact, a big part of the value of using an architect is to help you develop your brief and understand what is important to you. That said, it can be really helpful for you write out a list of things you know you DO (and perhaps DON’T) want before your first meeting.
2. Attract the best architects for your job
There are a lot of great architects out there but finding the best one for your project should be your number one priority at this very early stage of your project. Sometimes difficult to find a really good architect who will be eager and available to take on your project. So our advice is to be enthusiastic and talk about the merits of your job that might appeal to the right designer. What are your general design ambitions? For example:
- Are you aiming to design something that is unique?
- Would you like the design to be vibrant, colourful, loud?
- Or minimalist, calm, soft?
- Do you have ambitions for sustainable / eco-friendly design?
- Consider how it could change your or your family’s everyday lives. Talk about the problem you have with your house now and how you would like to change it.
- Do you have a particular interest in a material or construction technique?
- Don’t be afraid to keep it personal or emotional. The most unappealing briefs can be the ones that are too factual, simply listing out the services they require or rooms to be renovated.
3. Be realistic with your budget
If you are unsure of your budget at this early stage, you are not alone! Rather than trying to guess what you think it will cost, be completely transparent with your architect about what your maximum budget is, so the brief and design can then be tailored around it. This will help set this important boundary and expectation from an early stage. However, if you come up with a figure that is purposefully lower, and at the same time have a list of requirements that are clearly unrealistic, you might find it difficult to find a willing architect at all.
4. Include pictures
Including some ‘before’ pictures can be very helpful in attracting the right architects to your job to give them a good understanding of what they’ll be working with. They don’t need to be pretty! It’s part of an architect’s job to have vision after all. Including floorplans is also very helpful if you have them, and perhaps even one or two examples of finished designs that you love.
5. Examples of architectural briefs
Here are some great examples of briefs created by other clients on Design for Me. However, there is no winning formula here – your brief, and the architects it attracts will be unique to your project.
The briefs above were created by homeowners in a matter of minutes on Design for Me.
What can I expect during the initial consultation with an architect?
We recommend that you meet the designer in person at the address of the project. They can give you their initial thoughts and advice. This should give you a better understanding of what you want but also what may be involved (such as a planning application). On Design for Me we recommend that you invite up to three architects for a consultation.
- It’s a chance to see how you get on. It’s important that you and your designer see eye to eye. The better you understand and trust each other the more likely you are to feel satisfied at the end of it. Your project is unique and so are designers, so it’s important that they are the right fit.
- They will explain how they work and charge for services.
- If you like them, you can ask one (or all) of them for a quotation (also commonly called a ‘fee proposal’).
If you would like to have a detailed design consultation at your next meeting, you can ask them to provide a quote for this, in addition to their fees for full services.
- For the designers, it is an opportunity to meet you and understand your needs.
- We do not recommend that you pay any fees for design services before you meet and feel confident that they would be suitable. At the very least you should have a detailed conversation on the phone.
Is the initial meeting with an architect free of charge?
In most cases yes. However you should not expect any free design work as part of the meeting. Architects will decide to charge a fee in certain cases (e.g. if they have to travel a long way), but they should let you know beforehand.
What is ‘Design for Me’?
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 small 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 architect was very difficult to find!
Once you register your project, we’ll match it with 100s of top architects or architectural technicians, and you can see who may be available and eager to work on your project straight away.
Emily Design for Me