Choosing an architect to design your home can be a daunting prospect; whether you are after a simple single storey extension or a complete renovation, you will need an architect to expertly guide you through the design, planning and construction process.
A highly skilled and professional architect can maximise your property’s full potential and turn your aspirations into reality.
These simple points will guide you through the selection process for your project; carefully considered choices from the start will ensure that the best possible results are achieved by the end.
1) Create a project brief
First of all, before you even begin to search for an architect you need to draw up a project brief. This should be a list of requirements for your project and potential problems that may arise along the way. In order for the architect to fully understand what he is creating, think about how the new space will be used. Will it be for a guest room or study? Will it become a focal point of the building? Will it be designed for young children? Will the use of the space change over time? What do you wish to achieve from the project? The more details you can supply during these early stages the better.
So, a project brief will enable you to figure out exactly what it is you want to achieve, whilst helping to pinpoint the type of experience needed to design your type of property; the chosen architect must fit to your project style, whether this be a daring, unique design or a simple extended living space for the family.
2) Research and Referrals
Now you can move forward with a clear idea of what requirements the architect needs to fulfil. When starting the research process, remember that the majority of architects get much of their business through word of mouth, so ask your friends, professional colleagues and family members for recommendations. If there is a particular home you have visited that you admire, pry for more details and find out which architect was involved in its development. Search professionals online via location and read reviews from past clients, browse photos of their work in order to give you an idea of their design style.
3) Check they are ARB Registered
Once you have gathered a few names from the internet that may be of interest, do not progress any further without checking that they are registered with the Architect’s Registration Board (ARB). This is compulsory for architects in the UK as it states that they have qualified the appropriate skill sets and expertise in order to meet your project requirements. The industry body ‘The Royal Institute of British Architects’ (RIBA), although not compulsory, is also a well known symbol of professional excellence across the construction industry. So if you’re struggling to find architects of interest, have a look at RIBA’s listed practices to guide you in the right direction.
4) Ask the professionals
It may look all well and good from their online profile and project portfolio’s, but how do you really know what they’re like to work with, and if any trouble has occurred previously? General contractors, interior designers and other individuals in related trades can be great resources for finding the right architect. They can give you a whole load of insight into how effective an architect was with managing the clients’ budget, and how responsive they were to site changes. Inspect their track record of approvals; if the contractor has great things to say about an architect they worked with, then that is a great sign of a successful project.
5) Book free consultations
By this stage you should have hopefully narrowed down your search to the last few potential architects, so start to book your first free consultations. By progressing with a select few, the consultations will allow you not only to compare the architects against one other, but it will also enable you to grab different ideas from each person along the way. During the consultation, a good architect will sit and listen to your questions, take things slowly, and try their best to understand exactly what you want to achieve from your project brief.
6) Ask the right questions
At each consultation, it is vital that you ask each architect the right questions. As a rough guide, these should be along the lines of…
– How would you approach our project?
– What may some of the obstacles be for our particular design?
– How long would the project take to design and build?
– What contractors do you typically work with or recommend?
– Where have you worked previously/can you show me some examples?
– How do you charge and what are your fees?
7) Set a budget
Following on from the last question above, setting a clear and achievable budget from the offset is crucial. The architect should be aware of your maximum and minimum spend, and he/she should explain in detail what additional features this includes, or whether additional costs may crop up. As well as you having the responsibility to not change your mind mid-way through a project, you also need to feel reassured that the architect has fully understood your vision and knows your exact financial boundaries. Crucially, at this point of the search, make sure the architect has professional indemnity insurance.
8) Local authority planning and regulations
The architect will need to understand local authority planning rules and the latest building regulations. Planning permissions will differ between each local authority, so ensure that they have created designs for extensions and conversions within your area. Secure in writing that they have full knowledge of these particular standards or building regulations; an architect who is unaware of these could leave you in a sticky situation.
To summarise, the correct architect for your project requirements will be prepared to give you the highest quality and professional design for your money. They will recommend professionals just as others will be able to recommend them. Most importantly, their main priority will be to protect your personal interests during construction, saving you time and money throughout the whole process.
If it costs slightly more to hire the right architect, be assured that this choice could bring a whole new level of value to your refurbished home.