Our top tips for finding the perfect architect..

You have amazing plans swarming around in your head, but to turn them into reality you need to find an architect. However, hiring someone to build, renovate or extend your property might seem daunting.

An architect can translate your ideas into solid plans; they can break convention, provide creative solutions, suggest alternative materials and create something that is as exciting as it is functional. Not all of us are brave enough to push the boundaries when it comes to design, but listening to their ideas may enhance your vision.

Many property TV programmes such as Grand Designs have helped to demystify the architectural profession, but how do you find the perfect architect for you, your home, and your budget?

Perfect choice

You may want a contemporary structure or a renovation needs to abide by conservation orders, so you should start your search with architects that have experience in your type of property, and the style that you want. It is also wise to check how many projects they have completed, and if possible go and visit some of these to check out their work.

Registered

Check that the architects in your search results are registered with the Architects Registration Board (ARB). This requires them to meet a certain standard and abide by a strict code of conduct and practice. Another industry body to look out for is The Royal Institute of British Architects; this is not a compulsory registration, unlike the ARB.

Check out the competition

Make a shortlist of suitable architects and select 2-3 to visit for a free consultation. Approach this as an interview, are they listening to your ideas? Don’t be afraid to ask questions, such as:

  • Can you see their portfolio of work?
  • What are some of the largest obstacles they have encountered on a project?
  • What is the process of contracting their services?
  • What are their fees, and payment structure?
  • How long do they envisage your project taking, including design, building permissions and construction?
  • Check what services the architect will supply. Will they secure planning and building permission? Or is that something you need to do yourself?
  • What happens if you have to make changes to secure planning approval, will you have to pay extra? 

 

Ask around 

If you know of friends, family, colleagues or trusted contacts who have used an architect, ask them for recommendations. Many architects find their work through word of mouth. It is not just the finished design that is important, but the whole experience too.

Relationship Woes 

 

You will be working with your architect closely over a period of time, so is this someone you feel you can work with? A major project such as this is stressful enough without adding clashing personalities into the mix.

 

Local is best 

Local planning regulations can vary from one local authority to another, therefore it’s wise to check if your architect has experience with the local planning office and knows the latest building regulations. Their design may be outstanding, but you will be throwing away good money after bad if you can’t get it built.

 

Useful terminology

Project Brief - A wish-list for your project, including:

Planning Application Drawings - Basic drawings for planning approval

Building Regulation Drawings -  Drawings that address specific issues, such as health and safety and disability access

Working Drawings - Used on site to construct the house

Tender Package - Sent to builders to price the development

Contract Administrator -  What an architect becomes when they impartially manage the client-builder relationship

CAD  - Computer Aided Design - used for elevations and plans, as well as 3D models