Working with an architect

If you're thinking about building or renovating, an architect can help you add value, get more from your home and improve your quality of life. All but the most basic build will benefit from advice from an architect before you get going. But what should you consider when selecting an architect for your project? Here are some tips from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

Draw up a brief

Before contacting an architect, you'll need to draw up a project brief. This is your wish-list for the project and should focus on what you want to achieve. Try to 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 as this will help you discuss costs up front with the architect and avoid disappointment at a later stage.  

Find an architect

Once you've agreed your initial project brief and budget, it's a good time to start your search. You can find an architect on the RIBA website , which lists over 3,000 RIBA Chartered Practices and 40,000 projects.

RIBA-accredited Chartered Practices:

  • are highly skilled and professionally trained to turn your aspirations into reality
  • will guide you through the design, planning and construction process
  • can apply for planning permission and help you find a good, reliable builder
  • provide quality control over the build - helping you to complete the project effectively and efficiently

Ask around locally

It's also a good idea to ask around locally as most architects get their work by personal recommendation. There's a huge advantage to choosing a local architect or one with experience of working in the area of your project because they're likely to have built up valuable relationships, specifically with the local planning department.

Have an initial consultation

Most architects offer one-off consultations and these can be incredibly useful. This is your chance to find out more about the architect and assess if they're the right fit for your project. 

Look for a practice with experience of your type of project or one that shares your aspirations. Check how many similar projects they've completed, their contacts with planners, their track record of approvals and follow up their references too. Find out how responsive they were to changes and how effective they were at managing the budget. 

The first conversation is usually free so it pays to look around for the right practice.

Put it in writing

Once you've made your decision, you and your selected architect should discuss and agree on the scope and cost of architectural services before work begins. It's important that this agreement is in writing, setting out the services to be provided and outlining the obligations of each party. RIBA have a Domestic Agreement template that can be purchased online .

How much or how little you commission an architect to do is up to you - from coming up with an initial design in response to your brief, to seeing the project through to completion. 

Value for money

"If you go to a good architect, your fees will pay for themselves"

Kevin McCloud of Channel 4's Grand Designs

They will develop solutions and propose ways to reduce costs whilst coming up with a design that can increase the value of your home. Employing an architect could be the best investment you make.

Need more advice?

RIBA's Client Services team offer selection and support services to help you find and work with the right architect for your project. For more information contact them on 020 7307 3700.

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