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Tuesday 3rd July, 2018

Tips on working with your architect

Tips on working with your architect

By Mark Dawes, Managing Director, CAD Architects.

Creating a new house design that is built to your specific requirements and seeing that take shape before your eyes can be one of the most exciting and rewarding projects that you will ever be involved in.

If you are using the services of an architect to create your modern home design and to oversee the build, then it is important that you have a productive relationship with them that gets the result that you want while also enabling the architect to work at their full potential. Here are a few simple tips that can help you get the best from your architect.

Before you have your first meeting with your architect, you need to give a great deal of thought to what you want from your project. Establishing your requirements in detail will allow the architect to make a better assessment of the project, thereby enabling more complete advice at the earliest stages. Bear in mind that each site will have both opportunities and constraints and ultimately the proposed dwelling will need to respond to both. The skill of the architect is to balance your needs with the site constraints, whilst taking full advantage of the site opportunities.

Start with a straightforward description of the rooms that you need and how you intend to use the living space from day to day.  Also, images of buildings and building interiors that inspire you are useful in giving your architect a starting point for consideration of the design. Each site is unique, so the physical context and the planning context will play key roles in influencing the design. Your architect will be able to advise you with regard the suitability of your aspirations for the site in question.

Try not to preconceive ideas on layout or aesthetics. The design should evolve from a detailed analysis of the site and your requirements. Moulding these into the finished design is the skill for which you appoint your architect.

You will need to give the architect a clear brief on your timings for the project and the overall budget. As well as the design and building work, you will need to make sure this covers any charges such as taxes and local authority fees.

You should have a written agreement which details the services that you want your architect to provide. As a RIBA Chartered Practice, CAD Architects will provide detailed terms and conditions in relation to their appointment. The RIBA Plan of Work will be used to set out the various stages of a build project and the attendant fees. You can choose to appoint your architect for a “full service” through to completion of the build, or up to the planning stage. This will form part of the discussions you have at the outset.

Your architect needs to be very familiar with the local Planning regime and how it will affect your project. Analysing context and assessing planning policy against your brief should be a first and key action. Arriving at a planning strategy based on your aspirations, the site and the planning context is an essential early step in all projects and should be discussed and agreed with you, before any substantive design work is commenced.

The Architect can then implement this strategy and taking account of your aspirations, planning policy and site context arrive at a design solution. They will then prepare and submit the Planning Application, deal with any queries from Planning and requests for information, and keep you updated on process. It is important to have an architect who is skilled at engaging with the local community, including town councils, parish councils and the general public, to champion your project and ensure that it has the best chance of success.

Once planning consent is granted consideration must be given to how the build will be procured. Your architect can advise on the most efficient method and recommend other consultants who might be required to assist in realising the design. A final check should be made that the design is  one that you are completely happy with before the construction phase gets underway.

The construction phase includes the detailed design phase of the project and this will be a busy time for you as the employer as there will be many decisions to be made: wall and floor finishes, doors, ironmongery, bathrooms, kitchen and tiling, to name but a few. Taking the time to agree this detail at the outset will help keep the build efficient and prevent you having to make decisions under pressure later in the process.

Your architect will recommend a standard form of building contract that should be used to formalise the relationship between you as the Employer and the builder as the Contractor. You will need to appoint a contract administrator - this can be the architect or it may be a quantity surveyor. Their role is to administer the contract and ensure that the parties perform their respective obligations. You will have regular monthly site meetings that are run to a formal agenda and minuted. There will be an agreed contract sum and a build program. Monitoring both these is the responsibility of the contract administrator.

The culmination of your commitment and the efforts of the design team and contractor should result in the home you imagined. To produce a great building you need a great team - your architect is the kingpin of that team.

You will see from the above that having mutual trust and respect, combined with frequent dialogue and clear communication, are the foundations for a successful and rewarding relationship with your architect. When you work as one team, you will find that your architect can take your wishes and dreams for your new house design and make them a reality.