Working with an Architect

When building a new home or altering and extending an existing one, an architect can interpret your ideas creatively and manage the project professionally providing value for money and peace of mind with a satisfying end result.

Value for money
Paying for architects' services is usually money very well spent. Their input can be invaluable in developing design solutions that cut construction bills, reduce running costs and add long term value to the property

Freedom from worry
When you use an architect, you have someone who knows the construction industry's working methods and standards and can guide you through the complex procedures of Planning, Building Regulations and contractual arrangements. All practising architects are required to have Professional Indemnity Insurance appropriate to the scale and type of work they undertake.

End results
Architects interpret your ideas with imagination, creating spaces that will work well for those who have to use them. It will also look and feel good.

Some architects may charge for an initial consultation but others will be happy to give advice without charge on the understanding that they will be appointed as architect for the project. The architect's help should be sought in formulating the brief which should indicate:

  • the functions of the finished project:who will use it and for what
  • motivations and expectations: what it is hoped to achieve from the project in the short and long term
  • design direction: contemporary or traditional, favoured materials and finishes, sustainability issues
  • all important timetables and budgets

The architect is required to have a proper commissioning agreement in place before starting work on the project. There are no longer mandatory or recommended fee scales and a fee is negotiated between architect and client. Architect's fees may be charged as a percentage of the total construction cost or, depending on the services provided, at an hourly rate or as a lump sum.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) publishes a Plan ofWork which sets out in stages the services which may be required. These are listed in an abbreviated format in the RIBA booklet entitled 'A Client Guide to Engaging an Architect' which also provides guidance on fees. All or part of the services offered by an architect may be selected.

There are Standard Appointment documents available from the bookshop in the RSUA offices for any size of project. It is advisable to use a standard form for recording the agreement between client and architect. The one for small works (SW/99) is suitable where the cost of construction works in not expected to exceed £150,000.

Even small jobs can sometimes need the input of other professionals eg a structural engineer or quantity surveyor. The architect will explain the need for these and help you find and brief those most suitable for your project. These may be appointed separately by the client or appointed through the architect.

After the design has been agreed the architect can advise on all the issues relating to Planning Approval, Building Control approval and health and safety legislation. Part of the architect's service is to act as the client's agent in applications made to the statutory bodies and advise on the fees required for the applications.

When drawings and specifications have been completed and statutory approvals obtained, the architect can advise on how to choose appropriate builders to tender for the work. Appropriate forms of building contract are available for small and medium sized jobs and one of these should be used.