When you are planning your project you may not know where to start or whose opinion to ask first.
Some clients contact builders first, to get their opinion on estimated costs, or guidance with the design or construction. However, good builders will always ask you if you have some drawings before they can give you an idea of cost, or comment on the construction. Most builders will use a couple of architects regularly and will be able to recommend someone suitable for the scale of project.
The First Point of Contact
The architect should be your first point of contact. They will give you initial advice about the design, the planning and construction processes and if your budget is realistic.
Some clients contact the planning department first, however you won’t necessarily speak to a planning officer when contacting the local authority, and if you don’t ask the right question or mention certain information, then you won’t necessarily get the right answer. A quick conversation with your local architect would be able to answer your questions much quicker and more accurately than your local authority. If they need to clarify anything with the planning department, they will be able to contact a planning officer they work with regularly for the answer.
The name ‘Architect’ is a protected title, however you do not need to be an architect to provide architectural services. To become an architect takes 3 degrees, and 7+ years of training, therefore architects bring a higher level of knowledge, expertise and experience than a non-architect.
Sometimes other construction professionals provide architectural services such as surveyors, quantity surveyors, architectural technicians. However, each profession has its individual strengths, and are trained specifically for their area of expertise. Architects are trained in a certain way and they think differently to the other construction professionals. They combine conceptual, practical, artistic and technical abilities to consider all aspects of a project simultaneously including: views, light, construction methods, flow, materiality, textures, tones, energy usage and how the client uses the space. They balance how it feels, with how it looks, how it works, how it flows, with how it relates to the context. No other profession has been trained in this way.
All qualified architects have to be registered with the Architects Registration Board (ARB), who protect the reputation of the profession, ensuring the standards of the profession are maintained to protect clients, architects and members of the public. If you appoint a non-architect for architectural services, you as a client will not have the same level of protection.
Some Architects choose to be members of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and practices apply to be RIBA Chartered Practices, this is a selection process and not all architects or practices are approved. This accreditation also provides an additional level of professionalism and expertise.
If you have ever watched Grand Designs, Your Home Made Perfect, Old House New home, Ugly House to Lovely House, then you will have witnessed the value that an architect brings to a project. The whole point of using an architect is they will provide you with a solution that solves all of your building problems in 1 scheme, which you would not have been able to achieve without their help.
There is nothing worse than completing a project and wishing you had an extra window somewhere, or realising a particular design decision doesn’t quite work as well as you had hoped. You are spending a significant amount of money and you want to get it right first time.