How do I choose my Architect?
You should consider these factors when choosing your architect:
Are they registered with the Architects Registration Board (ARB)? All architects must be, by law, so make sure you shortlist one that is. This guarantees a certain standard of work, and means they will have Professional Indemnity Insurance in case anything goes wrong and you need to pursue compensation.
Are they an RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Chartered Architect? Chartered Architects are bound by a strict professional code that means they need to act honourably, independently and efficiently.
What type of architect are they? Do you need someone more creative to bring your space to life, or someone who will execute your idea perfectly?
What level of service do you need? Are you looking for creative designs to determine budget and get planning permission, do you need full detailed architectural plans, or do you need someone to oversee the entire process until completion?
What is your architect’s level of involvement? How much detailing will they do? For example, will they establish where the walls will be, but not the thickness, or detailing like where the electrical sockets will be located?
Are you likely to run into problems with planning permission or building control? If so, you need an architect that is familiar with local planning policy and attitudes in the local authority, and can show a track record of successful applications.
Do you live in a listed building? You should have an architect with experience of them, if you do.
Are you worried about the budget? If so, engage an architect who is strong on managing costs and doesn’t keep adding unnecessary items!
Architect’s Fees and a Brief
Once you have found your architect, it’s important that you give them a brief for your project.
What work do you want done and what is the rough budget? The clearer and more precise your brief is, the less likely you are to be disappointed by the outcome.
Different architects charge not just different amounts, but in different ways – they can charge by the hour, a flat fee (usually for smaller jobs), and as a percentage of the total build costs (usually for larger jobs); with a payment upfront (35%) to cover initial design work.
The Letter of Appointment and Contract
Your architect should send you a detailed appointment letter. It should include:
A breakdown of the work
Details of fees and payment schedules
Details of what will be claimable on expenses and costs involved
Whether you will need planning permission, and what their services will be in this respect
Whether their services will include submission of information necessary to meet building regulations
Whether or not you will be affected by the party wall act
The extent of their professional indemnity insurance
With this letter the architect should also enclose a detailed contract setting out terms and a tick box list of services. Check carefully and ask questions before signing it.
And before you proceed to the construction stage, make sure you read all about how RIBA building contracts can help you stay in control of the project and protect yourself in case anything goes wrong.