I have seven years experience in commercial architecture practice, working on a variety of projects: schools, houses, shops, offices, warehouses, biomass energy centres, colleges, usually new buildings and some refurbishment projects. I have worked on some very large schemes and some very small jobs. Being an architect is interesting! I now work from home on small projects mostly for owner occupier clients in Kings Heath, Moseley and south Birmingham – I am a local architect.
So if you have a project in mind, get in touch. The role of an architect is to work for the client, so communication is key. If I am to be your architect I expect you to keep in touch and let me know what you think so that I can deliver the right scheme for you. Here’s how it usually works:
Visit and talk
I come to your property and talk about your ideas for your home. I will come to you on site, ask you about your needs or ideas for the project (the brief) and have a look around. Try to give me as much information as you can about what you want to build and how you want it to work. There is a small charge for this visit.
The meeting will give us the opportunity to meet each other and discuss the procurement route (how you will get the building work done and under what terms will you employ your builder). We can also talk about what the key constraints are in terms of planning and building regulations.
After our meeting I will write to you with a fee proposal. This will state what I think the brief is for your project, what services I will offer and what my fee will be. I cannot do any paid work for you without an agreement and this letter forms the basis of our agreement – so if anything in it is missing or incorrect, you must tell me. If you read my letter and decide that the brief needs to be changed, let me know: the fee proposal letter and the agreed brief is very important to the whole project.
The fee I will propose is usually based on a percentage of the expected build cost and is broken down according to the stages of the project. You can expect to pay about 8-15% of the build cost in architect’s fees for a small project like a house extension or loft conversion. You can ask for a lump sum fee or an hourly rate, which is easier to price and to understand what you will pay. If your project is exceptionally small you might get better value with a reduced service, but I would recommend a full service for anything over a few square metres.
Feasibility report and sketch design
Once the fee is agreed I will come and make a survey of your property and make some simple enquiries with planning and if necessary with building regulations so that I can prepare the sketch design. You will get a short report on the project, information about your permitted development rights and some design ideas in the form of sketch plans. I will comment on any options and tell you whether I think they need an engineer to contribute to the design and what kind of permission you will need. I will make a recommendation but I expect you to get back to me and give me your instructions to proceed to the next step. If I think it is appropriate I will make a pre application to the local authority to get the opinion of the planning officer.
Final design drawings and planning application
Once I have your instruction I will draw up the proposal in plan and elevation to show how the finished scheme will look and send it to planning for permitted development sign off or I will make a planing application on your behalf. There is a small fee from the local authority for planning permission, currently £172, and it will take eight weeks to reach a decision.
Construction Information, including building regulations application
I will prepare detailed drawings to show how the scheme will be built. This information will guide the builder to ensure that the work is properly constructed and meets the building regulations requirements. I will make an application for building regulations plans approval during this stage. This usually costs between £130 and £150. There will also be a fee for site inspection during the build.
Once we have all the construction information I usually recommend what is known as traditional procurement. This means that the job is awarded to a builder under a written contract following a competitive tender based on the complete construction information. This means that you get a set price and the builder knows exactly what he has to do. I recommend that you get prices from at least three builders for your project. I will organise the tender and I can answer the builder’s questions during the process. I will also check that the tenders are correct – i.e.: that they have included for all the work.
For the construction phase I recommend that you use an appropriate recognised construction contract – this is a legal document signed by you and your builder, which fixes the project fee, the start and completion date. At the back of the form are the terms of the contract – what you can do if your builder does not perform, the terms of payment and how to handle any changes to the scheme that might arise. I will administer the contract – I will deal with the builders: I will approve the workmanship, authorise the issue of any invoices and provide any additional drawings they might need. I will certify that payment is due only for work which is completed to the satisfaction of the contract. After the practical completion (when I say that they have finished on site) you will have a defects period – any problems arising during this
At the end of the process I will do the final account – I will reconcile my fee against the stage payments and I will check that the builder has has been paid the right amount.