Hiring an architect is a big investment – and one you want to get right! The architect you select will play an integral role in your project, both in terms of design and the overall build process.
Architects do so much more than just supply technical drawings. They can be your advocate and point of contact during construction, help with planning submissions and ultimately bring your vision to life.
To help you choose your architect with confidence, we provide an insider’s perspective on the six most valuable questions to ask at an initial meeting. From setting your own goals to understanding working methods and checking accreditation, there’s plenty to discuss.
With the right questions, you can understand each other better and get off to the best possible start. So what should you ask when hiring an architect?
1. Why do I need an architect?
Let’s start with this one – because it’s important to understand your own needs and establish your own goals before commencing any professional relationship. Depending on your requirements, architects can assist with navigating planning laws, what will get approved and introduce you to trusted builders. The services provided will all depend on your own aims, budget and the amount of time you’re able to invest in the build.
Make sure you are prepared to discuss your aims for the project. For instance, what are your design must-haves or what problems with your existing structure are you hoping to solve? Knowing your own reasons for hiring an architect (and the services you’d like them to provide!) will cultivate a long-term constructive relationship, and shape many of the questions you may have next…
2. Can you confirm your accreditations?
This is an important one! In UK law, anyone who calls themselves an architect must be professionally trained and registered. When researching and talking to architects, check they are registered with the Architects Registration Board (ARB). Membership of the ARB is compulsory for any architects working in the UK. Making sure they are also part of an accredited Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Chartered Practice will provide further assurance, but it is just a club, so it is not essential.
A home renovation, extension or complete build is probably the most expensive project you’ll have ever embarked on – so don’t be afraid to ask about your architect’s qualifications and experience. This could include their experience with local planning officials, similar projects or the amount of time they’ve worked in the trade. At the start of a project, your architect should be more than happy to confirm all these details.
3. What are your working methods? Is there a Clear Process?
Many architects offer different levels of service and project involvement. For instance, they can provide full design, plan and build services, or just drawings to see the project through planning stages. Where your architect is based will play a part in this too – governing the ease of physical meetings as well as site visits. Initial site visits are often particularly useful, as are regular trips during the build.
Make sure the architect provides clear steps and what each step is. Timelines are also incredibly useful. If you don’t have this, then you might be left with an anxiety producing scenario where you don’t know what’s being done or when.
Make sure you understand their level of involvement, which starts even with the design process. Ask your potential architect how they will explain and present plans and discuss finishes – for instance, will you see 3D models and drawings along the way? A personally involved architect is enormously helpful dealing with questions or problems as and when they arise.
Understanding your architect’s working methods, role and responsibilities will help minimise any misunderstandings further down the line.
4. What is your fee structure and timeframe?
Architects’ fees vary, with some charging a percentage of the total project cost, and others a fixed lump-sum, installments or an hourly fee. As part of this discussion, you should ask whether they feel the project is deliverable for your budget as well as timeframe (although it is quite hard to estimate the price and timescales too early, but can be discussed generally). Your architect’s advice will shape the scope and ultimate achievability of the project – so these conversations are worth having as soon as appropriate.
When discussing fees, sure you’ve understood the potential for any additional costs. If the project changes, will there be additional fees for any redraws? What about if the build goes over schedule? If you are working on a large or complex project, it’s usually wise to involve a quantity surveyor at an early stage of the project. They will be able to provide much more detailed costs and estimates.
5. Can I see your portfolio
When meeting an architect for the very first time, it is essential to take a look at their portfolio of previous work. You might even research several architects’ portfolios before arranging meetings – going with what you’re naturally drawn towards. Do you particularly love their use of light, materials or avant-garde shapes? Looking at portfolios and even visiting past projects will give you a good feel for whether their style matches your own. This is best done via an architect’s website or Instagram account.
6. What are the next steps?
So you’ve chosen your architect! Once you’re satisfied your potential architect understands your overarching goals, the project is achievable and you’ve understood their working methods and fees – ask what your architect needs from you.
To get started, your architect may ask for a detailed brief and images, site visits or technical information such as deeds and planning approvals. Keeping any construction project moving forwards is crucial throughout, so a list of action points and timeframes would be helpful. As well as what’s required from yourself, this should also cover what you can expect to receive from your architect, and at what key phases of the project.
Are you looking for the perfect architect for your project? At Yoop Architects, we help people take the stress out of home improvements – allowing you to enjoy your dream extension, loft conversion, complete build or eco-friendly home.
Whether it’s getting started with your project, answering planning questions or just wanting an initial chat, book a call to discuss your project today.
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