Do I need an Architect for my Project?

You’ve decided that you want to take forward a development project, you’ve got some money together and you’ve got some cracking design ideas… but “Do I need an architect..?”

Many people’s first assumption is that YES, you always need an architect to complete any kind of major home renovation project or property development.

This may not be true…

In this article we will explore what an architect does, what other roles an architect can take on, the cost of an architect and what your alternatives are. You maybe surprised to learn that an architect is not always as essential as first thought…

So… Do I need an architect..?

Let’s get started…

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What does an architect do..?

Let’s start with the basics, and break down what an architect actually does, as this will be the best place to start when thinking about whether you need an architect for your development.

Searching around the internet for a decent definition of an architect, the best I found was actually in the Oxford Dictionary. An architect is simply:

“A person who designs buildings and in many cases also supervises their construction”

So…

An architect is the person who will design your project. You (as the client) will give an architect a brief, i.e. what you want from the project, and the architect will go away and design your project.

The architect will ensure that the project is designed so that it can be delivered, both in a building point of view, but also financial.

Its no good an architect designing something you cannot afford, such a fully glass curved extension, when all you need is a simple brick extensions with a few windows..!!

The architect will have input from other designers, such as a structural engineer, to ensure that what is being designed can be built. Again… no good the architect designing a building which will not stand up because its lacking enough structural support.

In a lot of cases, the architect will be known as the lead designer. This means that you are employing the architect to take the lead for the design responsibility of the project.

It will be the architects responsibility to ensure that the other designers complete their designs to the correct standards, specifications and on time. This ensures that us, the client, usually has one point of contact, and we know that there is one designer responsible for the whole project.

Sounds simple…

Yes, of course it does, and you probably already knew this, but its worth just reminding ourselves what the architect actually does…

Which leads nicely onto the next section…

Is an architect more than just a designer..?

Simple answer… YES

They can be…

As the Oxford Dictionary definition above states, the architect, in many cases also supervises the job. This is something which is extremely common in home renovation and extension projects.

In many cases, the architect will take on the role as the lead designer for the pre-construction activities of the project. Once the builders start their work, the architect will then assume the role of a Project Manager.

A project manager essentially oversees the whole project and is tasked with ensuring that the builders (and any other trades, consultants or anyone connected to the project) complete their tasks fully, on time and within budget.

Stress free..?

It certainly helps, and if you are reading this with the intention of taking on your first project, having a qualified person oversee the whole project can take away a lot of the stress.

Additional to the above, I’ve completed projects where I’ve appointed the architect to have a quality monitoring role. This is where you either project manage yourself or have a dedicated project manager who is not the architect, and the architect then ensures the builders complete the works to the quality and standard which was originally designed.

Look:

Let’s go back to the original questions… Do I need an architect. Well so far, its seems yes, as there is a lot of value an architect can bring to the table.

But…

Let’s go through some of the disadvantages and some alternatives so help us answer the question of whether we need an architect for your project.

How much does an architect cost..?

How much…!!??

Not a surprise that architects can be expensive.

We’ve seen in the previous sections that they take on a lot of responsibility, can take on a number of roles and have huge experience to offer a project.

But… this always comes at a cost.

Traditionally, an architect will base their fee as a percentage of the total budgeted build cost. This can be anything from 3.5% all the way to 15% depending on the size, complexity and what roles they are taking on.

An architect can also base their fees on a lump sum, or charge on an hourly rate. These are not uncommon, especially when the architect is only getting involved in part of the project, such as preparing a planning application.

The cost of an architect can be a lot and a significant amount, therefore, it is worth considering what your alternative are.

A few thousand pounds saved here can be used elsewhere when you are putting together your project costs.

Just before we look at the alternatives… don’t forget to sign up to my mailing list so you don’t miss out on any great content like this guide..!!

What are the alternatives..?

We’ve seen what an architect can offer and what they can do, but what alternatives are there open to you if you do not want to use an architect or wish to save some money?

1 – CAD Designer / Technician:

A CAD designer is someone who is experienced with computer aided design software and can design plans for buildings (as well as many other items). There skill lies in using CAD software and are able to draw designs into computer programmes to provide plans for you the client or a builder.

A CAD designer will be significantly cheaper than using an architect and this is where their benefit lies. They typically charge an hourly rate for their time, and sometimes they can even be based abroad where even more savings can be made.

The disadvantage is that they need clear direction or a clear brief. They will draw exactly what you ask them to, but sometimes the ‘architectural flair’ will be missing and potentially some tricky details of a complicated design could be missing as they do not have the full architectural training.

Who is this for..?

If you are confident if what you want from a project or your project is relatively straight forward, then using a CAD technician is definitely worth considering.

If you are short of creative ideas for your project or it may involve some difficult design solutions, then an architect may be more suited.

Next…

2 – Interior Designer:

A very good alternative to an architect would be an interior designer.

This is often referred to as a branch of architecture, however, interior designers will come with different ranges of experiences and qualifications.

Architects, as long as they are RIBA ‘qualified’, will have been through 7 years of education and training to get to where they are.

In basic terms, an interior designer is responsible for the process of designing the interior decoration of a room or building, and will rarely get involved with structural alterations or extensions.

So…

If you are doing a home renovation which includes little to no structural alterations, then an interior designer would be a sensible way to go, although be warned, that some interior designers come with a large price tag.

3 – Design & Build Contract:

Your procurement route with a builder may determine whether an architect is used… or not..

Lets see…

If you have made contact with any builders, they may have mentioned the term, Design and Build. This is where the main builder or contractor is appointed by you, the client, to complete the full design and full build of the project.

This means that you do not have to get involved with appointing any other design team consultants, and you have one point of contact with the builder. Its a popular route, especially with home renovations and extensions.

The opposite is a traditional contract, which involves you appointing a design team to complete the full design of the project and then separately appointing builder or contractor to complete the building works, to the specification and design set out by your design team.

If you go down the route of a design and build contract, then you rely on your builder to complete the design and they will often use an internal CAD designer or outsource the work. Rarely would they ever use an architect.

4 – Go without… Rely on your builder…

The final solution is simply to go without an architect or any kind of designer..!

Not always the best solution, but you can simply leave all the design up to your builder and work on a as and when basis.

You need to have a very good relationship with them, and I would suggest that this is avoided, unless a very small job is being completed.

Do I need an architect..? ADVANTAGES:

  1. Architects are professional and experienced.
  2. They bring a certain creative flair to a project and will come up with solutions or ideas you have never thought of.
  3. Architects will ensure the project is finished to the correct standards.
  4. Often, they can take care of more than just designing, such as planning, building control and project management.
  5. They can help you find a good builder.
  6. Architects can keep an eye on the builders, especially if you do not trust them.
  7. Architects are guided by statutory code of practice and carry professional indemnity insurance.

Do I need an architect..? DISADVANTAGES:

  1. Cost, cost and more cost. They are expensive.
  2. Its one more person to deal with and control throughout the project.
  3. Architects can push certain designs or products which you do not want.
  4. Sometimes (it happens) you can fall out with an architect, which delays the whole project.

Final Thoughts… Do I need an architect..?

So… Do I need an architect..?

Well…

I trust this article has given you some idea into what an architect does, what their uses and and also some alternatives to using an architect.

Many people, including myself, have done major projects without using an architect, but may people have used them for simple small projects such as renovating a bathroom or kitchen.

So… the answer…

It depends… it depends on a number of factors which includes your budget, your experience, the complexity of the project, who your builders may be and your overall design vision for the project.

My last bit of advice on this topic is this:

If you are trying to decide whether to use an architect or not… you should always get in contact with one (or two or three) and get them round to your house to discuss the project. This is FREE advice and they will also give you some information about their fees and potential issues with the project.

There is no reason for not doing this…

After that… you can then decide “Do I Need an Architect for my project..?”

Do leave a comment below and let me know what you have done… or are thinking of doing for your project.

All the best,

Mike – Your Property Pro

2 thoughts on “Do I need an Architect for my Project?”

  1. Speaking as an architect I am going to say yes, you do need an architect if you are going to anything beyond building a shed.

    Your article makes reference to being RIBA Qualified and 7 years of training. This is slightly misleading as after 7 years of training in a recognised school of architecture, and passing two degree level examinations students are allowed to become registered architects with the ARB and practice accordingly. They do not need to join the RIBA to practice. Personally, I am a member of the RIBA because of the added benefits this can bring to the member, the design team and ultimately, the project.

    There are many pitfalls in using a CAD technician or technologist because they are not trained in design. Many ignore ergonometric data and basic design principles because they see a computer “game” on their screens rather than bricks and mortar, insulation levels, overheating issues, function and form. Using these services from abroad also leads to technical issues as those in Taiwan, China or India are not familiar with our planning policies, conservation issues or building regulation standards, increasing costs and incurring delays in the programme.

    Design and build contracts are risky as quality, cost and time all compete with each other. Who is going to check that the contractor has actually used the product you have specified? Who is going to control payments made for works “correctly executed”? What happens when the project overruns or the costs escalate? Even though there are contractors who are capable of undertaking building works, where is the designer in this package? The more successful contractors appoint architects to undertake their design work, so why not appoint one direct and have more control over your project?

    The disadvantages listed are misleading. The cost of an architect is small compared to the overall project costs and the appointment of an architect can often lead to significant savings through efficient and effective design measures. With the tightening of building regulation standards in the approved documents, many contractor’s now struggle to meet the required standard, which we must remember is the lowest legal standard we are allowed to work to. Increases in performance standards and a desire to be less demanding on carbon fuels means higher levels of insulation, limiting thermal bridges, mechanical ventilation heat recovery units, renewable energy technologies and the elimination of uncontrolled ventilation. It is my experience that the level of contractor that you are likely to use for building a dwelling, or number of dwellings does not have these skills. An architect will save you money in the design phase and over the life of the building.

    It is not one more person to deal with. It is THE person you deal with. The architect understands construction and what happens on site. The architect is the person who will deal with the other consultants and contractors, talking their language, understanding the issues and directing works.

    Architects are independent. They are human, and do have favourite styles, construction methods and materials which they have found work. Their choice is often led by experience. Regarding pushing certain designs, it is often the planning system and the design guides published by many authorities which determines this aspect.

    Yes, you may fall out with an architect, that is why there are measures in place within the appointment documents for arbitration and determination. You would not get this “security” with non-professionals. There are many reports in the press noting disputes with contractors and having them walk off-site, often paid up-front. Where is the security here? Any architect will insist on a written contract with a contractor, so once again, if disputes happen there is a quick and efficient way to deal with them.

    The article does not give a sufficiently clear picture of what an architect does. Can I suggest anyone wanting to find out more to visit the RIBA website where you will find details of working with an architect (https://www.architecture.com/working-with-an-architect) and why you should use an architect (https://www.architecture.com/working-with-an-architect/why-use-an-architect).

    Reply
    • Hi Arthur, many thanks for your detailed reply and the arguments you put forward.

      Whilst I cannot disagree with the points you make, you make them from the point of view of an architect. My article is put forward from the point of view of a property developer where we have choices and options when it comes down to design and our design team. There will be many projects and situations when using a RIBA qualified architect is completely correct, and these will often be larger more complex development projects. However, there are still many situations where an architect is not needed, and this is taken from experience.

      What is important here, is that new or experienced developers know that they have options on who they can appoint and the skill of a developer is to know when a fully qualified architect is needed and when we do not need one… AND… that we know the pros and cons for both situations so we are not going blindly into a potentially bad situation.

      The article is not meant to highlight what an architect does, but is written from a developer point of view on the options we have.

      Many thanks, Mike

      Reply

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