By Märraum Architects on January, 14 2019

This is something we often get asked and, despite running an architects' company, the truthful response from us is — sometimes no.

There is nothing tying you down to employ an architect to undertake a construction project. They can often be more expensive than other professional fields who may be recommended to you by friends and family. An Architectural Technician, Architectural Assistant, Planning Consultant and even Sam, your software developer friend who lives at the bottom of the road, could be able to help you out.


However there are important questions that follow on from this, which will help you decide if employing an architect is the right route for you. 

Internal sketch - rear extension


What do I want from my project?

Spending time outlining your brief, before contacting any design professional, will help establish the route your project should go down. Headlines for your brief may include:


  • What do I want to achieve from the project? Space, light, sustainable approach, extension, alteration, new build…
  • What is my total budget for undertaking these works? Does this include vat…
  • Which consultants will be required? Structural engineer, topographical surveyor, asbestos surveyor, highways consultant, arboricultural specialist, bat and owl survey….
  • When would I like the works to take place? When the kids are at school, not over the winter, while I am living in the house, we live elsewhere…
  • Do I know the history of the building? Conservation area, listed building, mundic, mining…
  • Who is likely to carry out the build? A known builder, self-build, family friend….
  • What statutory regulations do I need to consider? Planning, building regulations, party wall…




What role does an architect play?

Architects are highly trained and generally great at seeing the grand scheme, with an additional flair for creativity. Helping you to see your vision more clearly and making it happen is their job role.


The emotional and social implications of design are also taken into consideration along with the practical and monetary aspects. This holistic view of each project comes with the training (architect qualifications usually take a minimum of 7 years) and the codes of conduct associated with the boards they are registered with (ARB, RIBA). Although other consultants and contractors can bring a lot to your design process, there is no other professional trade in the construction world that has the rigorous educational process to get them into their qualified position.


The added value, and often security, that an architect will bring to your project should not be overlooked.

If you're looking for a design consultant that offers 'full architectural services', which most people do, then an architect is your best bet. Architects have to prove that they can undertake the following to be able to use the protected title and therefore be registered with the Architects Registration Board (ARB);

  • concept design
  • planning process
  • building regulation and consultation drawings and submission
  • tendering and procurement
  • contract administration.


Who is the right architect for me?

Once you've defined your brief and decided to move forward and take on an architect, you'll then need to seek the right one to fit you and your project.


There are around 40,000 architects registered in the UK — and you certainly don't want to be calling each one to find out if they're right for your project. So starting to narrow down your selection is key. We'd recommend carrying out thorough research on your architect and design team. This should cover a number of key questions:

1. Do they have good references?

2. Are they enjoyable to work with?

3. Have they undertaken similar projects?

4. Do they work in your location?

5. Can they carry out a full architectural service?


It's really important that you fully understand your architect and that they understand you. Most projects, even the smallest of alterations, can take upwards of a year to undertake from initial brief meeting to signing off the finished works. So you'll need to get on.  


Easy, open and regular communication with your architect is key. It will help accelerate your project from a brief into a physical project as well as making it a joyful process. Leaning on your architect's inherent skills can transform the brief you've already created into something you may never have comprehended.


And ultimately this will deliver a design that you take pleasure bringing up your family in, that gives you the additional comfort and relaxation space you're craving and that you're proud to invite your friends into. 


Rear extension2

Your architect plays an important role in the entire process of your design project. And additionally, unless the architect is a sole practitioner, they'll be part of a wider design team.


Architects' practices are often made up of a variety of professionals who all bring something different to your project. Although you may be dealing predominantly with the architect, your project will be worked on by technologists, assistants and trainees. And the age old saying of ‘two heads is better than one’ is definitely true when looking at a design project. This collaborative working in an architects office brings you the background and training of more than one individual, bringing focus to all areas of the project and in turn allowing for a smooth journey. Working with an architects' practice that has a mix of architects and architectural technologists allows the project to be seen from a design-lead background as well as a technical one. 


Your architect will be your main point of contact and they should have an intrinsic understanding of the works presented by their team. They should be offering you a sense of security with their background and knowledge of running projects similar to yours. You should expect your architect to be up-to-date with design limitations, construction practice and planning policy. If they're not, they should be able to find out using their team and present this information back to you. This is where finding the right combination of team members may end up putting an initial premium on the appointment of these professionals. However, the knowledge that is brought with it will see savings throughout the project.

For more information about architects click here

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