An Architect is a highly trained professional (the name 'Architect' is protected by law) and, anyone who describes themselves as an architect and is involved in designing or constructing buildings must be properly trained and qualified, and registered with The ARB. If you want to check whether someone is qualified as an architect, use the ‘Search the Register’ service on their website (www.arb.org.uk), or call free on 0800 389 6221 and they will be pleased to help you.
ARB can’t recommend an architect to you, but word of mouth, talking to other people who have had similar work done is helpful, and the professional institutes for architects (RIBA) Royal Institute of British Architects, http://www.architecture.com Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, Royal Society of Ulster Architects, Royal Society of Architects in Wales) are another useful source of information.
- getting an architect who specialises in the type of work you are thinking of doing;
- whether you want an architect from a small or large practice; and
- whether you want an architect with a modern approach to design, or one who is more traditional. An experienced architect may be able to do both!
Cost is often a very important factor to consider when choosing an architect. However, it is worth remembering that the cheapest quote may not always be the best value for money. There are many ways of working out fees – for example, they can be fixed fees, percentage cost (this is where the architect’s fee is fixed as a percentage of the construction costs) or hourly rates. When you and your architect have agreed how the fees will be worked out, your architect will include this in the contract.
Planning what you want the architect to do:
Before you meet with your architect for the first time, it’s worth spending some time writing down what you want to achieve. For example, you might want your architect’s advice, you might only want them to provide drawings, or you might want them to manage every part of the project for you. Have these notes with you so that you can look over them during the meeting. It is important to give your architect as much information as possible so that they have a clear understanding of what it is you want.
The first meeting:
Your architect will want to talk to you about your building project so they understand what you are looking for. You should follow your architect’s advice, but if they suggest something that you are not comfortable with, don’t be afraid to say so. If you both clearly understand what you want at this early stage, it may prevent problems as the project progresses. It is your project, and your architect will want to make sure that you are satisfied with the end result.
You should also talk to your architect about:
- what their fee will be;
- how often they will update you on the progress of your project;
- keeping you informed of anything which might affect the quality and cost of your project; and
- what information they need from you before they start work – usually you will need to provide some extra information to do with the project, for example, you may need to check deeds, find out who owns a wall, and so on.
When you have agreed with your architect what you want them to do, they must record the terms of the contract in writing. At the very least, the contract should state:
- how much work you need the architect to do;
- what the fee will be, or how it will be worked out;
- who will be responsible for what;
- what professional indemnity insurance is in place; and
- whether there are any special terms for settling disputes.