Most people in this country are quite astonished to find out that you are not required to use an Architect for any part of the process of any building project. Unlike many of our European counterparts who are required by law to get their plans certified by a qualified Architect, in this country you have no legal obligation to do so.
Anyone, absolutely anyone can draw and submit your plans for both planning and building control approval (the two main regulatory processes required for most building works).
So then, as most people ask me when confronted with this, why employ an Architect at all? And, why spend the minimum 7 years training to become an Architect? Here are my Top 7 reasons in answer to this, specifically aimed at those who might be thinking of undertaking a building project for their home:
Ok, just to be clear, we don't just draw up plans. I'm using the plan as an example here; a plan is just a means to an end and only as good as the ideas and knowledge it incorporates.
I don't mean to imply that all Architects are made equal either, but after 7 years + of studying (and often many more years of putting into practice) design, spatial quality, aesthetic, functionality, technical and construction detail, regulation and legal structures of the construction industry, planning & urban design, project management and not to mention graphic design, 3d modelling and drawing skills, plans drawn by an Architect are going to include one or two decisions that those without this training will not even know to make.
Whilst it is true that anyone can submit plans for the granting of permissions, it does not follow that all those who do will be suitable. An Architect can help to manage risk of refusal through knowledge of the system and will act as a representative and translator of sorts between you and the powers that be with the backing of their training and understanding of design.
For the average project, an architects fees are going come in at roughly 10% - 15% of the cost of construction (usually a smaller % for the larger projects and higher % for the smaller ones).
This might initially seem like quite a lot but the truth is somewhere down the line you will pay it, it's just a question of the value you get out of it.
Everything man made requires design, where conscious or not. Good design is conscious and like good art only appreciates in value over time. A good Architect will be able to release the hidden potential in home, increasing both the quality and quantity of space. Not only can employing an Architect save you money through good design throughout the process, the final product could add up to way more than a sum of parts.
This is closely tied with the above as I believe that this something that everyone wants – it's their main reason for earning and spending their hard earned money.
In terms of space this is something less tangible and far less understood than you would imagine. Everyone knows what it is to be in a space that gives you a sense of something special, but far fewer people are able to quantify, let alone create it.
This ability is what you develop over 7 years and more. It requires social and poetic awareness combined with technical skill that is at the heart of all good Architecture training. It is put into practice through the very personal role that an Architect takes in the creation of your home. Again, not all Architects approach this in the same way and this is where you will want to ensure that feel comfortable with your chose Architect and their approach.
This comes from the knowledge that someone is giving you the guidance that keeps you within the law and ensures that decisions are made that will keep you and your project safe. Unlike anyone else in the construction industry we are bound by our professional codes to act in your best interest.
This might seem an odd thing to worry about, because building work appears to be so commonly and 'easily' done nowadays. But in reality, often there is little standing in the way of bad decisions with costly consequences. An Architect will help manage the risks involved in a project through in-depth knowledge of the legal and contractual processes needed and their advice will be backed by an appropriate level of insurance and you have further recourse through the professional institution of the ARB.
This is often not the first priority when extending your home, but whether you are motivated by the rising cost of fuel, changing regulations or social responsibility, Architects can enhance the use of the environment from through design.
This is not just technically as you might imagine, but throughout the design and process. Again, not all Architects treat this in the same way, but all Architects are required to take their responsibilities to wider society seriously and the better ones will actively apply this throughout their work. Ask your Architect for their Statement of Sustainability if in doubt.
So much of the time I despair when I see what poor choices people have made when they adapt their homes. So many missed opportunities and sheer waste of an opportunity.
We have moved on from the days of seeking surgical help from self-trained doctors or asking a well-respected friend to represent us in a court of law, but somehow we are used to settling for the equivalent when slicing and dicing our homes without any professional support.
If you're convinced and have a project you'd like to discuss, drop us a line: firstname.lastname@example.org