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Do I need an architect?

When you improve your home, one of the first decisions you need to make is whether or not you need an architect. It can have a big impact on the cost and quality of the building works

How do I know if I need an architect?

  • There is no law saying you have to employ an architect – it is up to you
  • As a very broad rule of thumb, if you need planning permission, it is a good idea to have an architect
  • Some people successfully undertake quite major works – including whole house refurbishments and extensions – without architects
  • Others employ architects for comparatively minor jobs, such as redoing a bathroom
  • If you have a very clear idea of what you want, or a builder whose judgement and vision you trust, then an architect is less necessary
  • If you don’t know what you want, then an architect can help give you ideas
  • If you don’t trust builders, or are busy or inexperienced, an architect can help you keep an informed eye on the builders and make sure the project stays on tract
  • An architect can also be very helpful in managing the whole process. If you need planning permission (or even think you might), then an architect can be invaluable in successfully navigating the local planning authority.  A planning consultant may be an alternative to consider.

What are the advantages of having an architect?

  • If you engage an architect, you will pretty much always end up with a better end product
  • Architects are highly trained and are especially  good as seeing the “big picture” – in making the best of the space you have, in getting interesting designs, in ensuring the light is right, the feel is good, and that the house works.
  • Architects are usually good at ensuring the work is professionally done – that it meets the requirements of building control, that you have a structural engineer if you need one.
  • Architects are generally (but not always) good at the detail that most of us rarely think about and which, if done wrongly, can end up being costly mistakes – which way should the door open? Should we have recessed lights? Where should the outlet pipes go? Should you be able to see the toilet when the bathroom door is open?
  • An architect can also help you find the best builder, project manage the whole works, and keep within budget. The architect is the expert eyes and ears, whose job it is to represent your interests with builders and local authorities.
  • Architects are also subject to a statutory code of practice and have Professional Indemnity Insurance to protect their clients.

What are the disadvantages of having an architect?

  • The architect’s fees generally add about 15% to the cost of a project, and as much as 20%. If you are on a really tight budget, you will be tempted to try to do without. However, a good architect can also save you money on big projects – it doesn’t make sense to cut corners on design
  • An architect is also one more person to deal with, and another relationship to navigate. If you have a very trusted builder you are close to, then you may feel on smaller projects that an architect gets in the way
  • Sometimes architects don’t give you what you want, and push you do things you don’t want to
  • Sometimes clients fall out with their architect, which can make the whole process agonising


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