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How do I work with an architect?

The relationship between client and architect can be very productive – or destructive. Working well with your architect can make the difference between a project being a success, and a nightmare.

How to work with an architect

The relationship between you and your architect

Having a good relationship with your architect will give you peace of mind about your project, and ensure you get an end result you want. They are the professionals on your side, who can make sure you get what you want, and that the whole process runs smoothly and to budget. We set out our top tips for how to work with your architect to ensure a successful project.

Prepare to make lots of decisions and sometimes quickly in order not to slow down work on site. For example, where you want the light sockets, the height of counter-tops or what style of banister you want. This is on top of deciding door furniture, flooring, colours and so on.

Sometimes however, problems emerge, relationships deteriorate and people end up dismissing their architect half way through a project (and even hiring another one).

The best guarantees of how to work well with your architect:

  • a really clear brief that sets out exactly what you expect from your architect and the project
  • a good contract that sets out what happens if the project changes or problems arise
  • clear details on the fees, and how much you expect to pay when
  • mutual respect and frequent communication throughout the project

Architects are highly trained and know far more about building and design than you do, but you are the client. Ultimately the final say is yours, but you should respect their advice and suggestions.  Architects usually take real pride in their work, and some can be quite resistant to doing things they don’t like. But you have to live with it, and you should make sure you don’t end up with something you regret.

Looking for an architect? Use our find an architect service to receive a list of suppliers in your area

Choosing the design with your architect

Once you have appointed an architect, he or she will draw up the plans for your project:

  • This will most likely be an iterative process as you hone in on the final design
  • Ideally, they will produce several options, giving you some choices, although usually the architect will make clear their preferences
  • You can use the agreed plans to get planning permission if needed
  • Next, the architect produces detailed plans.  These are instructions for the builders and show how building regulations will be met

Minimise changes to your building project

What often causes stress when working with an architect is the client changing their mind about what they want or simply not making decisions.

Some changes are inevitable as a project unfolds, but big changes will cause delays and add to the cost.

So you should make sure you are clear what you want before building work starts. Make as many decisions as possible before going on site. The more you settle the details of the design, the fewer unwelcome surprises there are.

Should I get the architect to oversee the building work?

Once you have the detailed plans, you could decide to manage the rest of the project yourself. Unless you are experienced, it is easier and less fraught to have the architect manage the project for you.

While it will cost a bit more, they know all the pitfalls, and in particular, should not let the builder take advantage of you. They want to see their vision and design realised.

In all projects, problems arise, and architects are professional problem solvers – it will be their problem, not yours (unless it is really big).

Architects will help you through the planning process, obtaining planning permission if necessary and dealing with building control.

They should also put the construction work out to tender getting quotes ideally from three different building firms, from which you will choose the final supplier.

The architect will be responsible for the day-to-day relationship with the builder. They check work is done to plan, standards are maintained and short cuts avoided. And finally, that the project is completed on schedule and on budget.

Looking for an architect to help you with your project? Use our find an architect service to receive a full list of suppliers in your area

Advice for specific projects

If you have a specific project in mind, you may find our series of ‘where to start’ guides helpful: Home extension: where to start?, Loft conversion: where to start?, Garage conversion where to start?, Kitchen renovation: where to start?, Basement extension: where to start?

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