Working with an Architect

Why employ an Architect for your home?

Changing the design of your home, whether building a new one from scratch, adding an extension or adapting existing space is probably the single biggest investment you will make in your home. An Architect is well placed to guide you through this journey from the very outset.

Your home contributes greatly to your overall quality of life and is one of your your most valuable assets.   Undertaking a building project for your home is a personal and financial investment which deserves proper consideration along with the input and support of professional advice that an architect is best placed to offer.

How can an Architect help you?

An Architect can support you throughout the building process from initial concept design to completion of your project.   An Architect will take time to understand you and your family’s needs and explore your  options with you.  An Architect will work with you to provide invaluable guidance at each project stage; whether that is liaising with the planners or contractor on your behalf or helping to source the most appropriate fittings for your home.
An Architect will look at all aspects of your home and how you live – often coming up with ideas you may never have considered.  Architects consider your requirements in the context of your house and in the light of your family routine.  They can visualise and explore potential design options with you at an early stage of the project to ensure the best outcome for your home.
Architects undergo extensive training and continuing professional development throughout their career to ensure they are best placed to meet the complex demands of a building project. We plan for a smooth building process and work with consultants and contractors to quickly resolve issues on your behalf when they arise on site.
Employing an Architect is a rewarding investment.  An Architect can add value to your home through thoughtful insightful design.  Architects are also well placed to ensure expensive mistakes are avoided at the design stage and that any additional costs that may arise are kept to a minimum on site.

What does an Architect do?

Architects are great designers, however their role involves much more than design. Through their professional education and experience, Architects are trained to help clients determine a project brief or list of requirements; advise on outline budget and expectations; provide guidance regarding planning and regulatory processes; issue and assess tender documentation; liaise with consultants such as surveyors and engineers; and administer the construction contract.

As a result, hiring an Architect can result in cost savings, more effective project management, and a design which best suits your needs.

Architects may offer a range of services. They might manage a project from design to completion, or only be involved during certain parts of it. Together, you and your Architect will identify the service most appropriate for your project. An Architect’s fee will be subsequently dependent on the scope of their appointment and the scale of proposed works.

Project Stages

An Architect will help guide you through the process and work on your behalf at each stage of your project. They can carry out regular inspections, deal with queries, instruct any additional work required, monitor progress on site, keep track of cost, value works and certify payments due to the builder.

All projects go through similar stages, starting with the initial briefing through to design, construction and handover. The RIBA Plan of Work sets out the stages of a project and is used by the industry as standard. The list below summarises what you might typically expect at each stage:

Stage One – Preparation and Brief

This involves agreeing a brief with the Architect, agreeing the project budget and programme and sourcing site information such as surveys.

Stage Two –  Concept Deign

This will involve developing a brief and concept design, which may be presented in the form of sketches, computer models and visualisations.

An outline specification and cost plan may be prepared at this stage.

Stage Three – Spatial Coordination – Planning Application

Once the design is agreed, your Architect will liaise with the planning authority and relevant consultees and prepare any planning documentation that is required for the planning application. 

Stage Four – Technical Design – Building Control

For Building Control, more detailed plans, sections and construction details are required by the local council.  These drawings provide the council’s Building Control department with sufficient information for them to confirm that the house will be built in accordance with the Building Regulations.

Your Architect will submit the Building Control application and also produce a set of tender drawings and schedules for your project which can be issued to contractors to price.  There are different approaches and forms of contract which your Architect will discuss with you.

The design will be reviewed with the preferred contractor in order to check that they understand what is required and also to identify savings and achieve best value.

Stage Five – Manufacturing and Construction – Work on site

Architects generally administer the contract during construction.   The architect will attend site as required, in order to monitor the contractor’s progress, answer queries and resolve problems as they arise.  

The architect will generally issue Architect’s Certificates to record progress, and the sum to be paid to the main contractor.  Once the project is ready for use a ‘Practical Completion’ Certificate and Defects List is issued.

Stage Six – Handover – after Practical Completion to end of defects liability period

The building is handed over and a Final Certificate issued by the architect.

A more detailed description of each stage can be seen on the RIBA Plan of Work Template 

How do I know if a consultant is a registered Architect?

The title ‘Architect’ is protected by law, so that only those who have undergone rigorous training and are fully qualified can rightly use it. Watch out for companies styling themselves as ‘architectural’ designers or similar wording as this is likely to indicate that they are not qualified Architects.

All Architects in the UK must be registered with the Architects Registration Board (ARB), with most architects in Northern Ireland taking up joint membership of RSUA and the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). Many architects will also be members of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI). If an individual does not have these credentials then they may be operating unregulated, providing you with no guarantees of their ability to deliver the service you require.

You can check if a person is a joint member of RSUA and RIBA on our directory. To see the fullest list of individual chartered architects in Northern Ireland, enter BT in the postcode search field and leave the other search fields untouched. (This is not a complete list of joint RSUA/RIBA members as some architects have not given permission for their details to be published)

You can check that a person is legally entitled to practice as an architect in the UK by checking the ARB register of architects.

What should I consider before appointing an Architect?

The ultimate success of your project depends on the quality of your brief,  this sets out clearly the requirements and functions of your building and what you are looking for from your project. 

Your Architect will help you prepare the final brief,  but it will be helpful to first consider the following:

  • your aims
  • your budget
  • your design style: do you want a contemporary or high-tech design?
  • are you concerned about having a sustainable or ecological design?
  • your reasons for embarking on this building project: what activities are intended for it?
  • who will make the decisions about the designs, costs and construction when the project is underway?
  • your overall expectations: what do you hope to achieve by this project – more space, more light, variety of uses, greater flexibility?

How can I find a registered Architect in my area?

Click here to find an architect in your area.