Choosing the right architect is an important decision. You may know precisely what you require or not have a clue – either way, an architect will be responsible in taking and developing your brief into a final design. So absolutely a choice you want to spend some time on!
Firstly, make sure you are only considering architects who have relevant experience to your project.
They should be well versed in creating spaces and features that match your needs and wants. If your property is listed then it would be wise to look for someone with experience dealing with listed buildings, as there are often extra hurdles to deal with that benefit from being handled with experience and knowledge.
Asides from the design approach and experience of architects it is also important that you shortlist those who provide the complete service you need. Some may only deal with certain stages of the whole process (the design stage) or have little experience working alongside contractors. If it is not immediately obvious what scope of services they provide get in touch with them to find out. However do not immediately discount them if they do not cover the whole range of services you require – it may instead be worth hiring an additional consultant to cover any gaps if you feel that architect is a must have.
If you are uncertain of the extent of service you need check the RIBA Plan of Work – it separates the entire construction process into stages which are widely followed by architects and other construction professionals.
First Contact & Initial Meeting
Once you have researched architects arrange a meeting – many architects will happily provide a free initial consultation either at their office or your property. Bringing a clear idea or vision to these meetings will be hugely beneficial but architects are happy to work on developing your ideas with you. It is also important that you have a budget in mind as this will influence the work of the architect.
The key question to ask at this point should be “is the architect engaged and receptive to my ideas or are they more focused on stamping their vision on the project?” You should be familiar enough with their work to know they are qualified for your project but good dialogue is also essential, so do not be afraid to speak your mind and underline your points. By the end of the meeting you should have established if your ideas will be successfully developed and be comfortable that you can work together successfully.
Following the initial meeting the architect should provide a fee proposal which sets out the brief, initial thoughts, scope of work, estimated time-scales, proposed consultant team, and architectural fees. All that is left is for you as a client to agree to the fee proposal and enter a contract with your chosen architect. Though the fee proposal may outline the proposed consultants and sub-contractors that will be needed it will not include their fees, which are separate from the architectural fees.
Different architects will have a different way of progressing so make sure you clarify this with yours!
An important side note: all qualified architects and architecture practices are required to be registered with the ARB, the governing body of architecture in the UK, so if you have any doubts on the qualifications or a person/company you can simply check the ARB register.