John’s Advice: How Do I Choose the Right Architect for my Project?

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

How to choose the right architect for your project

Creating your dream home requires delicate planning and close attention to detail. If you’re putting your investment and your future in the hands of an architect you need to make sure you find the right one.

The right architect for you is one you can trust implicitly; with whom you can form a bond of understanding and creative vigour.

To help you narrow down your selection, I’ve prepared 10 steps to finding the ideal architect.

1: Are they a registered architect?

As with any professional you require the services of, you want to make sure your architect has official, accredited evidence of their skill.

A registered architect is fully trained and professionally qualified, covered by indemnity insurance and bound by the Architects Act of 2003 and the Architects Code of Conduct and Practice.

Choosing a registered architect is absolutely essential. It means that not only is your build likely to be completed to a high standard, but if anything goes wrong during construction, then your investment will be protected and the architect will be held accountable for any breach of their promise.

2: Do you know their specialty?

Everyone works best within their area of expertise. As much as an architect may enjoy the challenge of the new, you don’t want your project to be the very first time they build a home.

An architect who specialises in offices, shops or tower blocks may be able to bring over much of their knowledge, but designing and building a house requires a unique set of skills and disciplines. After all, a home has a very specific function for you, and you probably don’t want to live somewhere that reminds you of an office.

Seek an architect who intimately understands the comfort, versatility and flow that goes into

the design of a perfect house.

3: Have you seen their work?

Once you’ve found an architect who specialises in homes, you need to look into whether they build the kind of home you want. There are as many variations in house design as there are people to live in them, and you no doubt have some very specific and personal requirements and tastes.

Any decent architect will be proud to show examples you their work, so feel free to request examples and don’t hesitate to ask to see the little details which can make all the difference.

While a style you find attractive is a good place to start, also look for evidence of versatility in their work, as an architect who only builds in a single style may not be willing or able to adapt to your vision.

4: Do they have references?

Ask your prospective architect for a shortlist of their previous clients with contact numbers so you can ask directly about the quality of work and personality of the architect.

Most people are more than happy to share their experiences, so find a time when they can give you a detailed account of the whole process. If the clients are of a similar taste or lifestyle to you then you’ll be able to ask more personally relevant questions.

Ask if they would personally recommend the architect to you, and arrange a home visit if possible so you can see their work first hand.

5: Is your project to their scale?

An an architect who primarily works on alterations to an existing house which costs around £100,000 won’t be ideal or even capable of a brand new building with a budget of £1 million plus.

The opposite can be just as true, as a large-scale architect may put your project on hold or not dedicate their full attention if a more expensive project is available.

Remember that a bigger budget doesn’t just mean a different design, it also balloons the management costs and responsibilities as the volume of moving parts, the type of work and the number of contractors increases.

An architect used to your scale won’t just produce a more suitable design, they’ll have the experience to plan and manage your project correctly.

White Lodge was the perfect marriage between visionary client and ambitious architect. Watch the video to hear both sides of the story.

6: Are they keen and available?

When you describe your desired project to the architect, do they seem genuinely interested in taking it up? Are they happy with your budget and do they think what you want to achieve is realistic? Do they have confidence that the project can be completed within your required timescale and able to fulfil your brief right up until the end of the job?

An architect who is excited for your project will demonstrate that enthusiasm from minute one. If you have doubts that the architect shares your passion for your new home, seek a second opinion.

7: Are they personally suitable?

Your home is the most personal space in your life, so it’s only right that you have a personal bond with your architect. You need to be able to communicate clearly and candidly what you want from your home, what lifestyle you lead and what your future plans are.

Talk with your potential architect and develop a sense of whether they empathise and understand you. Ideally you will have a friendly rapport with them, and they will listen to your needs and explain how they can meet them with patience and without pushing their ideas on you.

Remember that the role of an architect is to transfer your vision into reality, not make their vision your reality.

8: Do they have local knowledge?

An architect with recent local experience and contacts in your area, along with thorough knowledge council permissions and other particular controls, will have a far better chance of having your designs and planning permission approved. They will also know the best contractors and suppliers, as well as the general taste and character of the area to maximise the value of your house.

Local knowledge does not necessarily require being based locally, as many experienced architects are widely travelled, and many clients make the mistake of overrating an architect because they’re based round the corner. More important than whether an architect is based near your planned area is whether they’ve worked there before.

9: Can they offer the whole service?

Aim to find an architect who is willing an experienced to provide the full service, from consultation to design and project management. Some architects won’t do work on site, others are not geared for providing interior design or producing technical drawings.

Make sure you’re aware of every service they offer so you can plan around any additional professionals that need to be brought on to the project. If there’s a particular service your architect doesn’t provide, then they will likely have trusted recommendations for someone who can fill the gap.

10: Have you compared their quotes?

Every architect offers a different level of service with a different fee attached to it. You need to balance what you’re willing to pay with the services you prioritise, as you would when choosing an airline.

One may be a budget airline with no frills, no luggage space or food and drink, subject to delays and inconveniences. In contrast, a business class flight with luxury seats and service, a VIP car collection to and from the airport along with an exclusive lounge to relax in while you wait.

Of course, there’s a whole spectrum of options in between, and the same is true with architects. Additional services like a thoroughly tailored design, out of office hours meetings, 24/7 support and guaranteed turnaround times may be important to you, or perhaps you just want a standard, off the shelf design which offers value by sacrificing bespoke service.

Compare your selection of architects based upon the level of service and price that you feel comfortable with.

Will we be right for you? Get in touch to find out

Not every client is right for us, and we’re not right for every client. But I am confident that we provide a world-class service, as our portfolio proves. Why not get in touch with us at [email protected] or 020 3930 2509 to find out if we’re the right architects to build your dream home?

John Dyer-Grimes