CHOOSING YOUR ARCHITECTURAL DESIGNER
The success of any building project often depends on the quality of the initial planning and design for the scheme, and whether you are constructing a new building or simply extending or altering an existing property, it is highly advisable to engage a professional architectural designer to assist you with your project.
There are many companies and individuals providing architectural design services and also numerous advertising headings and listings under which these services are offered. These listings may include Architects, Architectural Technologists and Technicians, Architectural Designers, Architectural Services, Building Consultants, Building Design Services, Planning Services and Plan Drawing Services.
For anyone seeking to appoint an architectural designer for their project, the list of potential designers advertising in any of the above categories is extensive. Furthermore, the quality of service, qualifications, level of technical expertise and the fees charged for the service provided, varies immensely from one provider to another.
Finding and appointing the right Architectural Designer is therefore of the utmost importance to ensure the success of your building project.
The following 10-point checklist of recommendations may prove helpful when choosing and appointing your Architectural Designer.
1. Research your chosen Architectural Designer carefully before appointing them to your project. Establish that they are trading legitimately and professionally, and check the web and other advertising outlets for supporting references to them.
2. Ensure that the Designer carries relevant architectural Professional Indemnity for their design work and if necessary, insist on seeing evidence of their Professional Indemnity Insurance Policy.
3. Ask them to provide you with details of their previous projects and designs and also ask to see samples of their plans and drawings so that you can assess the quality and technical content of the work they produce.
4. Ensure that the work they produce is CAD-based, i.e. not hand-drawn, and also that they submit all drawings and local authority applications electronically via the Planning Portal or via the relevant authority’s electronic submission facility. (Many local authorities are now moving towards a ‘paperless office’ environment and paper submissions of Planning & Building Regulation applications and drawings are rapidly being phased out).
5. Ensure that you receive a detailed written quotation or estimate from the Architectural Designer clearly itemising the extent and scope of the design service included in the quotation or estimate.
6. Do not be guided purely by the price of the quotation or estimate, look carefully at the extent of the service being offered and precisely what the Designer has included in, or more importantly excluded from, their quotation. Make sure the extent and level of service being offered is adequate for your requirements.
7. Obtain a recommendation for your chosen Architectural Designer from previous clients, or better still from your local authority or other professionals within the industry. Also, establish the Architectural Designer’s terms of payment for their fees etc. before accepting the quotation or estimate, and if possible agree a timescale for the delivery of the design service and the production of drawings and documents etc.
8. Avoid Designers who offer a ‘planning only’ service, i.e to prepare drawings for planning permission, but not for Building Regulation approval. A service is usually offered on this basis purely because the Designer has insufficient experience and technical knowledge of the Building Regulations and construction processes. Designing any building even at a preliminary stage without having adequate regard to its eventual construction is an extremely dangerous practice which will inevitably lead to significant and costly issues when the project reaches construction stage.
9. If the Architectural Designer is being instructed, or contracted to the project by your chosen builder or a prospective builder, perhaps as part of a ‘design & build’ package, do still ascertain full details of the Architectural Designer being employed by the builder and then research the Designer separately.
10. Finally, check your local authority planning website and research the list of planning applications to ascertain that the Designer is actively and regularly submitting valid applications on behalf of his clients.