Here I’ll consider architects, architectural technicians and touch on the other potentially pricey professionals such as structural engineers, that we’ll need to employ to bridge the link between the unconverted building and the building work that will convert it.
I spoke with some lovely architects when I started this project. They seemed to share my enthusiasm for the project and helped to provide me with the confidence to proceed.
Costs can be a little tricky to pin down for architectural services since the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) did away with scale rates some years ago. This is a step that’s opened up the negotiation of architectural fees to market forces. What the scale rates did, was make architectural fees transparent (at least when working with RIBA architects) and I could have stated an exact percentage cost for the type of work we are considering here. Instead we’ll have to consider a range of fees, that after some research, I can estimate at between 6% and 15% for full project ‘lifecycle’ involvement – from project initiation, through plans, planning, contracting & overall project management. Many architects will also work for a set, prearranged fee or an hourly rate; this is especially useful when you only need limited services at the start of your project, such as an initial design consultation and some outline drawings. Bear in mind that those percentages will often be of the total project cost, including contingencies that may not be spent during the project.
Most architectural practices will offer a range of services, usually including:
- Providing ‘scheme’ level outline drawings.
- Applying for statutory consents (planning, permitted development and other required permissions).
- Producing detailed drawings.
- Drawing up the schedule of work and other associated documents such as the contract preliminaries (that details prerequisites and general project requirements) and a specification document (that details acceptable levels of workmanship and materials).
- Contracting builders and other service providers for you and administering those contracts.
- Project management.
Bear in mind that it’s is not only qualified architects and their practices that can provide you with these services, there is also the complementary industry of ‘architectural services’ providers. These are companies that are not structured and staffed as traditional architectural practices (usually lacking a fully qualified architect) but that can provide many of the same services.
Beyond my initial discussions way back at the start of my project, I made no use of the services of a ‘pure’ architect. Instead I opted for the less costly more limited option of employing an architectural technician. I say limited as the service offered by an architect tends to be broad and encompassing, whilst architectural technicians offer a narrower more focussed service. In my case my architectural technician was able to provide me with plans, a schedule of works and dealt with my planning applications, all for a set fee. I was lucky in that chap who drew up my plans knows the planners well and was able to make recommendations that would ‘work’ best not only with building regulations, but with the local plan and the local planners preferences – we got the few amendments made to the original plans through relatively painlessly. The only drawback was that because I was using a one-man-band I had to manage those aspects of the design that required input from a Structural Engineer myself. This work – the correct sizing of the oak beams that carry the first floor and the exact detail of the work to make good the one largish wall crack, was pretty straight-forward, involving no more than a couple of phone calls, a site visit or two then the receipt of a written report followed by parting with several hundred pounds. Nothing too stressful, but one aspect of work that a full service architect would cover for his client and that I (a skinflint NOT employing a full service architect) had to cover for myself.
As with most products and services, it’s best to shop around and always seek recommendations from colleagues and acquaintances. You also need to ensure that all your trades will work together (and I include the architect in that), so if you have a builder in mind speak to them and see who they often / prefer to work with (some builders will only work with certain architects as they know they’ll provide workable, understandable plans and so on – although they may not be so picky these days).
Next we move on to the heavy lifting … Part 3 the conversion and how much it will cost you>>