What to know before you contact an architect(2)


So you decided to seek the services of an architect or an architectural designer. What to expect now?

1. Be realistic about your budget. Don't go for something what you can't afford because that's a recipe for disappointment. Have a discussion with your architect/designer for guidance if you are not sure.

2. After establishing what can you afford it's time to put down the briefing for the project which the architect is going to follow. This contains the main points you want to achieve and ways to achieve them. This is more like a guideline for the architect.

3. Feasibility study - basically this is a first option, or options, to start from. This is where the briefing and ideas take shape, and a good way to check if your project will be in budget or not. Here you can decide to increase or decrees the size of the project.

4. Planning application - the final set of drawings to submit to the planning authority. This can be done by anyone, but because the process is a bit complicated it's best to be done by someone with experience, ie the architect or designer.

After the application has been made and the planning fee has been paid it will take between a day and four weeks(in extreme cases) for the planning authority to validate the application. From the moment of validation it will take another 8 weeks to get the decision.

If the application is refused for various reasons you get another free go at it. In the refusal letter they will state the reasons of refusal; the best way to act is to amend the previous drawings taking into account their reasons of refusal than submit again. This will take another 8 weeks.

Also, there is an option to get a pre-planning advice with the local planning department, thus standing a greater chance to get the approval from the first try. It's recommended to have a pre-planning meeting if the project is complex or the site presents some particularities which doesn't allow for a straight forward solution.

Sometimes the planners might ask for different documents or studies with the application, and they won't validate the submission until they are provided.

5. After the planning is approved usually the construction and structural drawings are made. With these ready you can submit them to building control to check their compliance with regulations.

Depending on the project they might ask for a SAP certificate(thermal efficiency), or a buildover sewer agreement etc.

6. Party wall surveyor - has to be appointed directly by the owner. Only if you are building within 3 meters from the boundary.

We would recommend to get in touch with one before you make the application. You have to know you are going to pay for the neighbours' party wall surveyors as well, thus if you get in touch before the application goes on the council website you might save some money by appointing one surveyor instead of two or three. It's recommended to speak to your neighbours about it as well, and good relations with the neighbours will save you a lot of hustle.

7.Once you have everything in place you can send the tender package to different construction companies for quotes. The prices will vary from company to company, availability, location etc. So if you decide with a company it's advised to ask for reference and go and see some of their finished projects.

If you don't want any headache in managing your project - from design to construction - you can find companies that take care of everything: architecture, structure, all applications, construction and getting the final certificate.

There is some skepticism in appointing a company like this but the risks are quite low especially if you go with someone with a proven record and signing a JCT contract.

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