You will be faced with hundreds of decisions in the process of building your own home – some large, some small; some more important than others. Choosing an architect for your self-build project is undoubtedly one of the most vital decisions you’ll need to make.
It’s a decision that should never be hurried – take the time to consider your choice carefully; the architectural design practice that wins your work must be right not only for your home, but also for yourself.
Before making your decision, there are several questions to ask yourself:
Is there a brief in place for your self-build project?
Before beginning the shortlisting process, it’s important to have a brief in place for your self-build project. The brief should cover everything from the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, through to the layout, materials and any specific design features.
The brief provides prospective architects with a starting point to explore your plans further, interrogating the thinking behind it and beginning to get a deeper understanding of your future goals and the process to make your dream home a reality.
How much involvement will your architect have?
Most design practices can do much more than simply design your home. Their role can also include securing planning permission, producing detailed working drawings and even project managing the construction process. Think about how much support you will need so you’re ready to discuss that with them.
How many architects should I shortlist?
We recommend shortlisting three practices for your self-build project. Even if you’ve had a recommendation from a friend and are thinking about working with the same architect, it’s still worth considering other options too. Every practice will have a slightly different approach to design and a different way of working with clients – by speaking to different people, you can feel really confident about the decision you eventually make.
Are you on the same page?
Shortlisting architects is a time when first impressions really do count. You may not like your accountant, your doctor or even your lawyer so long as they provide you with sound advice – yet the relationship with your architect is completely different. You’ll be speaking with your architect regularly – daily at certain stages of the project – discussing your worries and concerns and no doubt leaning on them as a sounding board. They’ll be present throughout your entire self-build journey, so it’s important that you get along.
Make sure your architect listens and that you’re on the same page – they should respect your vision and, when professional feedback is required, it should be delivered respectfully and without being overbearing.
Do you like their style?
Most architectural practices have a distinct style, whether it’s ultra-modern or understated with clever design features.
Did their portfolio instantly take your eye? Is it in line with the vision you have for your own home?
Has your due diligence been thorough?
Architectural practices will have client recommendations you can look through – don’t be afraid to ask to be put in touch with previous clients. Building your home is most likely the largest investment you’ll ever make, so don’t be afraid to satisfy any doubts. Thorough due diligence will save a lot of expense, stress and heartache further down the line.
You should also check whether your architect is a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) or the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT) – membership will provide additional security, certifying that the practice complies with strict criteria, covering aspects including insurance, health and safety and quality management systems.
It’s also important to make sure that your chosen architect has adequate Professional Indemnity Insurance that will cover your project if a mistake is made.
Does the practice have local experience?
While looking at the practice’s portfolio, it’s also wise to ask about recent experience within your local area specifically. Working with an architect who is familiar with local planners and with a good record of success isn’t essential but can be valuable as your project progresses.
Does the fee proposal fit with your budget?
Once you have shortlisted three architects, you will need to agree on fee proposal with each of them. The proposal should outline a budget for each stage and be clear as to exactly what their responsibilities will be.
Don’t make your final decision solely based on cost though – there are many areas where cost should be front-and-centre; your architect isn’t one of them.
For a list of highly experienced, talented architecture practices, the MyPlot expert directory is a good place to start.