Do you need to find an architect to work on your home? If you are a homeowner and have never used an architect before it is a confusing situation to be in. Do you look in the Yellow Pages? Do you search online? How do you know what you need and what to look for?
Here are some tips to help you know what you should be looking for and where to begin. Let us start with the obvious – an architect must be…
1: An architect
This might seem like an obvious suggestion, but not everyone who will get you planning permission, for example, will be an architect. So whats the difference?
The title ‘Architect’ is protected in the UK, which means that people who call themselves ‘Architect’ or whose business name includes the word ‘Architect’ or ‘Architects’ must be registered with the Architects Registration Board (the ARB). The ARB protects the title and requires that its members adhere to a code of practice and carry at least £250k of Professional Indemnity Insurance. Members must also have undergone a programme of design-led training on prescribed architecture courses. There are around 33,000 architects in the UK.
Most UK architects practices comprise between 1 and 10 people, many being in the 3-5 band. Conventionally you will have one or two fully qualified architects on the staff, plus part qualified (graduate) architectural assistants and technicans. All the work on your project won’t be done by an architect, but they will be your main contact and manage the job, and you’ll be covered by the practice PI insurance.
By using an architect rather than someone who provides ‘architectural services’ you have the benefit of customer protection (such that it is) that the ARB provides. You will also know that your architect has carried out four or five years of training in design history, theory and practice.
How to do it?: Look up your architect on the ARB Register. Search for the person you are looking for by name, and also look for the practice name to see how many ARB registered architects there are in the practice.
2: Able to Solve your Design Problem
I call this the George Clarke effect, bless him. George Clarke has a programme on TV in the UK (The Home Show) where he helps homeowners understand how they are using their home, and then designs a better way to use it, that works exclusively for them. Rather than just adding on rooms, George looks at the big picture.
Being a TV presenter, George has his team paint the whole house interior white and then draws on it with a big black pen whilst the client looks on. But of course you don’t need to go to those lengths with your architect. The point is, an architect is trained to problem solve with design. This is therefore, the best reason to employ an architect and not just ‘someone to draw up some plans’. By using an architect you may find you get more constructive use out of the space you have.
How to do it?: Make sure to find out how your architect works and how they involve you in the design process. A good first step would be to look for case studies on their website and try and find out how they approach similar problems. Have they worked on projects like yours before? If you can, talk to the architects’ previous clients.
Using an architect in your local area makes a great deal of sense. They will understand the locality and buildings, indeed they may have worked on homes very similar to yours. They will also understand local planning issues and have a working relationship with planning officers. They may also have completed projects nearby you can go and see, and they won’t charge through the nose for travel expenses.
If you were looking for an architect for a larger project, such as a housing site or commercial building, then the location of the architect is debatably less important. But smaller, domestic work just amplifies the benefits of having a local architect.
Aim to have a shortlist of 3 architects you want to meet, and look at many more.
How to do it?: Go to Google and search for ‘Architect [local area name]’. Google Places will probably bring up a map to get you started, showing the location of nearby architects offices, links to their websites and so on. Don’t forget to check them on the ARB register and make sure they do the work you’re looking for.
You can also search the RIBA directory of UK registered Architects for your county, town or borough. All RIBA Chartered Architects practices have at least one Chartered architect per 10 staff. The directory isn’t great (as I’ve said before) but it will give you more background on some firms. It is worth remembering that the RIBA it is a members club and many architects won’t be on it, so start with Google first.
To sum up, your architect must be local, must be able to solve your design problem, and must be an architect (d’oh!). So look for some local architects, see what you think of their websites, and look them up on the ARB register.
More next time – what things do you think a domestic architect should be?
Hey, I love this post! We often get asked as Oxford Architects why do we need your services.
landscape design tampa says
I think one of the main reasons an Architect should be used is because you get the knowledge and and expertise behind the project and planning. It’s amazing to watch an Architect behind the planning stages when working on a design. So much thought and effort goes into the planning stages. Anytime someone is planning on building I would recommend getting an experienced Architect.
You need your architect to be a really good communicator, able to help get things going in a constructive way. They need creative, almost artistic, skills as well as pure mathematical skill, at times. To see big picture and small detail simultaneously. They need to be able to listen well to the client and those advising them at all times. Lots of energy and no small amount of determination help too! & fantastic IT support is essential.
Glyn Ellis says
I agree that customers should be looking for a qualified person but just an architect, I don’t agree. I am MCIAT, I am a chartered architectural technologist, I have a degree in architecture, 10 years experience and my area of work is domestic extensions. The article should include a part dedicated to these proffessionals as well, many recruiters now ask for MCIAT or RIBA.
Michael Schienke says
First and foremost you should like the person you want to choose to be your architect, as you need someone you can trust and rely on his judgement I’m not saying this as a Chartered architect only, but ALWAYS go for a registered or chartered architect – never ever go for these “architectural consultants”. They will be cheaper, for sure, but cheaper is newer better. And the usually lack professional indemnity insurance.
Mark Stephens says
And if you’re looking for an architect in Ireland search the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland Practice Directory:
Su, the article is relevant if say you do want to use an ARB or RIBA person, but as others have commented there are other suitably qualified and experienced professionals. We’re a CIAT practice and work on a whole range of projects, only once have we not got a comission due to not being RIBA. Also a local practice to us is a mix of MCIAT & RICS and specialise in heritage works, now given their expertise would you use a less a less qualified or experienced Architect no you’d not. My point is regardless of the badge pick or choose the best person for the project. Don’t do a #GDoh and make it up as you go along!
Su Butcher says
“My point is regardless of the badge pick or choose the best person for the project. ”
When I wrote this article (2 and a half years ago) it was in response to questions about ‘an architect’ from lay people who don’t know what an architect is.
It seems logical to me (who trained in architecture but isn’t an architect, but who is routinely told, well, you’re an architect…) that if you want an architect you should at least find out if the person you are employing is ARB registered.
I believe that something like 80% of buildings in the UK are not designed by architects, but I don’t think the general public know that.
What are the benefits of hiring an architect? Well one I value is the design education. But I am aware that several of the people who posted here went to architecture school and had a design education, as I did, but aren’t architects.
Within the profession there is a continuing debate about ‘protection of title’ and ‘protection of function’ (the second being architects should be involved in every building project). I think those who advocate this strategy are deluded.
But I’m also aware that the general public is routinely ripped off by charletans, don’t know what to do or where to get reliable, PI insured, appropriate advice. Professional accreditations can go some way to reassuring them, but its certainly confusing.
Yep go to agree with you, it’s unfortunate that the term “architect ” is used constantly by clients whether deliberate or not for their “professional” gets increasingly difficult to explain the nuance/difference, suffice to say they rarely understand! But our advice to all clients is pick the right “tool for the job” (insert funny comments here)
The modern Architectural Practice/Design Team is often a mix of different design professionals. Checking the ARB register is no guarantee of service and will merely confirm that an individual within an organisation is a registered Architect. As a Chartered Architectural Technologist (MCIAT) I am also bound by a code of conduct and the pre-requisite for PI insurance should I wish to practice (we are also listed and can be checked at http://www.ciat.org.uk, this is a Chartered Institute in much the same way as RIBA not an industry based subscription service). So what should individuals actually be looking for? A good starting point is to check affiliation with one of the suitable institutes, CIAT, RIBA, RIAS, RICS and then meet the firms representatives or an individual in the case of sole practitioners and see if what they offer suits your requirements (design flair, technical skill, project and contract management and levels of insurance). The use of Architectural in a title does not indicate a con-man, those of us who are not registered Architects but equally or more skilled and indemnified cannot use the word Architect in any of our literature, as such we often use the word Architectural (as we are members of the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists). As well as practising with my own CIAT Registered Practice I also work for a RIBA Chartered Practice, so by hiring Architects you may well actually be hiring a Technologist anyway (I often see jobs through from inception to completion within the RIBA practice). The bottom line is hire a professional and check their credentials carefully as I am afraid that qualifications and institutes still aren’t always an indicator of integrity and very rarely, ability (but at least you have comeback should anything go amiss).
One final point, the ‘Architects Technician’ (shortened to Technician) is a dying breed in practice. It is often used as a method of indicating a hierarchy in practice by those who favour ‘protection of function’ and a return to fixed fees and legislation. Their is such a thing as a professionally qualified Architectural Technician (TCIAT) who have passed the strict criteria of CIAT and abide by the code of conduct, but I doubt that is what is being indicated in this instance. Luckily the Victorian values of much of the profession are quickly dying out as the dinosaurs retire, the modern Architect on the whole recognises that the industry has changed and collaboration rather than legislation is the best way forward.
Dawa Norbu says
We are looking for one architect engineer for appointment with us . in Bhtutan