We are often approached by domestic clients to looking to extend, refurbish or reconfigure their homes. We taylor the way that we work to suit the needs of the project, the house, budget (and sometimes the DIY aspirations) of our clients. For many clients this will the first time they have employed an architect or had anything built. To help, we have set out a rough guide for how a typical residential project would be developed. You can also follow links on our site to some of the residential projects we have been involved with.
Figuring out where to start
For most domestic projects, the first step is for us to come and visit your home. We’ll talk through your ideas and aims for the project. We’ll also try to identify any limits such as timescale and budget, and use these to set out the scope of the project and the key stages that will be needed. Some clients want to self-build, others employ contractors to carry out the construction work. We’ll adapt the way we work to suit, whichever way you decide.
After a visit to your house, we’ll make some very quick sketches, and on the basis of our conversations with you, and a better understanding of what services you’ll need and how complex the project is, we’ll put together a fee proposal for you.
Once the key objectives have been worked out, the next step is to design the space. We start by carrying out or commissioning a detailed survey of the site or existing building and carrying out some preliminary searches to establish any restrictions or constraints that might affect the design.
Using this information and the brief we have developed with you, we’ll begin sketching out design options. A model is often useful at this stage to review the proposals before agreeing the design proposal to be developed. This stage is one of the most critical and often involves a bit of back-and-forth between client and architect, but is always time well-spent, refining the proposals and ensuring it’s right for you before you’ve committed to a planning application, or started pouring concrete on site.
The Planning Process
Depending upon the scale of the project and specifics about your house or neighbourhood (e.g. listed status, or being located in a conservation area) it may be useful to go through the pre-planning process. Having developed outline proposals for the project with you, we would meet with the planning case officer to review the proposals prior to submitting a planning application.
Planning may require some additional reports, such as; heritage, coal mining assessments or biodiversity and arboricultural reports. We can recommend people to undertake these for you and integrate any critical findings from these reports into the proposals.
Once you’re happy with the plans for your extension/ conversion/ new build, we would submit the planning application to the local authority. There is a statutory 8 week period for determining planning applications. During this time we would liaise with the planning case officer, responding to any queries or requests for more information.
For some small projects, they may fall under Permitted Development and planning consent is not required. In these cases it is still recommended to apply to the local planning authority for a Lawful Development Certificate to ensure that you have the legal right to carry out the work. This certificate may also be requested by your conveyancor if you decide to sell your home at a later date.
Tender and Construction
Once you have planning consent for your project, the next step is to decide how to manage the construction. We would develop detailed design drawings for you and a specification for the work. If you want to employ a contractor to carry out the work, we would help you to draw up a list of possible contractors and issue the information to them as a tender package.
If you want to carry out the build work yourself, you might still need a contractor for some parts of the work and we can draw up specifications for those items as separate ‘work packages’.
At this stage we would also prepare a Building Control application. If you haven’t appointed one previously, you would probably need a structural engineer to calculate the structural loading and prepare information for Building Control. You may also need to submit a Party Wall notice to any neighbours who might be affected by the work.
Once you have tenders back from potential contractors, we will review those with you and help you to appoint a contractor and set up a building contract for the works. We always recommend that you use a standard building contract, no matter how small the project – it gives protection to both you and the building contractor and can be invaluable if unforeseen problems arise part way through the build.
Depending on how you have decided to carry out the building work on your house, what you need from an architect at this stage will vary. We’re always keen to see projects on site – it’s one of the most rewarding parts of an architects’ job, but we can take as large or small role as you need. We have worked with self-builders who have very much appreciated our site visits to help them ‘read a drawing’ or review a design detail. We enjoy the adhoc nature of self-build and the inevitable renegotiation of design details that happens once builders can see the house taking shape.
If you have employed a contractor for the build, you might want us to oversee the works. We refer to this role as Contract Administration, effectively ensuring that the building works are carried out as they were intended in the design and specification documents that we have drawn up with you. In this role, we liaise with you and your building contractor, keeping track of programme, cost and responding to queries or any requested changes that you might want to make.