Employing contractors Architects and designers

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This article, Employing contractors, was last updated on 11 April 2008 and is now out of date and held in our online archive for reference. Explore our latest Home & garden articles.

Architects can be extremely helpful when looking at what types of home improvements would benefit your property. They will ask you why you want to make any changes, examine your ideas and show you how they might work – often coming back with options you hadn’t considered. 

Involving architects may add up-front costs but overall can be very cost-effective, add more value to your home or reduce the hassle of the build process.

The architect should also have a good knowledge of the planning and building regulations so they can help guide you from the start as to what you can or can’t do to improve your home. This is particularly helpful if you are in a conservation area, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or National Park, or have a listed property.

As an alternative to an architect you could opt to use an architectural technologist to draw up your plans, or a package company that will create plans as part of a commission for a project such as an extension or loft conversion.

What architects do

It is a good idea to contact an architect for projects that are likely to need planning permission, particularly any type of extension, conversion or major build project. The type of work they will do includes:

  • An initial meeting to discuss your project
  • Preliminary project planning advice
  • Prepare the drawings
  • Submit plans to the local authority
  • Obtain tenders of work from contractors
  • Prepare the relevant contracts
  • Prepare a schedule of works and timings
  • Run the project

You can choose how much or how little your architect is involved. It is important to get a cost breakdown for the full service, then discuss with the architect what you think you would like him or her to do.

Always check the architect has experience of the type of work you want to carry out

If the planning and building issues are straightforward, you might ask the architect to draw up plans and submit them to the local authority on your behalf – then, once planning is received, you handle the project from that point.

However, if the work is substantial and complicated (for example, a two-storey extension affecting a major part of the house and roof, costing in excess of £50,000), then it may well save you money in the long run to get your architect to create tenders and contracts and help to manage the build.

Always check that your architect has project managed domestic extensions before – some may only have worked on large commercial developments.

Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)

RIBA logo

RIBA architects are degree qualified

To be a member of RIBA, an architect has to have a degree in architecture and to have passed professional exams. It is important that you contact a practice or architect that works on the type of work you want done, such as residential home improvement project or building a one-off new home.

Architectural technologists

A technologist will help with your plans, timescales and costs, but is unlikely to manage the project for you. To be a member of the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists, an architectural technologist needs to have either a relevant degree or HND or HNC qualification. Once he or she has joined the institute, he or she can progress from an associate member through to chartered status depending on experience. 

Make sure that your designer has lots of experience in dealing with home improvement projects.

Design and planning company


Some companies offer bespoke plans

Some companies either specialise in plans or produce the plans for you as part of a commission – for a conservatory or extension, for example. 

As long as the home improvement is straightforward, there is no reason why you shouldn’t use these ready made or bespoke plans. However, you should be aware that you won’t get the same service that you would from an architect. There may be issues later on if you don’t realise, for example, that there are problems with the land or property where you are building.

More information

For more information about your architect and designer options, go to www.architecture.com and www.ciat.org.uk.  www.garageplans.co.uk is a website for package companies.