Taking on an architect

You've got an idea for redeveloping your home, but how do you go about it?

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Gordon Duffy, ESPC duty architect coordinator, from Edinburgh Chartered Architects Network, explains the process involved in appointing an architect.

I’ve got an idea for an extension, but what do I do next?

An architect can lead you through the entire process from coming up with the initial idea to realising the finished building.

Once you make an initial appointment with an architect, they will prepare a brief of the project, carry out site analysis and survey work, draw up a design of the project for your approval, apply for planning consents and then a building warrant, and can follow your project to completion.

How do I find an architect?

The Edinburgh Chartered Architects Network (ECAN) lists its members with their contact details. Some architects specialise in certain areas such as conservation, urban design and sustainability, so have a look for the right one for you.

You can also contact ECAN on 0131 467 7039, who can then advise you of an architect who has availability.

A good working relationship between client and architect is crucial, so a clearly recorded written agreement is essential.

When does a project require Planning Permission or Listed Building Consent?

For many projects, permission from the local authority will be required, even if it’s for a fairly modest external alteration. Generally speaking, planning is concerned with the exterior form, materials, context and 'use'. Alterations to listed buildings cover everything inside and out. The level of information required varies tremendously for each project but your architect will be able to guide you through this.

The client will need to pay an application fee directly to the Council to enable them to process the application. Once received, planning consent can remain in place for up to three years. Sometimes conditions are attached, where they may request to see sample of materials and colours.

What’s a building warrant?

A building warrant is permission to carry out the proposed works which have been assessed as complying with the Building Standards, and most projects will require one. Typically, an application is made once you know where you stand in terms of the planning process if consent was required.

The building work must comply with the Building Standards (even if you do not actually require a warrant). It’s an offence for anyone to carry out building work without a building warrant where one is required from the local authority. It can take time for the council to check and approve the project, but many local authorities operate time limits.

You may also require planning permission or a warrant for demolition works – this is to protect built heritage and to ensure appropriate procedures are carried out.

What’s a certificate of completion?

A certificate of completion is required once work is finished, and gives formal confirmation that the work was carried out in line with the building warrant. Without this certificate, you could have real issues selling the property.

What costs should I consider?

Projects vary greatly in cost depending on their size. Sometimes architect’s fees can be charged as a percentage of the construction cost, as a lump sum or for time charged. Payment will be requested for each stage of the architect’s work. VAT will be extra, although sometimes work on listed buildings is VAT exempt.

The client will be expected to pay for planning application and the building warrant directly to the local authority.

Since 6th April this year, domestic projects are now subject to CDM 2015 governing health and safety issues which impose new duties on clients, contractors and designers. Proper advice must be obtained from your architect or other suitably trained professional.