WORKING WITH US
Deciding to appoint an Architect will be the start of a significant journey, which will represent a substantial investment of your time and money. It is our responsibility, as an ARB Registered Architect, to guide our clients through this process to make it as enjoyable and rewarding an experience as possible. We believe that giving clear, frank and professional advice from the outset is key to keeping clients informed and engaged with the process. For this reason, we have put together this guide, which we hope gives a helpful overview of working with an Architect.
If you have any questions, or would like to discuss your project, then we would be delighted to hear from you.
When you get in touch, will will take down your details and help establish your broad requirements. Then we will arrange for a first consultation which usually lasts a couple of hours. This consultation could take place at the property/site. If you have any photos, floor plans, estate agent’s details and any past planning applications, please bring these, as they will all be very helpful and give us some more context of your project.
Following possible further discussions/visits a letter of appointment or appointment contract will be prepared. The appointment documents will include an outline of your requirements, together with a list of the main architectural services to be provided. Also included will be a fee proposal to cover the anticipated work.
Stage 0 - Strategic Definition
The objective of this stage is to identify a client’s strategic brief and business case to ensure these have been properly considered before the project proceeds further, and an initial 'Strategic Project Brief' is developed.
The Strategic Project Brief may include review of a number of sites or alternative options, such as extensions, refurbishment or new build. By asking the right questions, the consultants, in collaboration with the client, can properly define the scope for a project, and the preparation and briefing process can then begin.
Typically, on domestic projects, or where the brief has already been defined, this stage can be omitted and would form part of Stage 1.
Stage 1 - Preparation & Brief
This is the most important stage of a project; where we lay the foundations for a successful scheme. We will undertake a preliminary appraisal of all available information to assess the options and feasibility of the project. The aim of this stage is to determine your Project Brief to ensure than the next stage (Stage 2 – Concept Design) is as productive as possible. The time required to prepare it will depend on the complexity of the project, but typically this stage will include:
Client Meeting - After meeting with you we outline our understanding of your objectives – ‘The Project Brief’ - spatial requirements, project budget, timescale, quality objectives, key outcomes, sustainability aspiration, etc. The Project Brief will be updated at the end of this stage based upon the findings and discussions that take place.
Site Assessment - This involves inspecting the site and appraising/collating available site information. At this point, photos, floor plans, estate agent’s details and past planning applications can all be helpful to understand and appraising the site. We will also advise you on the need for any further surveys, reports or investigations, and can assist in obtaining quotes.
Feasibility - This can range from hand sketch designs based upon estate agent’s particulars to a full feasibility study. The purpose is to enable you to decide on the best way forward without committing to a fully resolved design.
Risk Assessment – We help to determine the risks to all parties, especially the client. Even at this early stage, we will start to consider strategies for; planning, procurement, and programme.
Project Team – we advise on the project team; defining each role and responsibility therein, and obtaining quotes for client consideration.
Stage 2 - Concept Design
This stage involves the preparation of design ideas that address and explore the brief agreed in Stage 1. We generally envisage producing CAD drawings and 3D visualisations to help communicate a scheme to the client. We also liaise with the Project Team as necessary on issues such as structural design, building services, budget and heritage considerations.
During this stage, we may consult with local planning authority (Pre-App) as part of the planning strategy, or to help assess slightly more contentious proposals.
At the end of this stage we revisit the client brief and update it if necessary before proceeding.
Stage 3 – Spatial Coordination and Planning Applications
At this stage, we will continue to develop the proposals with input from the rest of the Project Team. This process may require several iterations of the design and different tools may be used, including design workshops and public engagement.
Once the spatial design and coordination is completed we develop a full set of planning drawings, and collate all relevant documentation which together will comprise a full planning submission. This could include documents such as planning statements, heritage reports, photographic surveys, engineering reports, arboricultural reports, acoustic reports, construction method statements, and highways statements. If you are a leaseholder within a property, you may require a ‘Licence to Alter’ which can also be applied for.
During this stage, we advise that a ‘cost plan’ is produced by a quantity surveyor, or cost consultant. The project should not proceed until the cost plan, design and project budget are aligned.
Stage 4 – Technical Design
Generally, this stage commences once we have received planning approval, though it can start earlier if a client is prepared to accept the risk of planning delays or refusal.
During this stage, we complete the technical design sufficiently for tendering and construction purposes which is normally conveyed by means of written descriptions, drawings and schedules. This stage includes discharging outstanding planning conditions, ensuring Building Regulations requirements can be met and Health and Safety requirements are considered. As Architects, we normally take the role of ‘Lead Designer’; providing leadership and encouraging a collaborative and coordinated approach between consultants.
In a traditional procurement route, the full tender package is generally issued to 4-5 contractors, with a tender period of about 5 weeks. Once the tenders and construction programmes are returned, we can undertake analysis of the quotes, and make a recommendation.
Stage 5 – Manufacturing and Construction
Following acceptance of a successful tender, and any amendments therein, we can assist with the drawing up of an appropriate building contract and works can commence on site. Once they do, we generally take on the role of 'Contract Administrator,' and fall into a pattern of regular site meetings and visits. This ensures that construction work is being inspected at regular intervals, and the contract is being adhered to.
As the works progress, we will address any design changes through a series of ‘Architect’s Instructions’ which amend the original contract documentation, and this allows for a clear and accountable amendment to the construction budget.
We (or the Quantity Surveyor) will review the contractor’s monthly valuations, make amendments to the claimed sums as necessary, and certify payments to be made. We also ensure that a 5% retention is held back from each payment, and this gets released to the contractor following completion; subject to all works or minor issues being addressed.
Stage 6 – Handover
We will undertake a final inspection of the site, and create a ‘Snagging List’ which schedules all uncompleted work, or items which are not up to the standards set out in the tender documents. These works will then need to be addressed by the main contractor prior to us issuing the ‘Practical Completion’ certificate.
Shortly after completion of the project we (or the Quantity Surveyor) will agree the Final Account, and half of the retention monies will be released. The final 2.5% retention is released to the contractor either 6 or 12 months after completion; subject to all works arising defects being addressed – This concludes the Building Contract and is often the end of our involvement.
Stage 7 – In Use
This stage is generally not required, and has only recently been added to the RIBA Plan of Work. It is concerned with the life of the building after handover up to the possible eventual demolition. Our role in this stage might include measuring key performance indicators, and assisting in the maintenance and upgrading of the buildings. Data can be taken from the existing building and used to inform the briefing process for refurbishment and alterations, or indeed for development of new project – which then feeds back into the next Stage 0.
OUR APPOINTMENT & FEES
Studio Boron has no 'standard' fee; we work with our clients to develop a bespoke scope of services and a fee which is tailored to suit their budget. From this we estimate the time involved and calculate our fees. Several options for our appointment can be considered:
Time charge - This option may be appropriate when the scope of services is not yet fully defined or a task is open-ended, or involvement in contractual dispute or protracted planning negotiations.
Lump Sum – A fixed fee works well for clearly defined packages of work.
Percentage Fees - Fees are based on a percentage of the estimated, then later actual construction cost, and is proportioned between the work stages. This works well where the scope of work, and budget, is not clearly defined from the outset.
Expenses – Are typically charged in addition to our fees, and these include the cost of printing, document copying, purchase of documents, postage and couriers, travel and re-imbursement of any payments made on your behalf.
Payment Schedule - Payment is generally on a monthly basis, or on the completion of milestone such as the end of a work stage.
VAT - 'Value Added Tax' will be payable on all professional fees and the construction works. If the building project is a 'new build' the works may be exempt from VAT, but the VAT will still be due on all professional fees. For some complex projects we would recommend the services of a specialist building VAT Consultant to help you navigate through the legislation.
HOW MUCH WILL MY PROJECT COST?
Project Budget – This is the amount the client wishes to spend on the project. This sum will need to include build costs, design and consultant fees, expenses, local authority approvals, a contingency for unforeseen works, VAT and other taxes. We will always assist our clients in setting a realistic Project Budget, and tailor our proposals accordingly.
Cost Estimate – From the outset we advise our clients on the overall project build cost, however we are not cost specialists and would normally recommend the services of a Quantity Surveyor, or cost consultant, to prepare and update a full ‘cost plan’ at key milestones.
Tender Costs - Tenders priced on a completed design will be the clearest indication of final construction cost. However, these can be altered as the project develops on site, due to the scope of work increasing or decreasing.
FURTHER READING AND RESOURCES
Working with an Architect
RIBA - Why use an architect?
RIBA - How do I use an architect? Frequently Asked Questions
RIBA Conservation Register – Guidance for private homeowners
RIBA Conservation Register – Guidance for building investors, managers and planners
Planning Portal - Do you need permission?
Historic England - Advice
Health and Safety Legislation (CDM 2015)
To understand your role as a domestic client you can refer to the HSE's guidance.
Commercial clients can access the industry guidance for clients, published by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB)