Finding an architect: What they do, where to go and what to expect

architect drawing

Even the most informed of us might flail a little when asked what an architect does. The first association is often that they design and plan projects and have impressive drawing skills.

While those are all true, an architect can do even more for you – read on for the lowdown on all you need to know…

What is an architect?

They’re literally the chief builder: the name comes from the Latin architectus, which in turn is based on the Greek words arkhi – ‘chief’ – and tekton, which means builder.

Architects are trained, accredited, and (this is really important), registered. They design, plan, and review the construction of a building and work on technical and aesthetic aspects, but are also responsible for public safety.

It’s a protected job title, so if someone wants to call themselves an architect they’ll need to be fully qualified and registered with the Architects Registration Board (ARB). Many also become a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

What does an architect do?

Apart from creating design concepts for projects – from extensions to whole builds – they can take roles at just about any stage of a project.

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As site surveyors they’ll create a record of a property’s state, or they could draw up detailed construction plans and advise on planning.

In smaller projects, architects often do a multitude of jobs, from first design to sign off. If your plans are larger, you’ll likely have a team with more specialised creatives, in which case an architect’s task will be more focused, too.

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Why do I need an architect?

They can help you achieve your dream scheme and ensure what you want is both possible and safe. Most practices offer a full-service option – which covers everything, from a site survey to supervising construction – for larger projects.

You might think your renovation is too small to validate the expense, but an architect can actually save you money. As problem solvers, they know how to get the most out of your project while being clever with your budget.

What’s the difference between an architect, architectural technologist and architectural designer?

Architectural technology is the link between design and reality. They are registered with their own trade body – the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT) – and can deliver the full range of architects’ services, but are often led more by technical aspects rather than design.

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Anyone can call themselves an achitectural designer. Many are partially qualified – usually called ‘Part I’ or ‘Part II’ – and work under an architect. But always double check and make sure they’re registered and hold professional indemnity insurance, too, or you risk design liability being passed on to your builder if you use their drawings.

How much does it cost?

Architects set their own fees and, due to competition law, bodies such as RIBA can’t give guidance on fee levels. Your architect can set it in one of three ways: a percentage of the construction cost, a lump sum, or a resource-based fee. Always get three quotes – this way you’ll get a feeling for what you should be charged, but also have the chance to meet different practices to find the one who suits you best.

Featured image: Created by Elena Borisova from Pixabay

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