christianbeccy

Architect - Expectation vs Reality...

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We appointed an Architect to design our self-build. It's a large plot (approx. 1/2 an acre), with a lot of opportunity for design and placement. We compiled our interpretation of a design brief, covering 2 A4 typed pages with bullet-pointed 'must haves' and 'do not wants', then attended a meeting to discuss our lifestyle and requirements.

 

Some time later, our Architect delivered his 'Feasibility Study', along with a substantial invoice but it has left us very confused, even a little shocked.

 

We did make it clear that we are keen for our ideas to be challenged, but the position and layout of the design doesn't really tick any boxes for us. It feels as though he has either not read/listened to our input or has very deliberately delivered something left-field to evoke a conversation. At this moment, there isn't really anything from the first output that we want to move forward with. Even the proposed position of the building is, in my opinion, the last place on the plot I'd have put it, my reasons for this were even covered very clearly in our brief.

 

We have a meeting scheduled for the end of Feb to try to re-align, but our Architect believes he is close and the design just needs tweaking. We've held nothing back about how we feel. We held back payment of the invoice, but have had to pay it because he won't progress with an 'outstanding invoice', so we're caught in a 'cache 22'.

 

I'm not expecting a 'visual design' at this stage, but surely a workable layout/position (white-box model) is necessary at this stage? Or am I expecting too much?

 

Please kindly share your experiences/opinions.

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We had a bad experience with our first architect, mainly because he insisted the house he designed (which we loved) could be built for 1/2 what it cost in reality. We should have parted ways with him before we did and we wasted a lot of money.  We started from scratch with a second with a much better outcome.

 

I'm not sure about feasibility studies but being in Scotland we used the RIAS schedule of work and that sounds like the first couple of stages. 

 

Work Stage 1.0 - Preparation of the Brief
1.1      Ascertain Client Requirements
1.2      Obtain Site information from Client
1.3       Advise Client of his/her duties under CDM regulations
1.4      Visit Site and carry out preliminary appraisal
1.5      Identify Project and Construction Budgets
1.6      Develop outline brief
1.7      Agree Preliminary timetable

Work Stage 2.0 - Initial Design
2.1      Prepare initial design proposal
2.2      Provide indicative guidance on cost and timetable

 

This is where you have all the back and forth on what you want, what you don't want, budget etc. We compiled a design brief, including a flash drive of images then we had at least 4 or 5 meetings to discuss various ideas and hone in on a final design. 

 

We would have never have got to an acceptable design with just the brief and a single meeting. By the end of stage 2.2 the idea is that you have a design and outline plans that you're happy with. I think we even had a 3D Sketch Up rendering to play with. 

 

I don't recall if there is guidance on fees and obviously it varies from architect but I don't think getting you to the end of stage 2.2 should cost much more than £2k on a fixed fee basis. 

 

 

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Hi and good morning, 

do you get on with the architect? do you feel you can work with him, if not, now is the time to have it out with him. I had a problem with my architect, in that he kept the drawings / measurements to a minimum, and the bills include time to study , an aerial survey with a drone, (2 men ) totally bl  dy usless ! it only served to "keep the bill up. moving your house should not be a big problem, but dealing with the planners can get costly if left to an Architect, I have to say I lost faith in mine !!  when you get a drawing of roughly what you want, go and speak to the planners yourself.

I also had problems with the architect "recommending " his friends, ie consultant, bat surveyor, contamination man, ect ect. I felt they were in a click !! together. can you find an architectural technician ? as you don't need an architects certificate, you can get insurance / building inspection from people like "build it"  I used Meridien consulting in the midlands, they were brill !

regards,

Stephen

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I can only comment on my experience so far. 

 

I met / discussed with about 4-5 different architects to get a good picture of what people were like and how well they matched with us. Some were so far up their own backside and couldn't possibly fathom a fixed fee basis and others were fantastic but a bit out of our budget. I was only interested in a fixed fee basis. 

 

We ended up with the second architect we talked with - actually he is an Architectural designer if you want to use the proper term as that is his qualification. We chose him because he had very good experience of modern building methods (SIPS / timer frame, which we are keen on), he was very easy to get on with, and his business ethos (or size) matched our needs. E.g He does good design but based on a pragmatic approach to building, in other words he seemed to design houses that were in our ballpark of value and similar budgets . I had talked to architects who had more flair and excellent design skills, but what scared me was they didn't seem to have a handle on modern methods, they thought stick building was best and using a main contractor was what people done, or they were designing £1.5m fully glazed passivhauses  hence we would be the low end of their clientele and imo woudl have ended up not getting the attention i wanted.

 

A further point being he matched our budget, he was 60% of what the others cost and I found that value for money and didn't grudge it. 

 

 Now currently we are at this same stage as you. I presented him with my design brief, which was a 10-15 page document covering the site, sun azimuth, location plans (he already visited site before quoting me) 4-off A3 sheets of house designs and pictures we liked. Then he went on his way and produced a design for discussion. 

 

He took all that we asked for and designed a house to suit and positioned it in a good spot (albeit slightly off where I wanted it) but this is a big plot...4 acres hence moving 15m back is no issue. He fitted most of the rooms in and got a good flow and made the most of the sun position and our views. The only thing being is that it was 260m^2 when I had asked for 200m^2 ..but he highlighted that and this was the next stage for us to start to compromise and adjust. 

 

Despite the above, we felt  this first revision didn't meet our expectations perfectly (my wife was actually upset at first, but she wasn't even sure why) we couldn't tell why as it met the design brief but we weren't getting the 'feels'.This initial design made me question if  I had chosen the right person, as I think we were expecting perfect out the box (even though I know that's not the case as I am an engineer myself)

 

So we have been messing with this design as we were unsure about some stuff and have since gotten another 3 variations and also a completely  different layout....based on a layout which we sent him (which actually we don't like on paper 😂). In fact this most recent design that we thought would be great has made us realise just how good the architects first design was and how well it worked! (If you look at my threads you'll see my open plan conundrum post).

 

On Friday he came for a 1 hour meeting to our house which was an 8 hour round trip for him (this is the 3rd time I've met him and second for my wife. Albeit the first formal design review if you like), we went through the designs what we love and hate and it was a very easy conversation and he is now away to work up another few plans and we are really confident that he has listened but will also steer us in the right direction.  As another note, I haven't received any invoice, as its not due until we finish this stage, but I have queried if he wanted some payment but he said it was fine and no rush (we have agree the fee basis though). 

 

I'm only mid way through this stage and I will have had 5-6 designs by mid week here and they have had elevations and full floor plans with sizes etc in there. 

 

Seems like a bit of a long post but in summary what I am trying to convey is that during the initial stages it is an iterative process and you may possibly feel unsettled and disappointed. However it is the job of your architect to listen first of all and try and focus on your design brief and deliver that if it is achievable, from there they can then develop the design with you and  get it where you want it to be. 

 

In my opinion - he hasn't listened first of all and is now pushing to finalise quickly in order to get paid. Also if they are following RIAS guidelines or similar they should complete the stage as above and then invoice you, not mid way.

 

I would read the contract and refer to that if you have signed one. As you will already feel in your gut, if something ain't right, it just ain't right. If you are not happy challenage it and stand your ground, ultimately feel free to walk away and get someone else. 

 

 

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we got 3 different architects to come round to see us (it was supposed to be 4 but the 4th didn't seem to be interested as after I phoned and left a message with details as to what we wanted I got a voicemail back saying he'd received a message about an extension or something rather than the complete demolition and self-build we're doing! it goes without saying that I didn't call him back). 

all 3 came to site to have a look around and for us to get a feeling if we'd be able to work with them. we then got quotes and all were pretty similar but we chose the chap we thought we'd most like to work with. After an initial consultation he came up with a few sketches which we were completely not what we wanted and we also questioned as to whether he even listened to us at the initial meeting. we were thinking of phoning around and trying other architects but we went for a meeting and explained how we felt and he said, no worries I'm never going to get it right first time and we took aspects from each of the sketches and discussed it all and now we have final plans that we absolutely love!

so, in my experience, if you like the person and get on with them then give them a chance. the first drawings will never be exactly what you want and they will change and evolve as time goes on as the relationship builds. obviously though, if they're pig-headed and won't listen to you at all regardless of how nice they are you need to dump them and find someone else! 

just my 2 cents and experience of our architect. 

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We started using an architectural practice as part of our frame package as they were the manufacturers 'preferred' architect. We parted company after number of issues; loss of trust over a topographical survey (long story), and they didn't bother with a site visit.  I met and briefed who I thought was doing the design;  turns out they passed it on to someone else to work on, and then a third person presented the plans back to me.  The proposals were so wide of the mark, I decided to call it a day and find another one.

 

Architect #2 was great! Fixed fee and worth every penny.  It's important to find an architect that 'gets' what you want achieve, and uses their flair to enhance and not dominate.

Edited by Roundtuit
topo survey, not geo..
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Once you have a square footage and design, its easy to send that drawing to a SIPS frame manufacturer, they can quote from that, should you decide to go forward, the SIPS people would do all the calculations and drawings, so no need for the architect to be "charging" for that service, the council also made me get a drainage expert in re SUDS, he drew all drainage plans in his report to the council, sewerage,  and top water, also invert levels,  so again no need for architect to do, as you are only paying twice !

regards, 

Stephen

 

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