Mulberry View

Architect - Making the maths add up...

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Having had a really complicated few months (not just because of the pandemic). We are now beginning to move our project forwards. We had appointed an Architect and are a little way in with him, he has produced what he calls a 'Feasibility Study'. The first one he produced was SO FAR off what we wanted, we almost sacked him on the spot. He didn't appear to have read our project brief at all, in fact it felt as if perhaps he might have read it and just went for the opposite. So, we had a meeting, which we attended with little enthusiasm and set him off to 'right his wrongs'. I have to admit, were pretty much over him by that point and just committed it to a loss. However, his second version was a bit of a revelation. I'm talking polar opposite in many ways. Though for some unknown reason, the house he designed is 320sq/m (and doesn't have the Garage he knows we want)! We are currently living very comfortably in 140sq/m, he knows because he's surveyed it. We shelved it for a few months whilst working on other stuff, but are now revisiting.

 

If we consider his design at a rate of an arbitrary figure £2500 sq/m to build it, that puts us comfortably beyond £800k and in a plot that's got to be worth £200k. Although our aim is not to resell, I can't think of many properties in our local area that have sold for over a million. As I attempt to rationalise his sizing, I asked him a couple of days ago for a plan of how this fits into our plot, something that wasn't part of the document he shared, but I feel like it's an uphill struggle with this guy, so we're going out to market again.

 

I completed the 'Find an Architect' search on the RIBA website and have been contacted by a few companies that I am beginning to call, but I'm paranoid about budgets and figures. I have it in my head that they all want full control of builds worth hundreds of thousands, even millions and we might struggle to feel important.

 

We are planning to be very hands on with this project. I'm a competent DIY'er and can turn my hand to most stuff. We want to use this to push our finished standard above average more than drive costs down below average (although a bit of both would be great!). I think it's an exciting project in terms of flexibility and placement, the plot is around half-an-acre and fairly tucked away. There is a second phase to improve/develop the existing property if we can make it all stack up.

 

My question is, what are architects expecting? I'm basing my budget figures on our current thought process of around 200sq/m and a £1500 per sq/m estimate, though I am hoping to do even better than this. We are planning to project manage it ourselves and will probably be tackling most of the procurement, contractor appointment, plumbing and electrical first-fix at least, the interior fit-out and other aspects as they arise. What we aren't looking for is a 'turnkey' build. I have the scope to make this my full time job if it is advantageous. Are we in a minority or is this a reasonable expectation? We saw an Architect in the first round that appeared to want 10% of the project value for a fully managed build, resulting in a bill I guess of £30,000. Of course we nearly fell over, but are we being short-sighted by dismissing this approach or part of it? That's probably what has made me paranoid.

 

Perhaps you could help me out with some examples of your own projects and the way they were structured in terms of architect costs and proportion of works that were subcontracted. I need some encouragement! Here is an overhead view of what we own (outlined in Red) for a bit of context.

 

Overall_Plot_-_Drone_View.thumb.jpg.89c1a0b65d9d0efb44289da9728de9d1.jpg

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A shame about the architect.  You can sometimes do well looking at your local planning website for new house developments to see who is successful with PP and if you like the style.

 

The plot looks very generous for a single house.  I guess you have looked into splitting it, which could help with the cost of the project?

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34 minutes ago, Mr Punter said:

A shame about the architect.  You can sometimes do well looking at your local planning website for new house developments to see who is successful with PP and if you like the style.

 

The plot looks very generous for a single house.  I guess you have looked into splitting it, which could help with the cost of the project?

 

Sorry, I should have made that a bit clearer, we are looking to end up with 2 properties on the plot. We want to live in the new build, the sell the original, either as it is (liveable) or fully renovated (if we can fund it). It's a smidge over an acre in all.

 

I'll edit the image shortly to show our anticipated split.

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Looking at the plots nearby you could get another  4 on there.

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5 minutes ago, Mr Punter said:

Looking at the plots nearby you could get another  4 on there.

 

Oh don't!! I've been beating myself up over this.

 

We took this on as we had a vision of a beautiful 'forever' home, in a substantial mature plot, which, although close to amenities, is very private.

 

I also can't get out of my head the idea of splitting it up further and finding another plot for us.

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I have a “tainted” view of most architects (not all ) even on tv programs they appear to ignore budgets and customers ideas, don’t get me started!!,! (I designed my own and I am very happy with it).

 

Sure builders would put lots of houses on it to make the most £££ out of it but do with it what you want, especially if you want a forever home 👍.

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Crude drawing, sorry!!

 

This shows where we expect to divide, including the access. Also, our current idea about placement. We're open to suggestions, but that gives us a house at the top of a slight incline with a downhill South/South-West view, depending on final orientation. I expect to face the least amount of objection by building in that part of the plot (the closest 2 neighbours are behind a mature tree/hedge line), plus the new house will be fairly well shielded from the current house by a very tall area of landscaping.

 

 

Overall_Plot_-_Drone_View_2.thumb.jpg.8fc0808acc5d510613cb9b42fe80e9a9.jpg

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The divided plot, as it stands, will be left with a large (70ft) Lime Tree, 2 pairs of quite attractive 60-70ft Scot's Pines, a 50ft Hornbeam (there is a second that might have to go) and a really 'architectural' ancient Red Mulberry, along with mature a Maple and Silver Birch and one or two others.

 

The soil is incredible for gardening, there is lots of wildlife, probably owing largely to the wooded area just seen at the top of the picture, less than 1/4 mile away.

 

But looking at that drone view really does make me think how easy it would be to get 6+ houses on that whole plot!! We could take the money and run!!

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I think orientation is important, when we demolished/built I turned the house through 90’ so the conservatory faced the garden due south, bathrooms etc faced north to drive/garage. Worked very well fir us.

1 minute ago, christianbeccy said:

We could take the money and run!!


yes but could you find another plot like that fir what you could afford. Those trees etc sound wonderful (jealous emoji) I am on clay which is like a bog, years of work to make anything of it( long face emoji).

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We used an Architect. Although we're not finished, overall I'm glad we did as he added a few ideas to our plan that in my opinion look good. We only ever planned to use him to get us through planning and building warrant and then we took it from there. I think your expectations are reasonable, maybe it's just finding the right Architect who's happy to only work up to the Building warrant approval stage? I did what you are thinking of and took a year out from work to try and keep some costs down.

Re costs,  my calculator reckons we paid about 3% of the likely build cost for the architect services.

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We bought our plot with an existing planning permission and initially just wanted to tweak that design. Spoke to the architect who did the design for the planning application and found him defensive (why do you want to change my brilliant design?) and worst of all he enjoyed speaking much more than listening. 
 

We then spoke to a local architectural technician who I found on the MCIAT website who was the polar opposite. He convinced us to put in a new application for a design closer to what we really wanted (which I’m really grateful he did), he listened to our brief carefully and pretty much hit it out the park on his first attempt. We only used him for planning and building regs and cost was about 2.5% of build cost, which is great value. He’s been really helpful through the build offering input and advice to tricky areas - he even came out one Saturday to check something out and give an opinion. I told him to bill me for the time, but he wouldn’t send one.

 

In the end I think it’s about finding someone on your wavelength who you can communicate effectively with. In my view, It doesn’t matter if they are an architect or a architectural technician, as long as they are willing to engage on your terms. Maybe we were just lucky but I definitely think you need to trust your instincts at the first meeting and if you don’t click then sack them off. You may need to kiss a few frogs along the way!

 

 

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Welcome to the world of architects. Some physicists say there are 10 dimensions, I think architects may reside in an 11th.

 

We met with at least 6 architects who then sent us their proposals, all of which bore no resemblance to our budget but did promise us the award winning house. Who was that going to benefit? I wondered. Then there was the arrogance of some who, when I questioned their fee proposal because the numbers really didn't add up in terms of who was going to spend their time on our designs, they replied that in asking such a question we weren't the right client for them and obviously couldn't afford them. We did however, meet 2 on our journey that fell into the ballpark of those we could work with. One whose fee did turned out to be too much on the high side, the other whose fee was very modest and he had a very good eye for design. We couldn't say the same for his ability to produce the construction drawings, however. He really knew how to charm the planners mind you.

 

We also tried to work with an architectural technician and that didn't work at all for us - it cost us a few grand in wasted designs too.

 

I am both livid and delighted we worked with an architect and I still can't work out how that is even possible...

 

The moral of this story is to focus on the working relationship; find someone you like, who gets your design preferences and who you feel you can work with but also be aware that you may not find the one person who can deliver all of it unless they're part of a practice where they've got the designers and techies to match each others' abilities.

 

I found the facility of the 'meet the architect' sessions at the National self-build place in Swindow to be quite helpful, but I don't know if they're running those any more and also ask around as we've since found a whole load of independent architects through the school network that we never found via RIBA search or any other web search for that matter. Take your time if you can, it's worth it.

 

HTH.

 

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I use an architect who is very good at gaining planning consent.  He is not interested in progressing the project any further, unless the clients wants this, as there are others out there who are better and cheaper for this.

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