shetland

getting initial concept ideas from architect

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Brand new member, unable to find a similar post about this but apologies if its there! In a nutshell, I'm asking whether we should be able to get idea/concept sketches or drawings from architects before they are contracted, as in our case, its their ideas for the house that will probably decide who we employ.

 

We are right at the beginning of renovating our house; it has had some ridiculous extensions over the years (which probably need knocking down and replacing) and bizarre alterations inside that just need remedied, but its such an unusual layout and plot that we cannot even begin to come up with ideas on what to do. There must be dozens of different ways to adapt and/or extend the house as there is sizable garden space on 3 sides (not to mention the existing extensions that could be renovated, replaced as-is, or completely destroyed and an entirely new extension layout built).

We decided that in this case, an architect would be required, simply to draw on their experience and visualisation skills/knowledge, and have them give us some ideas on redesign. 

 

this is the brief we have to present to architects.. I imagine its an architects worst nightmare. we have cash funds that will cover any work, and can comfortably remorgage to release more funds if the project was good enough. 

We met three architects in February who came recommended and all said they could come up with some ideas for us, but in fact all we have been sent are outlines of their fee structure. i had thought they would discuss some ideas on how to approach the renovation initially.

Is this the normal way for engaging an architect, that you have to just get a 'feel' for them from their previous work etc and engage them with no idea what they can offer? Should we be able to ask for some ideas first, or do they protect these in case we just take the concepts and use someone else/self design etc? (or are they just not interested in the work and trying to put us off gently?)

can anyone offer some insight, or a better way for us to approach this?!

Many thanks if you can help.

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Unless the project is high value then you are unlikely to get Arch`s competing for the project and willing to put time and effort into concept for free.

You could approach one or two and agree a cost for concept if you decide not to go with them.

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Given the complexity of the situation, I wouldn't expect anything for free (although I'm sure a couple of the 6 or 8 architects we spoke with provides some back-of-a-napkin type sketches with their quotes).

 

It sounds like you have a decent budget, so why not pay each of them to spend half a day thinking and sketching out some really rough ideas for you to consider? I suspect some architects would be quite interested in being paid to do a morning's creative thinking and doodling without having to get too bogged down in details.

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Absolutely not! The real value in what an architect does is the concept stage, outputting planning drawings and warrant drawings is a pretty mechanical process but all the value is created and added at design stage.

We are some times asked to do some initial concept work on bigger jobs but we'll always ask for a fee. Working with people to design their home, is all about trying to understand what the client wants, what their style is etc, what an architect has done previously isn't particularly relevant to your specific situation unless you are approaching architects who you want to deliver something with their specific style which you will fit your lifestyle around.

Why would I spend hours and hours trying to work through concepts for your project in the hope that we might get paid for churning out drawings?

We generally have a first meeting for free to see if it might be a good fit but don't expect anyone to give the ideas away for free, that's the one unique thing every designer has.

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29 minutes ago, the_r_sole said:

Absolutely not! The real value in what an architect does is the concept stage, outputting planning drawings and warrant drawings is a pretty mechanical process but all the value is created and added at design stage.

We are some times asked to do some initial concept work on bigger jobs but we'll always ask for a fee. Working with people to design their home, is all about trying to understand what the client wants, what their style is etc, what an architect has done previously isn't particularly relevant to your specific situation unless you are approaching architects who you want to deliver something with their specific style which you will fit your lifestyle around.

Why would I spend hours and hours trying to work through concepts for your project in the hope that we might get paid for churning out drawings?

We generally have a first meeting for free to see if it might be a good fit but don't expect anyone to give the ideas away for free, that's the one unique thing every designer has.

Yep nothing is free

You can’t even get a kitchen sketch from Wickes without placing an order first 

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Many thanks for the insights.. its really helping to pinpoint the problems. 

 

I'm realising that concept sketches or drawings were the wrong words to use.. (in my field, any concept sketch is just hand-drawn in the meeting to give the client a visual as we talk). To be clear, I am not wanting anything that involves days of work!

 

 When i said 'concept sketches' I was thinking back-of-the-envolope scribbles with a 5 minute discussion, giving very broad strokes about what might work, what their initial instinct is to do. 

 

 "perhaps we could open ~that~ wall and build ~this~ here." that sort of discussion.  I hear of friends who chose their architects on them 'having such  clever ideas for the ground floor layout' etc.. so this seemed like the normal way to proceed. (one of the architects we met was specifically recommended to us because of his clever solutions to a problem).

 

If you were in my shoes, how would you decide between architects? I'm not giving them a design brief, i have a design problem and I'm requiring some idea that their skill will produce a good solution. should i be asking for a  5 minute broad-strokes concept,  or is the only answer to buy a half day of jottings?

 

thanks again!

 

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5 minutes ago, shetland said:

...

If you were in my shoes, how would you decide between architects?

...

 

  • Is an architect appropriate at this stage of your project? Will a Planning Consultant do?
  • Do you have to brief an architect? Will an Architectural Technician do?
  • Consider doing some of the designing yourself or perhaps a CAD Technician
  • Is an architect working for a house manufacturer appropriate for your build?
  • Research suitable architects: websites, relevant journals
  • Make a long-list of possible companies
  • Check each architects credentials here
  • Is the architect bankrupt?
  • Check the architects Indemnity Insurance
  • Make initial contact; listen
  • Ask for examples of existing work; visit / drive by
  • Company brochure
  • Work up a brief.
  • Consider budget and don’t forget VAT
  • Will the architect of choice actually do the work?
  • Does ecology come into the mix somewhere? Time scales.
  • Refine your brief, and write up. One side of A5.
  • Send it to the architect in advance of your meeting
  • List the questions you want to ask, and refer to the list during the meeting
  • Meeting: has the architect read the brief?
  • Does the architect listen?
  • Is the architect merely an “Educated Artist”?
  • What does the architect think of as the scope of his / her work?
  • Clarity about Extras and Incidentals
  • Does the chemistry work?
  • Ask for references.
  • Visit / ring/ talk to them
  • Decide

 

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1 minute ago, shetland said:

Many thanks for the insights.. its really helping to pinpoint the problems. 

 

I'm realising that concept sketches or drawings were the wrong words to use.. (in my field, any concept sketch is just hand-drawn in the meeting to give the client a visual as we talk). To be clear, I am not wanting anything that involves days of work!

 

 When i said 'concept sketches' I was thinking back-of-the-envolope scribbles with a 5 minute discussion, giving very broad strokes about what might work, what their initial instinct is to do. 

 

 "perhaps we could open ~that~ wall and build ~this~ here." that sort of discussion.  I hear of friends who chose their architects on them 'having such  clever ideas for the ground floor layout' etc.. so this seemed like the normal way to proceed. (one of the architects we met was specifically recommended to us because of his clever solutions to a problem).

 

If you were in my shoes, how would you decide between architects? I'm not giving them a design brief, i have a design problem and I'm requiring some idea that their skill will produce a good solution. should i be asking for a  5 minute broad-strokes concept,  or is the only answer to buy a half day of jottings?

 

thanks again!

 

 

that's what a concept sketch is for an architect too - but it's where all the skill is, I can knock out a sketch in 5 mins but that's because of the years of experience i have behind me working on hundreds of projects, that's what you're paying for, the ability of the architect to interpret your desires into a built form - when I have initial conversations with clients I'll talk around the options, where you might look at alterations etc but they're essentially thinking out loud.

 

You're asking architects to give your their thoughts on the a design so you can decide whether to give them a job or not. I spend hours and hours with clients at the start of a job before any drawing is done, asking them questions and understanding what they want from us, surveying the buildings/site etc all of that needs to be done before you can anything meaningful at all. If you want ideas you should commission a measured survey and provide it to some architects and pay them for their time - people seem to forget that there's a huge amount of thinking time away from drawings to get ideas out, the more skilful you are, the quicker that should be but it's YOUR home - so asking someone to chuck an idea out without spending any time on it, not spending ay time asking you questions and somehow hoping that it might suit YOUR exact needs is a very flawed approach

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10 minutes ago, the_r_sole said:

... not spending ay time asking you questions and somehow hoping that it might suit YOUR exact needs is a very flawed approach

 

Guesswork, in fact.

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1 hour ago, shetland said:

Many thanks for the insights.. its really helping to pinpoint the problems. 

 

I'm realising that concept sketches or drawings were the wrong words to use.. (in my field, any concept sketch is just hand-drawn in the meeting to give the client a visual as we talk). To be clear, I am not wanting anything that involves days of work!

 

 When i said 'concept sketches' I was thinking back-of-the-envolope scribbles with a 5 minute discussion, giving very broad strokes about what might work, what their initial instinct is to do. 

 

 "perhaps we could open ~that~ wall and build ~this~ here." that sort of discussion.  I hear of friends who chose their architects on them 'having such  clever ideas for the ground floor layout' etc.. so this seemed like the normal way to proceed. (one of the architects we met was specifically recommended to us because of his clever solutions to a problem).

 

If you were in my shoes, how would you decide between architects? I'm not giving them a design brief, i have a design problem and I'm requiring some idea that their skill will produce a good solution. should i be asking for a  5 minute broad-strokes concept,  or is the only answer to buy a half day of jottings?

 

thanks again!

 

 

We found that most architects would give an initial hour or so to come to site, have an initial chat about what you think you want to achieve and get a feel for the project. Some would do a few thumbnail sketches of options to illustrate their thinking but nothing really usable  - indeed, we found some years later and could not even recall what they were trying to say.

 

It was clear that this was a speed date and if there was 'chemistry' then to progress to concept sketches, they would need to be retained and we would be charged for the next stage including acquiring the local survey 'tile' (i.e. the formal to scale drawing of what was currently on site) and overlay this with a few scheme ideas and then choose one to take further to elevations, floor layouts, dimensions etc.

 

The next fee stage was commissioning a proper site survey  and moving to a formal cad representation with associated design statements, traffic input etc to conclude with a planning submission.

 

Thereafter is was construction drawings and tender management but at that point we parted company on good terms and did our own PM.  

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I think if you have a shortlist of, say, 3 architects and their overall hourly rates look acceptable it may be worth asking each of them to spend 1.5 hours on a rough sketch proposal and paying them at their hourly rate to do so.

 

You will need to give them a short brief saying what you want to achieve, together with some existing plans.

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Posted (edited)

Many architects participate in a "Architect in the house" charity scheme with association with RIBA. I think it is normally in Autumn every year, but someone may have better up-to-date info.

 

For £40( ?)  gift to the designated charity, participating architects give 1 hours free consultation. The participating architects get booked up fairly quickly....SWMBO and  I  used this scheme many years ago for getting some ideas for an extension that we could not get our heads around. The architect suggested and sketched a very good option and we engaged him to get the scheme through planning. We were very happy with the outcome

 

It's worth following up if it fits with your timescales and there are local architects participating in your area.

 

 

Edited by HerbJ

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27 minutes ago, HerbJ said:

Many architects participate in a "Architect in the house" charity scheme with association with RIBA. I think it is normally in Autumn every year, but someone may have better up-to-date info.

I used that scheme for my initial designs but that was eleven to twelve years ago, don't know if they still do it.

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17 hours ago, Bitpipe said:

....

It was clear that this was a speed date and if there was 'chemistry' then to progress to (censored)

...

I had you down as a clean livin' kinda guy. Jus' shows how wrong I can be.  

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