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Which architect alternative and any recommendations in Oxfordshire please?


Moore House
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Hi guys,

 

I am currently exploring the various options for the architectural phase of my project and don't think I need an architect.

I'm thinking an architectural technologist may be my best bet but also read that architectural technicians / building Surveyors / draughtsman are other options.

I've attached a very basic idea for the kind of layout I'm thinking of (I have no architectural skills)
And also, a document of current thoughts based on my research so far.

Which professional would be most appropriate and does anyone have any recommendations in Oxfordshire please?

 

Thanks,

Chris.

Floor Plan.png

Build Decisions.txt

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Hi, welcome!

 

Can I suggest you consider talking to an architect anyway?

I make the point not to start the usual arid discussion / bun fight / slagging match about educated artists and over-charging leeches (commonly used epithets for architects here).  My suggestion is about the  bit of logic which runs thus;

  • Know why you are not doing what you might reasonably be expected to 

Honestly and thoroughly following that process will give you more confidence in your eventual decision. Start with - I'm not going to do this for reasons I dont want to explain'  means that you could well spend  the rest of your life with a little niggle .... I wonder what an architect would have suggested here?

 

These days, archtects do not need to be local. Ours works both a few miles away and several hundred miles away. In both cases, we WhatsApp, email Chat. For knowledge-work, location is increasingly irrelevant.

 

Good luck

Ian

Edited by ToughButterCup
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Hi Ian

 

Thank you for your reply.

I haven't completely ruled out using an architect but I just don't think I need one. I didn't explain the reason in my first post.

I am very much a function over form person, which is why an architectural technologist appears to make most sense (not that either would ignore function or form).

I hadn't considered that location isn't important but that's very true - thank you.

 

Chris.

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+ 1  @ToughButterCup's suggestion. If there is one thing I've learned about architects over the last few years is that they do tend to learn an eye for design. What I mean by that is proportions and relations between elements of a building which often subtle are nevertheless important in the end result. Many, although not all, will also have a good sense of how space functions and thus how to take that into consideration in the design too. I grew to despise my architect, and thus the rest of the field, at one point in the project, but I now have to say that many of the things he drew into our plans, as well as his suggestions have come to pass as absolutely spot on - I merely didn't understand, or couldn't see/imagine what he was on about at the time. One specific example is that I had another architect visit to look at our build who remarked that the building hasn't closed in as we've completed the fabric. She said most buildings feel much smaller once you close it up, but our doesn't somehow. Similarly, as we've added all our partition walls, the space actually feels much bigger that when it was open so we've got an additional sense of space. All the room proportions work perfectly for what they need to do - this is entirely of our architects design.

 

Also, don't close down your decisions right now in terms of fit out. E.g. luxury vinyl tiles are not necessarily cheap from high end suppliers like Harvey Maria - and with flooring, cheap usually means cheap - but you might find that as you move through the build and see the construction in reality, you'll want to deviate from those decisions. A decent architect may be able to guide you better at the outset.

 

Edited by SimonD
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57 minutes ago, Moore House said:

I'm thinking an architectural technologist

Several people on here have used an architectural technician. They seem to be the people that understand all the rules and regs.

 

46 minutes ago, ToughButterCup said:

slagging match about educated artists and over-charging leeches (commonly used epithets for architects here).

At least they are not irritating little farts.

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I love this debate ? if an architect isn't giving you a functional space there's something very wrong! We have recently taken over a couple of jobs from AT's where the client "knows what they want" so decided not to employ us to do the "expensive" design stage... they've now come back after paying an AT to draw up what they thought they wanted and then realised that they've missed a massive opportunity to make the most of the jobs

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2 hours ago, Moore House said:

Hi guys,

 

I am currently exploring the various options for the architectural phase of my project and don't think I need an architect.

I'm thinking an architectural technologist may be my best bet but also read that architectural technicians / building Surveyors / draughtsman are other options.

I've attached a very basic idea for the kind of layout I'm thinking of (I have no architectural skills)
And also, a document of current thoughts based on my research so far.

Which professional would be most appropriate and does anyone have any recommendations in Oxfordshire please?

 

Thanks,

Chris.

 

Build Decisions.txt 1.47 kB · 3 downloads

 

Chris

 

I can suggest an architectural technologist/part trained architect who can help.  He live in Bicester.

 

 

Adrian

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Hi guys

 

Thank you for all your replies.

Definitely good to get everyone's knowledge and opinions.

I am not wedded to any of the decisions in the doc I attached - these are just my current thoughts based on my research so far.

I'm still going through all my options for everything right now. I was thinking of using one company to do the architectural work and then build to weathertight or full turnkey but now I'm thinking that maybe separating out the design phase would be best. I won't be starting just yet (probably late next year) so plenty of time to research everything.

Adrian Walker - yes that would be great. Do they have a website / contact email?

 

Regards,

Chris.

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See with your attached doc, you haven't mentioned anything at all about the quality of the space you want - I think you would benefit greatly from speaking to someone who has an eye for design, looking at daylight on the site and most of all having some JOY in your home!  

I know everyone is fixated on the floor area, spec of windows and the number of sockets they have etc but when you have the opportunity to build your own house add something that brings you a wee bit of joy when you get home!

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2 hours ago, SimonD said:

...

I grew to despise my architect, and thus the rest of the field, at one point in the project, but I now have to say that many of the things he drew into our plans, as well as his suggestions have come to pass as absolutely spot on - I merely didn't understand, or couldn't see/imagine what he was on about at the time.

...

 

Takes guts to admit that. Respect.

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We've got an architect's bill approaching the cost of a posh car, however - what they have brought to our house from a design, flare, eye for detail, suggestions & then builder recommendations has made their value for money a total no brainer!

 

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Hi guys

 

Thank you for all your replies.

I think it makes sense to have an initial meeting with various professional professionals and go from there.

For people who found value in architects, what specifically did they change / suggest and how did they add value?

It would also be helpful to hear from people that didn't go with architects and were happy with that decision.

 

Thanks,

Chris.

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17 hours ago, Moore House said:

For people who found value in architects, what specifically did they change / suggest and how did they add value?

 

We initially employed an Architectural Technologist who presented a number of design suggestions, none of them worked for us as they were very unimaginative. None of the ideas would provide us with the functional family space that also gave us a design that inspired us as a place we wanted to be in and spend the money developing. Because we were starting off with a bungalow, all the AT did was set in his mind we needed a loft extension. We live in an area where the planners are very particular because of its world heritage status and Georgian architecture and this AT was just too worried about the planners.

 

We sacked the AT after a very frustrating 6 months of messing around with ideas only to meet with an architect who within a week sent a scanned sketch of his proposed design that would transform the house in exactly the way we wanted, giving us a full two storey house with loads of space. Then we discussed the planners and he listed all the design elements he would add to the planning application that would distract the planners enough to ask for changes to the application that wouldn't impact our designs very much, if at all. And because he understood the nature of the local architecture, he was able to talk with the planners to explain how our design incorporated influences from the historical nature of the city in such a way as to complement existing architecture. Our application did go to planning committee but he presented at that committee and the application flew through.

 

From a design perspective, our architect got it spot on and he suggested ways in which we could use the landscape to enhance the house. We are on a fairly steep slope and he designed the house upside down so that we have a bridge going from the living area straight to the level of back garden, for example. The design also fully takes advantage of the views we have over the valley, which the AT never even considered. So the architect considered the context of the design. One very interesting thing I noticed recently was that the asymmetrical design of the house means that the windows follow the shape of the landscapoe they're looking out on - which makes the space much better to be in.

 

Design wise, I wouldn't hesitate to use an architect again. From a technical detailing perspective, however, he was incredibly frustrating, but if you use an architectural practice, you should be able to get someone onto the detailing.

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Thanks for your detailed reply Simon. So what your saying is that (in your particular case - hard to generalise too much I guess) the architect was most helpful in the initial creative phases.

So I guess at least the schematic design and part of the design development phases - still getting my head around the process :-)

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We had an architect for the design then an AT in the same practice for the technical aspects and the contract administration. Both were good at what they do and we’re happy with their end of things.

 

AT was particularly good on calling bullshit on some of the things that the builder wanted to do that I would maybe not have picked up on. Not cheap but I would do the same thing again if I were ever insane enough to attempt another build.

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We've had an architect so far to take us through to applying for planning permission. I thought I had a very good idea of what I wanted beforehand, but they've given us something both much better and significantly cheaper to build than what I had in mind - with my estimate of the reduction in build costs being 4-5x what we've paid them so far.

 

As a more general note, your specification so far seems very hurried and inconsistent. For example, you're talking about using a flat roof to reduce cost, and then a few lines lower about using a GSHP with borehole for heating. Boreholes are seriously expensive, while pitched roofs aren't all that much more expensive than flat - so from a value engineering point of view you don't seem to have given it a huge amount of thought which might give you problems later if you try to get someone just to draw up what you want.

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4 hours ago, Moore House said:

Thanks Ralph, yeah that combination makes a lot of sense to me in my head.

"insane enough to attempt another build" - love it ?

So does that mean the AT also project managed? Or was just involved in the decisions made before the build started? 

Not so much project management but a lot of advice. The management of the contract meant that when the builder would invoice for a phase the AT would inspect and sign off that x amount of work had been done.

He also tended to know most of the trades in the area and who had a good or bad rep.

 

I also think the point above about value engineer is a good one. The architect and AT continually pushed back on us when we suggest things, trying to keep us on budget.

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Thanks both.

Good to know about the GSHP. I don't think trench will be an option because of space. I hadn't really looked in too much detail about GSHP vs ASHP in particular. The flat roof seemed like a no brainer as it sounded cheaper plus I prefer the look of them but definitely need to research this and everything else more.

I've learnt so much from the replies to this post so far so thank you everyone!

I have contacted various professionals so far and need to sift through all the replies and create a shortlist ? .

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21 hours ago, Moore House said:

Thanks for your detailed reply Simon. So what your saying is that (in your particular case - hard to generalise too much I guess) the architect was most helpful in the initial creative phases.

So I guess at least the schematic design and part of the design development phases - still getting my head around the process ?

 

Yes, pretty much, but there are also other benefits. Having an architect talk to suppliers and manufacturers means you get an answer. E.g we have an unusual 1st floor design with 2 sections of curved roof. We could get quotations to decide on the structure - e.g. steel frame/glulam frame/hybrid steel frame plus glulam - via architect whereas these companies simply wouldn't talk to us as self-builders. This may be the same with an AT, I don't know but there does seem to be a difference with companies when dealing with an architecture practice.

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I’m currently finding/commissioning an architect to get my own self-build project underway. A couple of thoughts based on my experiences so far.


As well as web searches and word of mouth, I used my local planning authority’s website extensively to track down which local architects have been used for detached new builds in my area. Searching through applications was a bit of work. But it gave me a feel for which local practices were consistently successful and which kept getting planning applications refused. It also gave me an eye for which types of designs I liked and which architects were doing these. From this search, I found three local practises that I liked and whose drawing work and planning submissions I had already been able to scrutinise. One of the local practises is actually a surveyor with zero architectural training as far as I can tell! Though they have dozens of successful planning applications for new builds they have drawn themselves. Personally, I feel more confident with a fully qualified architect leading my design work. Though having said that, my research on the planning applications identified many qualified and RIBA certified architects putting out pretty average designs that got refused.

 

Of the three local architects I found, all were very happy to make site visits (the advantage of being local) and give an initial appraisal and quote for next steps. Two did this for free and another invoiced me for 2 hours work. I’m aiming for a modest 2-3bed detached house and one thing that surprised me was the range of prices in taking me up to the planning stage for such a project. 5k cheapest - 15k most expensive (excluding surveying).

 

Personally, I’m still unsure whether to commission an architect to design me something bespoke or whether to use a turnkey design/supply/build company. Though every bit of research I do definitely provides peace of mind such that when I do finally decide, I’ll be sure it’s the best route for me! So, I would highly recommend to keep going with your research into all aspects of design, planning and construction. Also, the more knowledge I gather, the more I’m able to query what professionals are telling me, or see when a quote is out of line. For example, I’ve gone and got quotes for all survey work independently, which allowed me to push back on initial quotes for topological survey and drawings from a prospective architect.

 

Another comment. Don’t underestimate how much time it might take you to get from initial ideas and finding an architect, through to getting planning, finding a main contractor, getting hold of materials, dealing with mishaps on site etc. I started my planning in earnest September this year and have already pushed back my target for break-ground by 6 months based on the advice I've recieved so far.... My favoured architect, for example, isn’t available until summer next year!

 

A random tip. Try googling “Bolero Gardens graven hill”. The architects that did that build look good. And I think are in your area.

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