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Zak S
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I'm finding myself in so-far-reasonable, but still- discussion around those 'gray areas'. My Architect delivered good work overall, but the points of contention I've run into:

 

- They agreed to design a 'high insulation/airtightness' house, yet with their current design there are still some cold bridges and their design featured very thin walls

- They didn't give any details around the tresholds (which is needed to determine airtightness)

 

I've had to tell them to do better on the above points, and I'm a beginner, so as @joth suggested I'll probably have to hire some 3rd party to validate the design, because ha other than a few comments on buildhub I don't know if I've missed any major issues in the house design that will come to haunt me. 

 

So far they haven't been unfair when discussing these points. I did make very sure to say I expect the source design files (DWG, VWX(vectorworks) and they have delivered those. I guess before you commit to a contract, call out as many points as you can explicitly.

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8 hours ago, puntloos said:

 

I've had to tell them to do better on the above points, and I'm a beginner, so as @joth suggested I'll probably have to hire some 3rd party to validate the design, because ha other than a few comments on buildhub I don't know if I've missed any major issues in the house design that will come to haunt me. 

 

On the bridges, If it's any consolation, even when employing a passive house certified designer as architect, I still had to employ a building physics expert to do thermal bridge modelling *and* an independent assessor to review the whole lot and find any missing gaps, so if you're employing a nonspecialist architect it's not surprising you need some extra eyes on this.

Their lack of attention to the better than BR insulation request is disappointing though.

RIBA have been sat on their hands for the last 2 decades, they really should have been pushing the agenda on upskilling architects - so at the very least they know what they don't know and have more ability to flag this to customers and advise them on having specialist input in these areas. 

 

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2 hours ago, joth said:

 

On the bridges, If it's any consolation, even when employing a passive house certified designer as architect, I still had to employ a building physics expert to do thermal bridge modelling *and* an independent assessor to review the whole lot and find any missing gaps, so if you're employing a nonspecialist architect it's not surprising you need some extra eyes on this.

Their lack of attention to the better than BR insulation request is disappointing though.

RIBA have been sat on their hands for the last 2 decades, they really should have been pushing the agenda on upskilling architects - so at the very least they know what they don't know and have more ability to flag this to customers and advise them on having specialist input in these areas. 

 

 

It's good you found some people to help you. I ended up having to learn all about it myself and modify the designs myself to take this kind of thing into consideration. I've come across so many examples now of registered architects not being up to speed on technical detailing required beyong building regs for energy efficiency, which is one area where I remain highly critical of my architect and several others I've met. One architect with whom I discussed efficient wall buildup systems said to me that the industry moved so quickly with these things, they simply don't have the available time to keep up with it - shocking.

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My architect designed us a great house and got us through planning, inc. navigating around an initial refusal.

 

He freely admitted that they had no skill in low energy design, just standard regs.

 

It worked out for us as the house design was fairly traditional (a gable ended cube) and the low energy specialist timber frame company (MBC) took care of all the detailing - however we 'built inwards' from the approved plans so the interior is a fraction smaller than if we'd 'built outwards' from the original floor plans.

 

That said, it was not really an issue - only the single story utility was a squeeze to get a run of standard 600m units in but we managed.

 

Architect was really interested in what we did but said that there was just not enough demand from clients for them to specialise. Most of their work is commercial or domestic extend & refurb - even a whole house 'build from scratch' is a rarity.

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1 hour ago, SimonD said:

One architect with whom I discussed efficient wall buildup systems said to me that the industry moved so quickly with these things, they simply don't have the available time to keep up with it - shocking.

Would these be the wankers that do initial sketches with pencils. And that is only because swan feather quills are harder to come by.

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4 minutes ago, SteamyTea said:

Would these be the wankers that do initial sketches with pencils. And that is only because swan feather quills are harder to come by.

 

 

They are more affectionately known as "House Artists".

 

Would you demand that a 21st century Picasso paint on an Apple laptop!

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5 hours ago, Bitpipe said:

Architect was really interested in what we did but said that there was just not enough demand from clients for them to specialise. Most of their work is commercial or domestic extend & refurb - even a whole house 'build from scratch' is a rarity.

What year was that? We found a night vs day difference in general interest in Passivhaus between starting our planning (Jan 2019) and completion (mid 2021).  The local FB renovation group had never had one mention of passive house (or heat pump) at the start, and no local professional expertise. We were lucky to find and employ an architect fresh out of doing masters in PH design (so ours was her first certified project). But 2 years on, there's a question about low energy houses every other month, and a recent one had 4 people mention they're midway through a PH design using our architect ?

 

But regardless - this is my point: RIBA should at very least have got basics in place so when a customer like you (or @puntloos) come along asking for energy efficiency measures, they could reference a check list of things to discuss, and know how to find specialists to advise on them.

Otherwise you end up with the classic case of people being 3 weeks into the onsite phase and suddenly panic and ask their architect what "sustainability measures" they can add. Cue 2 crap solar panels retrofitted, and an EV charge point.

 

 

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4 hours ago, epsilonGreedy said:

 

Would you demand that a 21st century Picasso paint on an Apple laptop

That is mixing up media and craft skills with artistic skills, and neither are engineering, which house designing is.

Many artistic painters work from photographs. That does not make them IT specialists.

 

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57 minutes ago, SteamyTea said:

That is mixing up media and craft skills with artistic skills, and neither are engineering, which house designing is.

Some Architects are basically artists who prefer shape and form and novelty  to any thought of structure and keeping the weather out.

I know that universities encourage novelty and even teach the students to 'not worry about how it is built. Leave that to the Engineers', which is not only ignorant but also arrogant.

 

Fortunately a decent proportion of those that come out the other end are already, or become, practical and  valuable professionals.

 

If I had to find an architect or Architect then I would depend on references, both in looking for a shortlist and checking up on them after interview.

Tough questions about what is included and very tough questions on keeping to budget.

Insist on some previous clients who you can speak to. Of course they will push the happy ones, so somehow you need to find any others: perhaps a list from which you choose who to contact.  Did it go alright,  and did it come in on budget?

 

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On 30/12/2021 at 16:49, joth said:

What year was that? We found a night vs day difference in general interest in Passivhaus between starting our planning (Jan 2019) and completion (mid 2021).  The local FB renovation group had never had one mention of passive house (or heat pump) at the start, and no local professional expertise. We were lucky to find and employ an architect fresh out of doing masters in PH design (so ours was her first certified project). But 2 years on, there's a question about low energy houses every other month, and a recent one had 4 people mention they're midway through a PH design using our architect ?

 

But regardless - this is my point: RIBA should at very least have got basics in place so when a customer like you (or @puntloos) come along asking for energy efficiency measures, they could reference a check list of things to discuss, and know how to find specialists to advise on them.

Otherwise you end up with the classic case of people being 3 weeks into the onsite phase and suddenly panic and ask their architect what "sustainability measures" they can add. Cue 2 crap solar panels retrofitted, and an EV charge point.

 

 

 

Yes, 2015 so things have moved on but I suspect the majority of architects are still in the same position.

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1 hour ago, Bitpipe said:

 

Yes, 2015 so things have moved on but I suspect the majority of architects are still in the same position.

Yup: this is exactly my point. Interest from the paying customer has moved on significantly, and now the professionals have been caught napping on the job. 

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10 minutes ago, joth said:

the professionals have been caught napping on the job

Takes them over a lifetime to build a cathedral.  Thermal engineering methods, which have been known for 250 years, is probably considered a fad.

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On 30/12/2021 at 12:47, SteamyTea said:

Would these be the wankers that do initial sketches with pencils. And that is only because swan feather quills are harder to come by.

 

 Our architect did everything with paper and pencil, but these were young'uns brought up on newfangled tech called CAD.

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On 27/12/2021 at 14:25, Zak S said:

This firm was the highest in terms of quote. But given he has done quite a few development in the area which is pretty high spec (houses worth 2m or more - some of his design won awards); we thought it might be best to splash out at design stage to get the best possible design. The quotes we had were between 6k and 16k. On 6k - the feedback from previous client was that architect did not add much value. He just drew what we asked him to draw. Mid range was based 70 miles off and had not done any work in th area, I am looking at and was also persuading me to go down SIP route though he also had some good design on his track record. Hence we thought to go with the one we selected who is towards the higher end but keen to get our value for money. I want to ensure that I am aware where Architect can/need to add value to justify the premium. But please say so if this is just way too much to be sensible.

I don’t think it is way too much. If he is award winning, then he is in demand, and if he has direct experience in your area, that is also valuable.

 But I think you need to make sure that the plans he is going to prepare for the tendering stage are really detailed, and clearly show most of the essentials, like build ups of walls and roofs. I found that our tender pack, which comprised 48 pages, was not detailed enough. We just didn’t give the builder all the info for him to quote in full. Much better not to rush the tender docs. Planning on the other hand does not need to be that detailed. So I think of the £15k, I would want a significant chunk allocated to the tender drawings.

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1 hour ago, SimonD said:

 

 Our architect did everything with paper and pencil, but these were young'uns brought up on newfangled tech called CAD.

That’s so they can change the clients name and pass it off as new work and get paid 100% again from the new client, few changes bish bash bosh 

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On 01/01/2022 at 13:41, Adsibob said:

I don’t think it is way too much. If he is award winning, then he is in demand, and if he has direct experience in your area, that is also valuable.

 But I think you need to make sure that the plans he is going to prepare for the tendering stage are really detailed, and clearly show most of the essentials, like build ups of walls and roofs. I found that our tender pack, which comprised 48 pages, was not detailed enough. We just didn’t give the builder all the info for him to quote in full. Much better not to rush the tender docs. Planning on the other hand does not need to be that detailed. So I think of the £15k, I would want a significant chunk allocated to the tender drawings.

Thanks Adsibob. Do you have any tips for me to ensure that plans are compete? What do I need to ensure? I suppose 'detailed' is a bit relative to one's perspective and some one like me need to really understand what that means. Thanks.

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1 hour ago, Zak S said:

Thanks Adsibob. Do you have any tips for me to ensure that plans are compete? What do I need to ensure? I suppose 'detailed' is a bit relative to one's perspective and some one like me need to really understand what that means. Thanks.

Well, the tender drawings really need to show everything if you want comparable quotes. Can’t really be too prescriptive in my advice as I have no idea what you are building and what spec you are going for, but here are some examples of the things you need to cover: What insulation are you using and in what order and thicknesses? The build up of every wall floor and ceiling should be specified, including whether you are using resilient bars. If you are using resilient bars, for example, I would also specify genie clips over standard ones. 

 

And after experiencing a misunderstanding with my builder, i would also specify details such as which type of glue you want for essential things such as chipboard flooring. I specified Egger peel clean flooring, and even though they instructions specified to use Egger glue, my builder used a standard D4 glue initially. Once I spotted this, I insisted he use Egger’s version. It is also D4, but it is expanding D4 glue.

 

What air tightness measures are you implementing? Which tapes and which thicknesses? Primer spray as well?

 

 Electrical drawings and reflected ceiling drawings should also be very detailed showing location of all switches and at least the number and type of of sockets in each room. Where you have non standard features like two or three way lighting your drawings should also specify this.

 

 You should also be really clear as part of your tender pack what you will be supplying materials-wise and what you expect others to supply. 
 

You probably also want to think about glass spec in all glazing. 2G or 3G. Solar control? If so, which type/colour. Safety features of rooflights? PAS24 ?

 

I’m barely scratching the surface…

 

 

 

 

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On 27/12/2021 at 11:14, Zak S said:

Hi. I have engaged architect now for my self build project. We appoint the architect who came at the top of the cost as we liked some of his work. He designed two house on the same street as demolish and rebuild. These are pretty big houses around 450sqm or more. On the basis of his experience with the same council and familiarity of the road as well as the design he has done (some of which award winning), we appointed him. His cost is slightly more than 15k including Buildings regs and tendering. I am pretty hands on with arranging things myself so Measured building survey/topo/bats survey/CCTV drainage survey has all been done so he would not need to do anything even in terms of tendering. Please could you advise how to achieve best value for each pound I spend on planning and design as well as tendering process. Tendering process only makes sense if he organises tenders from sub trades as no point asking for tenders from a builder as I can do that myself so dont see any value in that. Any feed back and thoughts would be greatly appreciated. 

Lots of great views expressed here.

 

For me the test to apply to your design team is this...

 

Ask them where they see the risk to you in the design. That could be on the Architectural side.. say bespoke materials price fluctuations.., the SE.. where is the risk.. is it in the ground or some where else, the folk that are maybe providing services to the plot. Where they are confident that say the doors, windows, roof will perform in the long term and where they are less sure about long term performance.

 

It might sound a bit odd but a good professional will explain to their Client where the risks lie, inform them and let them make their decision. They will also explain / outline how they are going to save you a fair bit of money that will mitigate their fee maybe make it cost neutral!.. but they won't tell you how until you sign on the line.

 

It 's a case of seeing if they are open on honest about the whole design. You too need to accept that if you want something special you'll probably need to take more risk if you want to keep the cost down.

 

In summary just have an open and honest conversation. If you don't hit it off then find someone else, even if their fee is a little higher, in the grand scheme of things a good designer can save you thousands sometime tens of thousands on a self build.

 

Also remember that designers love working with engaged Clients who communicate with them too! often you'll find that they don't bill you for every hour they work and that when you look at it in the round your shopping about has been fine up till now to enable you to get a feel for the cost but has now become counter productive in the relationship?

 

 

 

 

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One thing that plays is that some detail is not worth it to figure out. For example you can have a complete M&E spec laid out, but they are notoriously changeable, so you might pay 3-4000 quid for it, and then that goes out of the window (to a point) once another contractor gets the job and has to do it. Not to mention that the team who built the spec before tendering have an unfair advantage in how sharp they can price their offer whereas other teams still have to guess and buffer for unexpecteds.

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34 minutes ago, puntloos said:

One thing that plays is that some detail is not worth it to figure out.

 

I couldn't agree more. That's where the value comes from in terms of an architect. Ours certainly had his failings but he also made a lot of comments about what to specify and what not to specify that have born out to be absolutely spot on. Many of these comments were also based on his experience that once a customer actually sees the space, then they want and need the flexibility to change the designs and if you've detailed everything too tightly, it'll cost ya.

 

What I do think needs to be detailed very well are the structural scheme and the building envelope.

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Still, @Adsibob and @Gus Potter started a good list. Let us continue:

 

 

16 hours ago, Adsibob said:

- What insulation are you using and in what order and thicknesses? 

- The build up of every wall floor and ceiling

- resilient bars. (specify genie clips over standard ones.)

This is for soundproofing? I'm not even sure what resilient bars are ;)

 

16 hours ago, Adsibob said:

type of glue you want for essential things such as chipboard flooring. I specified Egger peel clean flooring, and even though they instructions specified to use Egger glue, my builder used a standard D4 glue initially. Once I spotted this, I insisted he use Egger’s version. It is also D4, but it is expanding D4 glue.

Why does this matter? Meaning - I get that different products have different specs, so if there's a particular thing you figured out you care about (glueyness!) then sure, make sure you specify it - but not sure if each of us should care about glue ;)

16 hours ago, Adsibob said:

What air tightness measures are you implementing? Which tapes and which thicknesses? Primer spray as well?

It makes sense to have a good idea about the 'heat performance' of your house, but I'm not sure the brand of primer spray needs to be listed for tendering?

 

16 hours ago, Adsibob said:

 

 Electrical drawings and reflected ceiling drawings should also be very detailed showing location of all switches and at least the number and type of of sockets in each room. Where you have non standard features like two or three way lighting your drawings should also specify this.

Why do you think this is needed? Certainly agree everything unusual should probably be listed, but not sure the detail impacts the tendering too much?

 

16 hours ago, Adsibob said:

 You should also be really clear as part of your tender pack what you will be supplying materials-wise and what you expect others to supply. 
 

Why would you want to supply any materials yourself? Are there materials that individuals can get much cheaper than a builder would charge for them? Is there the proverbial "popcorn in the cinema" material that a builder tends to overcharge for? 

 

16 hours ago, Adsibob said:

You probably also want to think about glass spec in all glazing. 2G or 3G. Solar control? If so, which type/colour. Safety features of rooflights? PAS24 ?

Fair, but as said - heating plan.

 

16 hours ago, Gus Potter said:

Ask professionals where they see the risk to you in the design.

 

16 hours ago, Gus Potter said:

Also remember that designers love working with engaged Clients who communicate with them too!

.. ha.. I think I am wearing my team fairly thin with my level of communication frankly. :) - but well I am pretty detail oriented and they perhaps under-quoted initially so they might be close to running a loss. I've been reasonable about this though and have paid for extra hours to a point.

 

16 hours ago, Gus Potter said:

often you'll find that they don't bill you for every hour they work and that when you look at it in the round your shopping about has been fine up till now to enable you to get a feel for the cost but has now become counter productive in the relationship?

 

Can you rephrase that last sentence?

 

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