CharlieKLP

What do you want from an architect?

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I am a qualified architect and I’d like to design houses for self-builders. I currently work for a firm but I want to work for people freelance as my own company.

 

I am just curious what people like yourselves want from someone like me. What help do you need and how would you find an architect, would you consider a freelance architect?

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Someone who picks up the phone when I call 

 

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Some of us have low opinions of Architects.  Nothing personal but here is my reason.

 

When stating on our first self build I had a pretty good idea of what we wanted sketched out so I approached some architects.  What I got back was quotes based on astromomical figures.  they both wanted to charge a fixed percentage of the estimated build costs and both managed to estimate the build cost at roughly double what it actually turned out to be and neither would negotiate.

 

All I wanted was someone to do some design work and produce drawings and I was looking for a fair fee based on an acceptable hourly rate and hours actually worked.

 

That sorry experience means I have never spoken to an architect since.  It would be good to hear that things have moved on since then (nearly 20 years ago)

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1 minute ago, ProDave said:

opinions of Architects

They vary as much as builders, and electricians.

 

Capital A:    They are taught to be artists, and discouraged from practicality.

 

Some are very disappointed to be living off extension work and hoping for the project that will make their name.

Many are perfectly good.

Some are a pleasure to work with and team players.

 

Only 10% have the faintest idea of value for money.

 

They nearly all accept any project offered, regardless of skill-set.

 

Like any career....some people are simply very good and provide good value..others may take longer and get it wrong, and want to charge for their time.

 

References, interviews, and trust....although they will never, ever accept responsibility for cost changes.

 

As a newby you won't have   a portfolio so must find some other way of getting business.

That means taking small projects at stupidly low fees, and working up.

In a lot of cases you will have to accept that you are getting planning, and then others will take over, and change it.

 

You must set out your USP, whatever that may be.

 

btw if you are qualified, you should use Capital A. 

One thing I am jealous of.

 

In fairness I should say that I am not the average amateur self-builder, so you need some more from them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I think as a self builder You need to realize that Architects are not builders They don’t have a team of trades waiting in the wings 

They are there to do a design The technical side is usually done by others 

Architects earn there corn when you hit planning difficulties 

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13 minutes ago, nod said:

Architects earn there corn when you hit planning difficulties

Completely agree with this. Our architect was very helpful in navigating the local council planning officers and managed to work their way through potential objections.

 

I think the key skill an architect should have is working out what the client wants and having the confidence to say no when it’s not a match.

 

I also endorse the comment that architects do not understand costs. A QS would be a great member of the team, but it seldom seems to work that way. We out designs to the QS who costed them, but between the architect and QS were unable to advise when the design was over budget. They both seemed clueless on how to bring everything in on budget.

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1. Design within the clients budget. 

2. Transparent fees. 

3. Understand passivhaus. ( thermal bridging, overheating, airtightness etc etc etc)

4. Prioritise practicality over fashion. 

5. Build not only for the clients now but also for old age disabled access, children etc. 

6. Bring a sense of delight and joy to the design.

7. Excellent project management skills. 

8. A little black book with the contacts of any reputable individual you might require. 

9. An ability to mindread the planners and design appropriately. 

10. Be contactable. 

11. Be timely with drawings, requests etc.

12. Bill promptly. 

13. Top interpersonal skills.

 

 

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1 hour ago, saveasteading said:

They vary as much as builders, and electricians.

 

Capital A:    They are taught to be artists, and discouraged from practicality.

 

Some are very disappointed to be living off extension work and hoping for the project that will make their name.

Many are perfectly good.

Some are a pleasure to work with and team players.

 

Only 10% have the faintest idea of value for money.

 

They nearly all accept any project offered, regardless of skill-set.

 

Like any career....some people are simply very good and provide good value..others may take longer and get it wrong, and want to charge for their time.

 

References, interviews, and trust....although they will never, ever accept responsibility for cost changes.

 

As a newby you won't have   a portfolio so must find some other way of getting business.

That means taking small projects at stupidly low fees, and working up.

In a lot of cases you will have to accept that you are getting planning, and then others will take over, and change it.

 

You must set out your USP, whatever that may be.

 

btw if you are qualified, you should use Capital A. 

One thing I am jealous of.

 

In fairness I should say that I am not the average amateur self-builder, so you need some more from them.

 

 

 

 

 

 


I have a decent portfolio, I’ve been designing houses for 20 years now, I’ve even been on Grand Designs. My customers give me good feedback.

I was thinking of charging 5k for a design for planning. Does that sound too low or too high? With that I could cover my insurance and start up fee in one job. I don’t fancy charging by the hour or percentage of the build cost.


I don’t really like doing building regulation work or costing. I’m quite practical but I don’t like designing ugly houses obviously. I don’t want to be project managing, unless people pay extra. 

 

how are you not an average self builder?

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29 minutes ago, Iceverge said:

1. Design within the clients budget. 

2. Transparent fees. 

3. Understand passivhaus. ( thermal bridging, overheating, airtightness etc etc etc)

4. Prioritise practicality over fashion. 

5. Build not only for the clients now but also for old age disabled access, children etc. 

6. Bring a sense of delight and joy to the design.

7. Excellent project management skills. 

8. A little black book with the contacts of any reputable individual you might require. 

9. An ability to mindread the planners and design appropriately. 

10. Be contactable. 

11. Be timely with drawings, requests etc.

12. Bill promptly. 

13. Top interpersonal skills.

 

 

If you want someone to prioritise practicality over design, why would you go with an architect? Not being rude, I just wonder what you mean by that as it doesn’t make sense. For me an architect adds value by creating something attractive that works, a technician would prioritise practicality, as in be technical and cheap.

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1 hour ago, saveasteading said:

They are taught to be artists, and discouraged from practicality.

That is my view as well.  Some self builders, like myself, know exactly what they want, know how to do it so don’t need an architect, I employed one purely to convert my pencil drawings into CAD for the planning application but he even got that wrong. Others need the “artistic touch” and that’s what architects do. On television they tend to get budgets so wrong it’s frightening.

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A lot on here (including me) have gone with an architectural technician.  For what most self builders need, they seem to offer a better service.

 

In my case I had a plot with OPP and a pretty good idea of what I wanted.  The AT took that design to something actually buildable that would pass building regs, produced all the drawings and in conjunction with a structural engineer all the details and calculations required for building control.  That gave me a building warrant and a COMPLETE set of drawings to build the house all for a reasonable fee that seemed to be based on the amount of actual work done not some notional value of what the house was worth.  That set of drawings was given to the builder to build it.

 

As I said in my first reply, it was the simple inability to get that package of work at a sensible cost from an architect that put me right off them.  Perhaps they don't want "simple" tasks like that?  Perhaps all they are interested in is managing a complete project, putting the build out to tender and delivering a turn key solution to the client.  But I suspect that is not what a lot of self builders want?

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26 minutes ago, CharlieKLP said:

If you want someone to prioritise practicality over design, why would you go with an architect? Not being rude, I just wonder what you mean by that as it doesn’t make sense. For me an architect adds value by creating something attractive that works, a technician would prioritise practicality, as in be technical and cheap.

 

Sorry, perhaps you missed my meaning a little. 

 

57 minutes ago, Iceverge said:

4. Prioritise practicality over fashion. 

 

A top class Architect will envisage a building not only to be visually sympathetic but also as burden free as possible on the occupants.

 

For example they will have the insight and experience to not only place a window in a location that brings beauty within and without, but also ensure that it can be cleaned without undue duress. 

 

Some architect tech's I've seen have great skill in this. However it's not the core of their role or training.  

 

Edited by Iceverge

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btw if you are qualified, you should use Capital A. 

One thing I am jealous of.

 

@saveasteadingWhat are you jealous of?

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35 minutes ago, CharlieKLP said:

I was thinking of charging 5k for a design for planning.

Seems a bit on the high side unless you are providing an exceptional design proposal.


I don’t really like doing building regulation work or costing.

A pity - I’m a great believer in being able to design and prepare construction drawings and do both - I can design something that can be built . Costings are a different story and would always get a QS involved from the start if the budget was critical and where a budget was set.

 

 I don’t want to be project managing, unless people pay extra.

I agree that this should be an optional service and should be budgeted separately.

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27 minutes ago, Iceverge said:

 

Sorry, perhaps you missed my meaning a little. 

 

 

A top class Architect will envisage a building not only to be visually sympathetic but also as burden free as possible on the occupants.

 

For example they will have the insight and experience to not only place a window in a location that brings beauty within and without, but also ensure that it can be cleaned without undue duress. 

 

Some architect tech's I've seen have great skill in this. However it's not the core of their role or training.  

 

I did, sorry! I understand now I think.
 

I would hope even a pretty bad architect would do that! Yes I see what you mean now, practicality as in how to maintain the property. 
 

It’s been quite rare for me to see an architectural technician who thought about how people used the building, they seem to be really good at understanding how to make something work technically, but they seem to not really care too much about how people live in spaces. It’s a fantastic thing to find someone who can do it all.
 

I was just really wondering when I asked this, do people want architects to design them ‘nice’ houses, because a lot of self builders I meet seem to want to design their own houses and don’t care if they look bad and don’t have sensible sized rooms.

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Do you think as self builders, you should be taking charge of things yourselves, ie, your budget? 
 

if you tell an architect you want to spend x per m2, then they work to that, is that enough or do you want an architect to be costing everything for you?

 

do you want 3Ds

 

Would you like the architect to be designing the house for you, or drawing up your design and advising whether it will get planning or not?

 

do you need construction drawings from the architect?

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I think it is a shame that many on here have had a bad experience of using architects. There are good and bad architects as well as good and bad architectural technicians and I have met, worked with, been employed by and assessed both. In my experience many - architects and architectural technician s are arrogant, ignorant and wouldn’t know how to draw a straight line with a ruler.

 

However, there are many very good architects who will actually listen to their clients and will design something that they want and within a budget that can be built. I recently experienced the design of foundations on site having to be changed from strip foundations to mini piles because the “architect” didn’t survey the site properly and didn’t see the 3m deep manhole and drainage run just outside the back door of an existing house where an extension was to be placed.

 

As an architect (A) I would always listen to any client and come up with something they want - not something I think they want - and I would always make design suggestions making the process a collaboration between designer and client.

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1 minute ago, ETC said:

I think it is a shame that many on here have had a bad experience of using architects. There are good and bad architects as well as good and bad architectural technicians and I have met, worked with, been employed by and assessed both. In my experience many - architects and architectural technician s are arrogant, ignorant and wouldn’t know how to draw a straight line with a ruler.

 

However, there are many very good architects who will actually listen to their clients and will design something that they want and within a budget that can be built. I recently experienced the design of foundations on site having to be changed from strip foundations to mini piles because the “architect” didn’t survey the site properly and didn’t see the 3m deep manhole and drainage run just outside the back door of an existing house where an extension was to be placed.

 

As an architect (A) I would always listen to any client and come up with something they want - not something I think they want - and I would always make design suggestions making the process a collaboration between designer and client.

I would always get the customer to employ a surveyor, would someone really employ an architect to survey a site? That seems like something outside their skill set. 

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It’s been quite rare for me to see an architectural technician who thought about how people used the building, they seem to be really good at understanding how to make something work technically, but they seem to not really care too much about how people live in spaces. It’s a fantastic thing to find someone who can do it all.
 

In my opinion an architect (A) should be able to come up with a good design and do the construction drawings. I see so many drawings and have been on so many sites where the houses have tiny rooms that can’t accommodate proper furniture. What ever happened to planning out a room with furniture?

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Just now, CharlieKLP said:

I would always get the customer to employ a surveyor, would someone really employ an architect to survey a site? That seems like something outside their skill set. 

It’s not hard to locate a manhole on a site plan in relation to an existing house or to lift the manhole cover and measure the depth.

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1 minute ago, ETC said:

It’s not hard to locate a manhole on a site plan in relation to an existing house or to lift the manhole cover and measure the depth.

That sounds like I’d have to get dirt on my beautiful artists hands 😁

 

 

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6 minutes ago, CharlieKLP said:
Just now, CharlieKLP said:

That sounds like I’d have to get dirt on my beautiful artists hands 😁

 

 

Lol…..

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2 hours ago, Iceverge said:

1. Design within the clients budget. 

2. Transparent fees. 

3. Understand passivhaus. ( thermal bridging, overheating, airtightness etc etc etc)

4. Prioritise practicality over fashion. 

5. Build not only for the clients now but also for old age disabled access, children etc. 

6. Bring a sense of delight and joy to the design.

7. Excellent project management skills. 

8. A little black book with the contacts of any reputable individual you might require. 

9. An ability to mindread the planners and design appropriately. 

10. Be contactable. 

11. Be timely with drawings, requests etc.

12. Bill promptly. 

13. Top interpersonal skills.

 

 

Wonderful list by the way, thanks for your insight.

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2 hours ago, ETC said:

btw if you are qualified, you should use Capital A. 

One thing I am jealous of.

 

@saveasteadingWhat are you jealous of?

Anyone who calls themselves an architect with big or small A gets in trouble. Hence 'Architectural' .

 

But the term Engineer is not protected, and neither is Civil Engineer which groundworkers like to call themselves, or Mechanical Engineer etc.  

It does not help in having the public understand what the profession is or does, hence lost of people think Architects design bridges and dams, and power stations etc.

That's all.

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1 hour ago, ETC said:

That seems like something outside their skill set. 

Exactly.

I have had to help many an otherwise respected Architect to measure on site. It is sums, and some geometry.

Using a base line, triangulating, measuring past obstructions.....should be in year 1 at architect school.

 

Similarly getting in other consultants for quantities, contracts, trees, wildlife, and so on, at client's expense. 

With a little knowledge of each they are often avoided.

I had one tender where I was asked how to half the expected cost...and could, but there were 10 consultants resisting any change with being a 'hard landscape architect' (that was some paving slabs and some blocks). Basically all mates of the original architect who had put in too low a quote.

The school had to find another million.

 

So some more tips there. Learn more about that stuff and do the lot, within reason.

Individual housing is easy to measure.

 

Oh and be seriously good at mental arithmetic so you can work out approx quants on site. 190m2 at guide price £1900/m2 is about.......

That will really be a USP.

 

 

That isn't meant to sound mean. I love working with a good Architect, with me insisting that we have to be practical and him calling me a philistine, but coming to a solution better than either of us would have found alone.

Edited by saveasteading

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