Top 5 problems when hiring an architect and solutions
If you are in the process of thinking about engaging an architect and are in the midst of doing your research on this, it is an important first step.
The purpose of this article is to address, with full disclosure, five of the most common problems when hiring and using an architect and what steps you can take to avoid them. With some planning, these problems can be avoided and lead to a great working relationship with your architectural team.
The most common problems when hiring an architect and solutions
- Are they actually an architect?
- They don’t listen to your needs
- They don’t provide any ideas
- They are expensive
- Not understanding the process
Problem #1: How to check if you are working with an architect?
To call yourself an Architect in the UK you need to be on the Architect’s Register; this gives you the benefit of protection that a registered professional offers, someone who has been trained for over seven years and is expected to maintain a level of competency and professional standards in order to stay on the register. We often find people think they have hired an architect but when they look on the register it is someone who is not registered. There is no legal requirement for those practising architecture and providing that service to be on the register but without this, they may not have the level of protection that a registered professional can offer.
There is a really simple solution to this.
You can check on the Architects Register if someone who is selling architectural services is an architect. If they are not, always advisable to ask for copies of indemnity insurance and do further background checks as you may be exposed in terms of the level of risk.
Problem #2: They don’t listen to what you want?
Having a clear idea of what you want always helps, but if you aren’t sure what’s possible, make sure you choose an architect who works with you to establish what is possible. Your architect should be frank and honest about possibilities, but they should also be good listeners and work with you to extrapolate what you actually need from the space.
All too often you will find someone will not spend the time to understand your needs and waltz in spending 10 minutes telling you can have a boxed extension on the rear and say they will be in touch with a price – it is really important that you understand from the outset what you need of the space and there are times when a boxed extension may not be the solution.
Would you want to waste money to have an extension if there was a creative solution that gave you the space you need without the need for an expensive build? The solution is to make sure the architect gets to know their customers. An initial visit can last for about an hour so that they can really understand what you are trying to achieve, and be prepared to answer lots of questions. If you have any images or cutouts of what you like, this is a great time to show them so that they can deliver what is in your head.
Problem #3: You want to see ideas to understand what is possible
One size does not fit all. In any space there can be countless ways to configure the space. Not exploring ideas at the outset can lead to costly changes through the build or, worse, still a space that does not meet your requirements leaving you disappointed at the end of the build. Exploring ideas on paper takes time as an architect feeds in the information you have told them to provide solutions for the space that meet your needs and budget. Don’t be duped into thinking this can be done post planning as it will lead to unnecessary changes and costs. It should happen at the outset and, ideally, should be centred around your needs and be quite a fluid and collaborative process where you settle on a final design that may be a mixture of multiple that are presented.
Problem #4: Architects are expensive
Architects undertake a lot more than just drawings; the value to your project can be staggering and that can be measured financially and in terms of how it can impact you and your family, both during and after the works are completed. From avoiding issues during the build to protecting you financially from overpaying the builder, an architect’s cost should be viewed as an investment to get the most out of your project. The more you use them, the more value they are likely to add to your project. Understand their payment terms and payment structure, so you can budget for their fees at the outset and be clear on what that includes. If you are not comfortable with percentage based quotes or hourly rates, these can be capped or work with a team that offers fixed fee pricing. Also consider the long-term appreciation of the space as a result of using an architect. Architects seldom charge a percentage on the property uplift but good quality design can offer great returns on your investment.
Problem #5: They don’t go through the stages of the process
Construction and architecture is complicated. It can take years to understand each stage to the process and each project will throw up its own complexities. Do not be fooled into thinking work can start once you have planning permission. Your architect should be able to talk you through each stage of the process and what is expected of you at each stage, and what might be different in your context. Try and get a clear idea of this with the architect at the beginning. That way you will know what to expect and if you need something to cross reference, get this in writing. That said, things can change and as things do, you may have to be open to the journey changing; again remember your architect will have experience in this and be best placed to guide you through this. Take the time to listen to them and understand implications and map this out with them.