Do You Need An Architect?

And why "Design and Build" maybe the best route for delivering your home extension



Introduction


A seismic shift in the way we build our homes has pushed architects out as the go-to professionals for helping you deliver your extension or refurbishment projects. Specialist “Design and Build” companies are the new kids on the block, and they’re rapidly becoming the principal professionals for providing the end-to-end services necessary for building home extensions.


THERE'S BEEN A 500% INCREASE IN THE NUMBER OF PROJECTS BEING DELIVERED AS DESIGN & BUILD OVER THE LAST 50 YEARS, AS OPPOSED TO USING AN ARCHITECT.

Over the last 50 years there’s been a dramatic change in how the built-environment is created. In this article we explore those changes, how they are affecting the professions and what this means for homeowners embarking on an extension project.


The areas of most change fall under two distinct and well understood project stages: 1. Design & Planning and 2. Construction.




1. Changing Industry


Increasing complexity


Design & Planning


Generally, as the world’s become more connected we've all learned to become more considerate of our existing environment. Most of us are now well aware of the impact we are having on the world around us. From the food we buy in the supermarket, to the clothes we buy online.



As one of the most environmentally impactful industries, construction is no different! Just like apples on shelves, we now check the distance materials travel to build our homes; we also seek to maintain the “character” of our neighbourhoods with new developments; and look to reduce the amount of disruption to existing wildlife and natural habitats. This has gone as far as legislating the protection of rare flora and fauna as part of the design & planning process.




This means we regularly find ourselves dealing with overly complex design and planning procedures on the most simple of projects. For example a loft conversion, depending on its location, may require to not only appoint a professional designer but also a structural engineer, a party wall surveyor, an approved inspector, a heritage consultant, a planning consultant and of course a builder!


Construction


In the last decade there's been a noticeable rise in the number of and types of materials, specialist suppliers and building techniques used in construction projects.


A simple walk through the different elements of a home’s construction illustrates this point clearly. On the ground floor there are now over 5 different types of foundation a builder could choose from; whilst there are three popular materials to form the primary structure of a building (steel, timber or masonry) the way these are designed together and integrated into other materials on your home changes on a project-by-project basis; you only need to spend 5 minutes online to realise there are now thousands of kitchen, bathroom, window, door and floor suppliers to potentially choose from; and the way we design our roofs and finish our external walls changes year-on-year.



CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS ARE NOW SO COMPLEX (STRUCTURAL METHODS/MATERIALS/TECHNOLOGY) THE DESIGNER-BUILDER RELATIONSHIP HAS BECOME FRAUGHT WITH COMMUNICATION BREAKDOWN AT A MASSIVE RISK TO THE CLIENT


As you can see, the process by which your project comes together is no simple task and requires the dedication of a single person or team to see it through professionally from beginning to end. To add, the painstaking process of then integrating these different professional services and suppliers into the design & construction process, managing their priorities, all while keeping an eye on your home refurbishment, is not a simple undertaking. It’s clear that if any steps are missed out, or not carefully communicated between the different team members, your project could become very stressful and end up costing you a lot of time and money.



2. Why Most Architect’s Can’t Help You


As discussed, your project team is made up of a colourful smorgasbord of consultants, designers and suppliers. Traditionally you would appoint an architect from the beginning of your project, to oversee the appointment and management of all other professionals within your design and construction team.



This means at each stage of your project, your architect would need to appoint these professionals for you under separate contracts via separate bidding processes. In days gone by this used to be a straightforward process, when there were only a handful of separate consultants to deal with on any given project. Now however this process can become extremely fraught and time consuming. It requires the expertise of an experienced architect who has project management skills to make sure the team is pulled together properly and everyone is communicating well. As you can imagine this takes a lot of time, skill and therefore money.


WITH PROFESSIONAL ARCHITECT'S FEES COMING IN AT AROUND 5-10% OF A PROJECT'S BUDGET. ON A RELATIVELY STRAIGHTFORWARD EXTENSION, MOST HOMEOWNERS WOULD RATHER SPEND THEIR MONEY ON THE KITCHEN AND FINISHING TOUCHES.

As a result, even on relatively small projects of less than £150,000, the delivery process can become so complex that the project management required of an architect pushes the price beyond the budget of most homeowners! To put it simply, on a smaller project like an extension most homeowners would rather their money is spent on the construction and materials, as opposed than have a professional oversee the project’s management from end-to-end.


So what's the solution?



Be Careful


Some “architects” are advertising themselves as the go-to professionals able to solve this problem. By using one of the many “find an architect” websites out there you will quickly realise how many individuals and small businesses there are posing as architect’s, feeding off the home extension market.


Unfortunately, if you use one of these platforms, you will rarely find someone that has the ability or capacity to deliver an end-to-end project management service for your budget. Instead, you will find a lot of “freelance” or “online” architects offering design services to take you through some of the early stages of your project. From obtaining planning permission to getting building control approval.


THE INTERNET IS OVERRUN WITH ONLINE AND FREELANCE "ARCHITECTS" ALL TRYING TO SOLVE THE PROJECT MANAGEMENT PROBLEM. IT IS A MASSIVE CHALLENGE AND NO ONE HAS YET FOUND A GOOD PROFESSIONAL SOLUTION

This can seem helpful to begin with, but remember as we have seen there are usually far more hurdles to jump through on a project than simply obtaining planning permission and building control approval. In principle, the only way these types of businesses make any money is by delivering drawing services only - the easy bit! When things become tricky, like helping obtain party wall awards, build over agreements, finding structural engineers or going through the tender process to find a contractor - they will often leave you to your own devices. This can then become the beginning of a painful and expensive process that will cost you far more time and money than you were expecting.



3. Why Design and Build is the Future of Home Renovations


Over the last decade smart contractors have been quick to spot this problem in the home renovations market. Their solution is simple - for a fixed fee they will deliver all end-to-end services under one roof. They will act as a single point of responsibility for taking control of all aspects of the project; from design & planning to party wall awards, structural engineering and construction. Bidding processes to different consultants and professionals are a thing of the past, with D&B it’s all delivered by the same company.




At the inception of the project they will generally require more information than an architect to be able to provide you with an outline sum for the design and construction of the project. This usually means at the very minimum preparing:


  • A basic sketch of what you require - this can be done with estate agent plans, but a simple survey would do as well.

  • An “outline scope of works” which is a high-level specification of the works you will require to deliver your project.

  • Photographs of the site address

  • Location

  • Start/End dates of the project

  • Key drivers to determine the project’s success (design/speed/cost)


By providing this information to a variety of specialist design and build firms, you will then obtain quotes from each of them. Although they’ll not be 100% accurate until a detailed scope is prepared, this will give you a ballpark estimate as to what your project is likely to cost (including all additional potential services like design, party-wall awards, structural engineering and construction), and give you an opportunity to meet the team that will not only deliver the design but the construction of your project too.


Have A Contractor Oversee Everything

Because all design and build companies specialise in specific types of home refurbishment projects they have their own in-house teams of architects/structural engineers/consultants. Each member of this in-house team will have experience working together on similar projects - be it loft conversions, kitchen extensions or basements & refurbishments. As a result these businesses are very efficient operations; able to execute and coordinate the delivery of complex services well, thereby reducing many of the costs associated with home refurbishments.


As a result you will find that whilst the up-front costs seem expensive compared with going to a traditional architect, research shows that 95% of the time the project will come in at a lower cost; and more quickly with less stress.


RESEARCH SHOWS THAT UNLESS YOU HAVE A SPECIALIST DESIGN REQUIREMENTS FOR YOUR PROJECT, 95% OF DESIGN AND BUILD PROJECTS COME IN ON BUDGET, COMPARED WITH 60% OF THOSE THAT HAVE AN ARCHITECT OVERSEE IT'S DELIVERY

At BuildUpp we help homeowners prepare the basic information required for finding a design and build company. We then connect you to our vetted network of D&B companies, all ready and waiting to help make your dream home a reality. To find out more, book a pre-project consultation with one of our team today, we’d love to hear from you.



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