Do I need an architect?

If you’re planning to build a new house, or renovate your existing one, you might be asking yourself, “Do I need an architect?” In this video guide Hannah Wooller explains all you need to know on when and why you might need an architect, and how you’ll get the best out of their service.

Listen via the video or read the transcript below.


When is the right time to find an architect?

It depends whether you are a domestic client looking for somebody to help you with your house, whether you are a commercial client considering a development or whether you have previous experience. In general, the answer is that it’s never too soon to engage an architect because generally an architect can help you with your brief development and defining the services that you’ll require.

However, it is possible to pay your architect too soon. If you are looking to build a new-build house, you are often better off getting a planning appraisal for the site before engaging an architect.

Saying that, you may speak to your architect and decide who you would like to work with before you begin the planning appraisal process, because it will help you align your service.

I’ve chosen an architect, now what?

Once you’ve decided who it is that you’re likely to work with, you can speak to that architect and advise them that you’ll first be getting a planning appraisal – either using a planning consultant that you’re aware of or through a recommendation from that architect.

Architects all have planning consultants that they work with regularly. It’s usually a cheaper and more thorough way to ascertain the development potential of your site.

To understand whether you are likely to be able to construct a new build house on a site, you may well then need to come back to the architect (either through the planning consultant or directly) to have an initial scale and form composed so that you can get pre-AP advice from the local authority.

Planning will be your biggest hurdle to getting a new dwelling if you’ve already found a site. More likely if you’re a domestic client, it will be development of your own house. In which case your architect should be your first port of call.

Who else do I need to hire?

An architect can help advise on all of the other appointments. You will need a survey done, but many architects do offer this service in house or through a subcontractor. So speak to the architect and they can advise on the best and most efficient way to have your house measured. Then they will come and see your house and take your brief.

There are some great guides that the RIBA have produced and they advise on the other consultants you may wish to appoint.

If you’re looking at a whole-house refurbishment or interested in the thermal performance of your building – which you should be because energy is only going to get more and more expensive – even if you’re not driven by the pressures that the built environment puts on our climate, then you may want to have an energy consultant quite early on. Even if it’s not something that you’re actively seeking, you will need to have the thermal performance of your extension clarified under an EPC, which is an energy performance certificate. So you will still need to pay an energy consultant to sign off your design. But that again can be managed through your architect.

Hannah Wooller, June 2021

Hannah Wooller is Managing Director and Head of Heritage and Culture at Hudson Architects.

Author / Hudson Architects

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