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Guide to Engaging an Architect

There is no standardised service that an architect offers, as all architects and all projects are different. The RIBA website offers more information about engaging an architect. It is advisible to make a choice of architect based on more than fees alone as services and design philosophies differ greatly, so it is important to choose someone you feel you can work with.

Given the increasing cost of energy supplies, an architect who can deliver a genuinely low-energy building will also save their fees many times over during the lifetime of the building.

The following is a very brief guide to the process of commissioning a building from start to finish. Please do contact us to discuss your particular requirements.

Apart from the Full Architectural Service, outlined below, we offer:

A Full Architectural Service

Functional Analysis

Brief Development

By the time you are looking for an architect, you will have perceived a need for change, but may not know the best way to start, or even exactly what you want. Clients come to us at all stages of brief development and we can assist in clarifying your goals, guiding your expectations, and advising on what is possible for a given site or budget.

site analysis An example of site analysis on plan.

site analysis An example of visual site analysis.

Site Analysis

Careful analysis of the site is key to good organic design.

The starting point will always be an accurate site survey, which will determine the basic topology of the site, and any issues such as trees or buildings which shade the site.

As the project develops, more specialist surveys may be required. These might include:

  • Tree Surveys
  • Contamination Reports
  • Flood Risk Assessments
  • Ecological Assessments
  • Archaeological Assessments

It is not always possible to predict the level of detailed information that will be required at the start of a project, but we do our best to give you a sense of what you are likely to need for any given site.

An example of sketch design output.

Sketch Design

Behind every building there is a concept. An idea which organises the space and the materials into an organic whole. It is essential to find the right concept at the start, otherwise a great deal of time and energy can be wasted in developing design solutions which just do not work, for the brief or for the site.


gA Typical Planning Drawing

Planning Consents.

Whilst the government has 'simplified' the planning environment through the introduction of the 'National Planning Policy Framework', many complexities still exist. Apse architects can guide you through the planning process.

A great deal of care is still required to ensure that the planning environment is carefully researched, and a detailed policy justification is put before the planning department.

Developing in rural areas, particularly those designated as being National Parks or Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty is as challenging as ever, but not always impossible.

g Good Visualisation is Important on Listed Buildings

Listed Building Consent.

All works that affect the 'architectural and historic character' of a listed building require a separate consent. This is a specialist area in which we have a high level of expertise. Frequently, even planning officers do not know how to correctly analyse a building and assess a scheme, and controversial applications can take years to resolve.

We have worked on many listed buildings in a range of planning environments and can prepare a carefully developed application designed to maximise your chances of success. We will give you open and honest advice as to what can and cannot reasonably be done to your building, and we will do our best to ensure that the planners see things the same way.

gStructure, Insulation and Staircases will be Considered by the BCO

Approval Under the Building Regulations

The UK operates a two-tier system of approval. The planning process determines what can go where, and the Building Regulations ensure that the buildings themselves are safe and fit for purpose, including elements such as:

  • Structural Stability
  • Means of Escape in Case of Fire
  • Water Supply and Disposal
  • Energy Performance

The information required to gain an approval under the building regulations is usually about 50% of the information required to actually construct the building.


Detailed Design and Specifications

The other 50% is provided by drawn details, schedules and specifications.

The success of any building is ultimately in the quality of the detailing, and a good architect will be meticulous in ensuring that the details all work within the overall design concept.

Tender and Procurement

Unless you are proposing to self-build or self-manage the build process, you will eventually require the services of a building contractor.

A contractor may already be known to you, or we can select a number of local contractors, check references and insurances, and invite tenders for the works.

Following return of tenders we carefully analyse for errors and omissions, and communicate with each to ensure that there has been a level playing field in terms of assumptions and inclusions.

Ultimately, the decision is yours as to whether you accept the lowest tender or feel that another builder offers better benefits.

Contract Administration

All but the smallest of works will be executed under a contract, and the types of contract vary from 'Design-and-Build' through 'Management Contracts' to Fixed Price Contracts. Apse architects can advise on which is best for your particular project.

All contracts require management, and whilst some people successfully manage their own, this is an area where an experienced Architect can ensure that everyone is pulling together as a team rather than falling apart into disputes.

You will need monthly valuations to ensure that correct payments are made to the contractor, and a robust negotiator to help you to settle the final account.

The key to contract administration is good communication.

Post-Contract Matters

All works take time to settle in, and sustainable buildings can require a period of trial and adjustment to any passive or active climate systems.

Six months to a year after the contract has ended, we can return to the site to ensure that all is in order, and to prepare a defects list for the contractor to attend to. A sum will have been retained to ensure that this takes place.

On larger projects we would advise that the whole team be retained for a period to ensure that systems are fine tuned and defects are picked up over a number of years.


The following services are usually outsourced to a number of high-quality practices, of both local and national standing. We can bring them together to form a unique design team, tailored to your individual project, or we can work with the other professionals that you choose.


Before you engage an architect, you will want to know the fees they charge. Once the scope of the project is fully established, then a detailed quote and terms of appointment will be issued. As a rough guide to fees, a new eco-house may typically cost around 8-10% of the construction cost, Complex listed buildings, including churches, involving grant management, might cost 10% to 13% of the construction cost, and a large commercial project, for architectural services only, might cost around 5-6% of the construction cost. Fees can be fixed (for a fixed service), percentage based, or set at an hourly rate.

An additional amount of roughly the same again, should be budgeted for the rest of the design team and specialist consultants.


Testimonials from satisfied customers can be provided on request.

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