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Architect or Building Designer?

Why do I need an architect?

When you improve your home, one of the first decisions you need to make is whether or not you need an architect. It can have a big impact on the cost and quality of the building works, architects are professionals that can deliver quality design and also management of your project and other professionals, while also working within your chosen build costs and budget. It is falsehood to consider architects as unwanted and expensive designers that only cost money and push the build costs ever higher, in fact good architects can actually save you money and stop over spending or expensive and costly mistakes in the design.

How do I know if I need an architect?

  • There is no law saying you have to employ an architect – it is up to you

  • As a very broad rule of thumb, if you need planning permission, you need an architect

  • Some people undertake quite major works – including whole house builds, refurbishments and extensions – without architects

  • Others employ architects for comparatively minor jobs, such as refurbishing a bathroom

  • If you have a very clear idea of what you want, or a builder whose judgement and vision you trust, then an architect is less necessary

  • If you don’t know what you want, then an architect can help give you ideas and design direction

  • If you don’t trust builders, or are busy or inexperienced, an architect can help you keep an informed eye on the builders and make sure the project stays on track

  • An architect can also be very helpful in managing the whole process. If you need planning permission (or even think you might), then an architect can be invaluable in successfully navigating the local planning authority


What are the advantages of employing an architect?

  • If you engage an architect, you will pretty much always experience a better end product

  • Architects are highly trained and are especially  good as seeing the “big picture” – in making the best of the space you have, in getting interesting designs, in ensuring the light is right, the feel is good, and that the house layout works.

  • Architects are usually good at ensuring the work is professionally done; that it meets the requirements of building control, and that you have a structural engineer if you need one.

  • Architects are generally (but not always) good at the detail that most of us rarely think about and which, if done wrongly, can end up being costly mistakes: which way should the door open?  Should we have recessed lights?  Where should the outlet pipes go?  Should you be able to see the toilet when the bathroom door is open?

  • An architect can also help you find the best builder, project manage the whole works, and keep within budget. The architect is the expert eyes and ears, whose job it is to represent your interests with builders and local authorities.

  • Architects are also subject to a statutory code of practice and have Professional Indemnity Insurance to protect their clients.

What are the disadvantages of employing a building designer?

  • Building designers are not as qualified; typically all they have behind them is a 2 years BTEC course at college, whist an architect's training involves two University degrees (BA Hons & PG Dip) totalling seven years of study in art, design and technology, while also including on the job training with an architectural practice.

  • Building designers are unlikely to hold professional indemity insurance  if things go wrong.

  • Building designers are unlikely to have any design training, so can offer little extra in terms of aeshetic design opinion or advice on alternative solutions.

  • Building designers are unlikely to have a professional code of conduct and no professional body to complain to if things go wrong.

  • Building designers are unlikely to have project management skills, architects have the training and experience to know when to appoint other consultants appropraite to your project and manage their work output. Consultants such as town planning advisors, energy consultants, ecologists, arborculturalists, structural engineers, drainage engineers, landscape architects and more


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