The thought of any architectural design project raises many questions, especially when that work involves changes to something as important as your own home.
Asking these questions is not uncommon, and you are certainly not alone in wondering about what lies ahead within the project.
In an attempt to make life easier for you, we have prepared short response to the Common Questions we are asked on a daily basis.
This should allow you to start the process of the project with a lot more knowledge and confidence.
We consider every project, and corresponding fee proposal, individually to ensure that we tailor our services to meet the client's exact requirements and expectations, unlike many 'fixed price' type deals most often associated with un-regulated 'design services'.
Fees can be charged in a number of ways as follows, and are dependant not only on the project size and complexity but on the extent of the service (or involvement) required by the Client:
1. Fixed Price
In this case, the fee is fixed for clearly defined package of work fixed at the outset. Any additions to the package arising after services have commenced can either be negotiated with you, or, if the extent of additional work required is difficult to assess, by applying an agreed time charge rate – so much per hour. When we are supplying drawings and our services are not required throughout the project then we will most often provide a fixed lump sum fee.
2. Percentage fees
Fees can be based on a percentage of the construction cost, initially calculated using an agreed estimated cost and later, using the actual construction cost. This rate will vary relative to the level of service provided, the type of building, and also depend on whether the project is new-build or alterations to an existing building. Our fees are often charged in this way when we are involved throughout the project, as it means that our fees are related to the size and cost of the project, which is generally relative to the architectural work involved.
3. Time Charge
This might apply to feasibility exercises or when the extent of the project is uncertain at the beginning, then an hourly or daily rate would be applied. This might also be required when our involvement in a project changes significantly during the project as a result of changes or abortive work which we cannot control.
We offer a free initial meeting with our Clients to discuss the project generally. This also gives us the opportunity to advise if the project seems feasible. Following our initial meeting, and assuming the extent of the works and service required is agreed, we will provide a written confirmation of our fee and terms of appointment for consideration and approval.
Expenses - General expenses such as postage, prints, specialist maps, travel etc are most often charged separately and in addition to the fee quotation. For certain fees, such as those due to the local authority for planning or building warrant application, our clients will be asked to pay direct.
Payment Schedule - Payment will normally be due on a regular on-going basis, either monthly, or on completion of each stage of the work.
VAT – As we are VAT registered, VAT will be charged to our Architectural Design services and generally it will also be payable on the construction works if the contractor is also VAT registered. If the building project involves alterations to a listed building or a new house, certain works or materials may be VAT exempt.
For further clarification refer to the HM Revenue & Customs Website.
Other fees likely to be incurred will be for the appointment of any consultants, typically a Structural Engineer, and Local Authority application fees for planning and building warrant approval applications.
If your project requires the services of other consultants we will advise and then help source those who may be needed from our network of local professionals.
Typically, if structural alterations ore new build is involved, you will need to budget for a Structural Engineer to provide the necessary design and certification, in conjunction with the architectural designers designs, which are required for Building control and for use by the Contractor on site.
On a larger projects or where our client requires detailed cost estimations and control, we would recommend the appointment of a Quantity Surveyor to prepare preliminary estimates, preparation of contract and tender documentation and continued cost planning and analysis throughout the build.
There a host of other consultants available, such as, mechanical & electrical engineers, civil engineers, acoustics consultants, planning supervisors, landscape architects etc., however most of these are only called upon on larger or more complicated projects and we can advise and call on their input if required.
Ordinarily each consultant is employed directly by the client, however, by engaging Grid Design we will assist with the selection and appointment of the most appropriate consultants for your project at the most competitive rates available.
For many projects, the initial approval required will be planning permission, either 'outline' or 'detailed' consent. We will advise you, sometimes after consultation with the local authority, as to the kind of consents required. Research is required as to the Authority's policy at the location of the project, as to the use envisaged, and the constraints on that kind of development. This information will inform and guide the initial design, and once approval in principal has been obtained from the authority, an application for the appropriate planning approvals will be made.
A fee is payable to the authority for making an application and we will usually ask the client to make a cheque payable direct to the authority for this. Once consent is received, it can remain in place for up to 5 years, after which, if the work has not started on site, a new application may be required. If the consent has conditions attached, the authority may require to be provided with samples of the materials, colours, or other item for approval, before that element of the work proceeds.
If building work is carried out without planning consent, the local authority may proceed to demolish such works as have been carried out without consent at the owner's expense. Also in the case of alterations to existing buildings, it may require re-instatement of those parts of a building which are altered without consent, again at the owner's expense. We can advise or assist with resolving such cases should you find yourself in this position.
For planning permission, a set of drawings (location plan, floor plans, elevations, sections, etc) at appropriate scale(s) will be required. Key materials to be used must be decided and specified. The planning official will then report to the Planning Committee with a recommendation to approve or refuse, and the applicant and agent will be notified in due course of the result. If refused, there may be grounds for seeking to appeal against the decision, this can be discussed with us and further advice may be sought from consultants who specialise in the field, eg., Planning Consultant.
A planning application can take at least 3 months to prepare for and receive notification, and therefore it is essential that you embark upon this process as soon as you can in order that your key project dates are achieved.
It is also important to note that Planning Approval can never be guaranteed for your project, and any such claims should be looked upon with suspicion.
There are often other statutory approvals required depending upon the type of works, location etc., for example Listed Building Consent, and we can advise and deal with any such requirements if relevant to your project.
In Scotland, with the exception of all but a small number of cases, a building warrant is required where a building is being altered or a new building is to be erected.
At an early stage, we will establish the basic requirements for the type of project in hand, and will obtain information from the local authority or from the published standards, to establish the regulations framework within which the design work must proceed.
With the exception of certain classes of building, all building work must comply with the Building Standards. It is an offence for anyone to carry out building works, other than those exempted, without a building warrant from the local authority. It is the responsibility of the building owner to apply for and obtain the warrant. Building control officers employed by the council will advise on what drawings, specifications and other information are required to enable them to check for compliance with the regulations. For very minor work, only limited plans may be needed, but large projects require extensive information. A fee is payable at the time of application for a building warrant based on the estimated cost of the building works.
Typically, a building warrant requires the project to be taken to a level of detail where approximately 65% of the architectural services are provided. The project will be described in the form of plans, sections, elevations, and in many cases, by detailed construction drawings, also showing services and structure. Engineer's drawings (where required) will have to be prepared and these elements integrated into the design. All elements of construction which impinge on the regulations will require to have specified. Where the final design varies from the approved warrant drawings, an amendment to warrant will be required, again requiring the same level of detail.
The local authority is responsible for the enforcement of the regulations and in most cases difficulties or disagreements over interpretation are resolved by discussion with the local authority. There is, however, a right of appeal to the Sheriff Court in the event of refusal to grant warrant and certain other actions of the local authority, we can advise further on this if the need arises.
The time required by the local authority for checking depends on the size or complexity of the project, and any adjustments required, so no time limit is set. Most authorities however operate targets for responding, and typically for standard domestic work a period of 8-10 weeks is sufficient. A warrant is valid for three years from issue, but this period can be extended if requested within that period. A warrant is also required for the demolition of a building. With each individual project we can usually indicate the timescale required for design and warrant application, but the time thenceforth required for approval will be dependent on the Authority's workload at the time.
During construction building control staff inspect the works, and the local authority must be notified when building work begins and at specified stages during the works. Inspection of foundations, testing of drains, or other matters may be required to establish compliance with the regulations.
Before the building may be occupied a certificate of completion is required. This provides formal confirmation that the building work has been carried out in accordance with the building warrant and with the building regulations, so far as the local authority can ascertain from their inspection. Quite apart from the legal implications, failure to obtain warrants and completion certificates can have serious practical consequences, especially for householders seeking to sell their homes. Buyers' solicitors and lending institutions often wish to see these documents in connection with property sales.
Where work has been carried out that does not comply with the regulations the local authority can require changes to be made to bring it up to standard. This can impose considerable additional expense on owners. Where within our powers we will attend to all such matters and ensure that all outstanding paperwork is completed before completing our appointment.
We would suggest, in simple terms, there are two parts to a typical domestic project summarised as follows:
Part 1 - Preparing the Design:
1. Establish and record the Clients brief – a description of what's works are required by the Client.
2. Carry out a site and/or building analysis, often involving measured survey work.
3. Prepare initial design, and obtain Client approval to proceed.
4. Develop the scheme design and apply for Planning Approval(s).
5. Develop detailed design and apply for Building Warrant.
Part 2: Tender & Construction on site
1. Prepare any further detailed construction design information as required.
2. Prepare and issue tenders to agreed list of contractors.
3. Analyse tender returns and formally instruct the successful contractor to proceed. Visit the works in progress, checking the content and quality of the work.
4. Certify how much the builder is to be paid at each stage.
5. Apply for a Certificate of Completion on behalf of the Client.
We can also provide the following additional services or recommend other consultants with suitable experience to provide the necessary expertise to complement our core services eg, Site or Measured Survey , Development Feasibility Studies, Interior Design, Landscape Design, Specialist Conservation Services, 3D Modelling & Visualisation, Space Planning.
By engaging Grid Design we will advise and tailor our services to suit your particular needs and experience.
Programme length is intrinsically linked to the size and complexity of the project and each project is different with its own set of challenges.
At the design stage factors such as clarity of brief, design development and decision making affect the project programme at the design stage.
Local Authority workload and feedback affect the programme at the approvals stage, however, the planning authority have a statutory 8 week period to serve notice on applications and in our experience we also anticipate a typical building warrant application to take 8-10 weeks from submission to approval.
Our full architectural design service includes for periodic site visits to monitor the progress of works and to check by visual inspection on the use of materials and conformity with the information contained on the approved drawings and specification.
During construction building control staff will also inspect the works, and the local authority must be notified when building work begins and at specified stages during the works. Inspection of foundations, testing of drains, or other matters may be required to establish compliance with the regulations. We will liaise with the Local Authority to ensure that their requirements are carried out on site and the necessary paperwork attended to.
We have many years of experience inspecting works on site and are astute to the many potential problems and pitfalls and will ensure the workmanship and materials used are as required by the contract.
Unfortunately we cannot guarantee in advance the performance of any builder and therefore it would difficult for us to 'recommend a builder' as such.
We can however suggest a number of builders' whose performance on a similar project(s) for us was successful and therefore could be invited to submit a tender with some confidence in their ability to carry out the works competently. This list of builders is constantly changing based on their performance, cost and availability and is also relevant to the type of project.
Often a client may hear of a builder who had carried out a similar project for a friend or family and we would also be happy to then contact the builder on your behalf for references and view examples of their work if we have not worked with them in the past.
We find the best way to prepare a tender list is for ourselves to suggest a couple of names and for our clients to do likewise through local contacts, word of mouth etc.
It must be remembered that no matter what kind of reputation a builder may have, it is only as good as their last project and there is always a degree of uncertainty with each project, in which case it is vitally important to have an architect at your side to ensure the project run as smooth as possible on site in the event that things don't turn out quite as expected.
One of the biggest misunderstandings with home improvements is the difference between what increases value or makes a property more saleable, and what actually adds value to your property. The difference lies in understanding what an 'Improvement' is and what's an 'Addition' is, both of which may make your property more desirable and therefore easier to sell.
In simple terms they can be defined as:
Improvements are 'Anything you add to your home', such as: new Kitchen; new Bathroom; new Windows and doors; new conservatory; or anything else that does not directly change the structure of your house. Improvements generally do not add value to your house, other than the cost of the addition, but they will often make your house more desirable and therefore easier to sell.
Additions are 'Anything that you add to the structure of your home', such as: building a new extension; converting the loft into a room; anything else that changes the structure of your house. Additions will add value to your home provided it is the right addition, such as making a 2 bedroom house into a 3 bedroom house; a larger kitchen with family room; etc. and they will make your house more individual, more desirable and ultimately easier to sell at a higher price.
So keep in mind a simple rule, if it costs more money chances are it will add real value to your house, and anything that changes the house from the way you bought it should increase its value. If what you are doing does not materially alter the house from how you bought it, it may make it easier to sell but not for a higher price.
We would also refer you to a recent study prepared by GE Money Home Lending in July 2008 (based on interviews with 110 estate agents across the country and current residential property prices) which found the best way to add value to a home is to add additional living space in the form of a loft extension or an extension:
The research found on average a loft conversion would potentially add £22,898 to the price of a property, whilst building an extension could increase the value by approximately £19,800.
Adding a conservatory, the third best way to add value to your home, could increase its value by around £12,229. These three improvements combined could add £54,922 to the value of a typical home, GE Money said.
Gerry Bell, head of mortgage marketing for GE Money Home Lending, said: "The current housing market means that more people are looking to improve their home rather than move. However, before embarking on any improvements, it pays to know which ones will add the most value to your property. Region, type of property and location are all factors which will determine which improvement is best for a particular property, with the creation of extra living space continuing to be the best value improvement."
Extract from informed mortgage choice 'mform.co.uk' July 2008
This information is based on our views and experience, however, we would always recommend that you take further advice from if you require.
Finally, we would add that whilst decisions on making changes or additions to your property should be based on sound financial reasoning, it is equally important when developing your home that you consider how the house works for you now and will in the future. Making the correct changes and additions to your house can have a profound effect on the way you and your family 'work, rest and play' out your life and getting the design, finish and amenities right will ultimately increase the enjoyment you and our family have in it for many years to come....something you often can't put a price on.
By engaging Grid Design we will tailor our services to suit each project, our clients experience and requirements in an effort to avoid any of the above.
Enlarging The Kitchen To Make a Kitchen/Diner/ Family Zone - One of the key factors in purchasing a property is whether it is possible to extend the kitchen and make it into a kitchen/diner or a kitchen/breakfast room, which can add considerable value. A kitchen/diner/ family room can become the room that you live in, almost certainly the heart of the home. A small extension may enable you, with the re-arrangement of the kitchen, to achieve this most desirable space. You do have to think carefully about the design of the kitchen and the workflow etc., and don't forget to also think about natural light and access to garden and outdoor entertaining spaces.
En-Suite Bathroom - Bathrooms are the next feature that most people look on for adding value, assuming the rest of the property meets the criteria they have. An en-suite bathroom is treasured if you have a large family and there are queues for the bathroom during the morning rush. An en-suite can range from anything from partitioning off a section of your bedroom to have a shower in, to planning a room within your bedroom, or ultimately a full dressing room facility.
Ground Floor Cloakroom - The advantages are that it means guests can use the cloakroom without having to enter your private living space upstairs. A popular place for a ground floor cloakroom is for it to be fitted in under the staircase, this means the work can be carried out without extending the property. The issues with a cloakroom under the stairs are major water supply pipes and of course the head room. If the drains are not conveniently located this can make it quite an expensive option.
Home Office - As working from home is becoming more popular, if you haven't got a spare room or your own home office, then you need to look elsewhere. This can range from a basic under the stairs option to a full garage or loft conversion. Also becoming more popular are designer garden shed offices, locating literally at the bottom of your garden, where more often than not will require Local Authority approval.
Extending the Indoors Outdoors – Linking internal and external spaces is becoming increasingly popular by accessing outdoor entertaining spaces via folding doors onto a specially designed and located decked or patio area, further linked and in some cases to a standalone garden room with sauna or splash pool.
Eco-Friendly Additions - This is will inevitably become more popular with increasing fuel and living costs. Options can range from simple water buts or more involved rain water harvesting to re-use your rainwater, to more sophisticated and expensive items such as photovoltaic or water heating solar panels, which work from the sun's rays, to ground source heat pumps and wind turbines. You should be aware that some of these require permission from your Local Authority as they can fall under a planning requirement , also initial capital costs vs. anticipated payback periods should be carefully analysed before proceeding with one or more installations.
Energy Saving Additions - It is very difficult to quantify whether adding extra insulation to your property adds value although it can certainly save money over the long term. We would advise that care must be taken when adding or changing the thermal properties of a building as it can lead to condensation and possible deterioration of timber or the building fabric if not installed correctly and professional advice should be sought before embarking on such a project.
Conservatory Extension – In theory a conservatory offers the benefit of adding an additional room requiring minimal heating at a reduced cost. Conservatories range from the UPVC DIY packs that you or a 'specialist' assemble to the more traditional painted wood or contemporary glass and aluminium structures. In our experience they offer a poor solution to the subject of providing additional living space. Unless carefully specified with high quality materials, specialist glazing and positioned correctly they often become too hot in summer and too cold in winter rendering them unusable through most of the year. Clients more often than not are now replacing them with more permanent structures that have all year round benefits whilst adding value to their property.
By engaging Grid Design you will benefit from our experience and knowledge in guiding on what solution(s) are best for your personal circumstances.
If you have run out of space but do not really want to move and you have little outdoor space then a loft conversion may be the answer.
Can I Carry Out a Loft Conversion? - The very first thing to look at is can a loft conversion be carried out in the type of roof that you have. Some types of roofs are more suitable for loft conversions than others and hence more financially viable.
Generally there are three types of roof that we come across in a residential property:
Very Old Properties (eg. pre 1880’s) - In properties prior to this date the supply of wood was relatively good. The Victorians did not fully engineer the roof structure, therefore there is often a great deal of timber in the roof and hence structural stability. There is still a need to check to see if there is head height and a suitable place for the stairs to come up from the floor below. In addition to this you will also need to check the quality of the structure and if it requires structural upgrading, or does it have woodworm, wet rot or dry rot and requires more drastic remedial action.
Older Property (eg. pre 1960's) – Often this type of property will have a purpose made cut timber roof. This geometry of roof comes in many forms but often is what we would term an 'Attic' style truss. A suitable roof is one that has a high ridge, therefore giving the head height necessary to form a room or rooms within. Other considerations are the things located within the roof, such as water tanks that will need to be moved, and of course access to the roof space, which for a proper loft conversion will be via a staircase. This can often mean the trade-off of space on the floor below, eg. a cupboard.
New-style Trussed Roof (eg., post 1960's) - From the 1960's onwards pre-fabricated trussed roofs, or ‘W’ style trusses, were commonly used in house construction. The main driving force behind a pre-fabricated trussed roof was economy of timber sizes. This means these roofs are often less adaptable to conversion than the older style roofs, or in some cases not suitable at all. Often the water tank or boiler has been moved into the roof space as well and of course you will need to consider the access stairway to get into the loft conversion from the floor below. Early professional advice is advisable where you have this roof truss.
What permissions do I need? - You may require Planning Permission from the Local Authority to approve the external appearance of the loft conversion, and almost certainly you will require Building Warrant approval to ensure the structure is appropriate or requires upgrading, there is are no special constraints and access is acceptable and the new rooms have been thermally upgraded, etc. With all properties if your property is Listed or in a Conservation Area the roof structure itself may be considered an integral part of the Listing, or any associated external works (velux, dormers, vents etc) may also require Local Authority approval. We would advise in all cases where you carry out a loft conversion Local Authority advice and/or approval should be sought.
What Does A Loft Conversion Involve? - The initial approval process will involve building professionals from engineers carrying out the structural design calculations to the architect to carry out the design work and making the necessary applications to the Local Authorities.
There are many ways of constructing the loft conversion, from a DIY type project where you are actively involved and working direct from consultants approved designs, through to a project where you do little more than pay the bills and it is carried out by an experienced contractor, with or without an architect’s presence on site. The choice is down to budget, complexity of project and experience of the client.
What Does A Loft Conversion Cost? – Cost depends on the quality, size and complexity of the loft conversion. In our recent experience they can typically cost anything upwards of £20,000 & Vat.
Many problems can arise when a client decides to 'save money' by restricting the services provided by the architectural designer and we could probably write a book on the subject, however, typical reasons for problems on site are as follows:
a) The client decides to appoint a tradesperson direct, and instruct works without drawings, specification or contract.
b) The client decides to proceed alone after receiving planning consent.
c) The Architectural Consultant is appointed to warrant stage only - client decides to get his own tenders using warrant drawings.
d) The client decides the architectural consultant is not required during the construction phase.
Case (a) is most common with small scale repairs or maintenance contracts. The property owner looks up the telephone directory and gets a trades-person to visit the property, He/she then agrees verbally what's wanted and the tradesman provides a 'quote' . Work starts, and problems are found - the extent of repairs required is greater (because no survey was done initially). The contractor then demands payment for work stating that it is almost finished, but in fact much more remains to be done. The contractor then only returns intermittently as another more lucrative job has arisen. Result - delay, no control over costs, misery for the client.
Case (b) is common where the extent of the work appears ‘straight-forward’, but is within a listed building. In this case a warrant may be applied for in retrospect, but some work may have been abortive and construction which fails to meet the building regulations may require to be demolished and replaced with works which do meet the regulations. Result - delay, additional expense, lost time, poor result.
Case (c) arises where again the works appear straight-forward, and where the client has been advised by a builder friend that he can build off the warrant drawings only. In this case, risks arise due to the lack of construction detail on the warrant set, lack of full specifications (these not required for warrant) and lack of proper tender document and conditions of contract. Result - poor quality of work (no detail specified), delay (if the client seeks to alter already executed work) additional expense (contractor will have priced for the cheapest possible solution) , lost time (carrying out remedial work) , poor final result, no saving - instead - additional costs.
In case (d) the client will assume that the works are of such simplicity that he/she can manage the works on site without professional advice. If things go wrong, the client will have to fight it out with the contractor, and may end up needing to take legal action to bring any dispute to a conclusion. Legal proceedings are usually significantly more expensive than architectural services, and therefore aside from the disruption likely to arise , this course of action should be avoided where possible. Result - delay, additional expense, lost time, poor result.
By engaging Grid Design we will tailor our services to suit each project, our clients experience and requirements in an effort to avoid any of the above.