How to find an architect

Finding a list of potential architects is often the first step in the journey of a building project. This journey can be a long one, with a relationship that will last for a year or more, and will involve significant cost. Taking time to find the right practice is, therefore, a worthwhile investment.

Various approaches are available to help you find an architect, these include:

  • Finding a practice online: this can be a good starting point as the architect’s portfolio illustrating their experience is readily available.
  • Looking out for signboards on building sites in your area: this indicates an understanding of the local planning issues.
  • Seeking recommendations from others: its worthwhile seeking advice from previous clients with a similar project.

Once you have found some suitable practices, check that the employees in the company are ARB registered, qualified architects. This can be done online with the ARB’s register of architects

Make sure that the practices also have relevant experience:

  • Ideally, they will have completed a similar type of project in the past.
  • If it is a listed building then look for experience with heritage projects. In London, each borough can differ in their view on what is an acceptable alteration to a listed building. Local experience is therefore particularly important for conservation projects.
  • If you are commissioning a low energy building then look for a PHI certified Passivhaus Designer or a similar qualification.

After taking the above steps, you may have narrowed down to a shortlist of three or four architects who may be suitable for your project.

How to choose an architect from your shortlist

  • Once you have a shortlist of practices, call each architect for an initial discussion on the phone. It is important to discuss your budget (this can be in broad terms at this stage) and your aspirations in terms of design and programme, with any key dates made clear.
  • The practice should confirm that they have the capacity to take on the work. They will also confirm that your project type, design preferences and budget are a good match for the company.

Arrange a meeting at the property to discuss your brief in more detail. Architecture for London typically offer the following in the initial meeting:

  • Up to 2 hours on site and 3 hours office based follow up
  • Discussing the feasibility of your ideas
  • Drawing a preliminary design option with 1:100 sketch plans
  • Discussing the implications of planning & building regulations
  • Advice on other consultants required
  • An outline construction cost estimate based on standard square metre rates
  • A programme for design and construction
  • A fee proposal for architectural services

This meeting is also a good time to discuss the architect’s previous work and see images of their projects. It is always interesting to find out more about the concept ideas, the detailed design and any challenges overcome in previous projects.

The fee proposal

A fee proposal from an architect will usually also include a schedule of services and a draft programme that illustrates the estimated length of each part of your project, from an initial measured survey to planning permission and then works on site.

The fee proposal will explain the amount of fees and the method for calculating them. It will also set out the terms for any additional charges should the size of the project or scope of work be increased during the design process. For further information on fees, please see our guide to architect’s fees in the UK

At this stage, you may have narrowed your list to just two or three architects. Although making the decision may be difficult, there are some final considerations that may help:

  • Visit a previously completed project, or perhaps ask for a tour of a current building site. You may wish to speak to a recent client to find out more about their experience of working with the practice.
  • Whilst it is important to get on well with your chosen architect, its worth remembering that building projects are team efforts and other people in their office will be working on the project too. It can, therefore, be useful to visit the office in person and appreciate the ethos of the practice more generally.

The appointment process

  • A client usually signs a form of appointment and initials a document of conditions. These set out all of the details for how you will work with the architect, when payments are to be made and what will happen in the event of a dispute.
  • Once the forms are signed and initialled, your chosen practice is ready to begin work. The first task for your architect is to arrange a full measured survey of the site or building. This is usually undertaken by a specialist surveyor. This will give the architect all of the existing drawings required and these will be used to develop the design.

For more information about working with Architecture for London, please contact us on 020 3637 4236 to discuss your requirements, or visit our portfolio to see a selection of our previous projects.