London architecture firms - building site with steel structure and timber roof

The mix of culture, heritage, rules and regulations in London’s built environment makes our city one of the most challenging locations to purchase the right property, obtain planning permission and build your dream home. This article highlights the benefits of using London architecture firms and explains the importance of looking for local experience when selecting architects.

Finding an architect that understands the challenges of planning and construction in London may be instrumental to the success of your project.


View Architecture for London’s portfolio of recent work, or contact us on 020 3637 4236 to discuss your project.


Why choose a London architecture firm?

A London architecture firm will be able to understand your brief and how it is informed or limited by the location of the property. They should be able to distil the various policies, opportunities and constraints of each borough to achieve the desired size and design of your extension or refurbishment. A local architect can, therefore, maximise the value of every last square metre of your project.

Typical planning issues in London include permitted development rights, conservation area constraints, and the sensitive nature of dealing with our heritage building stock.


Glass box house extension design

The importance of local experience

Understanding what it takes to obtain planning consent and to successfully build in London’s 32 boroughs relies on the right experience. Using a local, London architecture firm is a great way to ensure that you are guided by a professional that knows where the opportunities may lie. 

AFL has experience in obtaining planning consent in nearly all of London’s boroughs. This knowledge proves invaluable for decision making at each step of the process, enabling us to effectively advise clients on the following:

  • what might be possible in terms of scale, massing and external materials
  • whether to apply for pre-app advice
  • what can be achieved within the limitations of conservation areas
  • whether there is an Article 4 Direction in place and, if so, which permitted development rights are restricted? For example, homeowners often retain the right to replace windows, even in conservation areas with an Article 4 direction.
  • specific basement policies and whether basement impact assessments (and the associated extra consultants’ fees) are required with a planning application. This varies widely between the boroughs.
  • the time typically taken by each local authority with a planning application
  • how best to negotiate with the local authority during the determination period
  • deciding when to proceed with an appeal
  • listed building issues, as these vary widely from borough to borough. For example, Islington has very specific policies on the length of an extension to a listed building.

During the early development of a project, your architect will also research the specific site planning history and immediate context. This will help to determine what may be permissible, further informing the design process.

Dartmouth Park house extension architects

Finding architects near me

Regional design awards can help you to find leading London architecture firms with aspirations that align with your own. We have been recognised for our work through a number of awards, including ‘London Construction Awards’, and the ‘New London Architecture Don’t Move Improve Award’. More information can be found on our about page.

Looking out for local signboards on similar properties is another great way to find local architects with the right experience.

Selecting other local consultants

On most domestic projects, the architect is the lead consultant. An architect will help guide you through the whole project, from determining your brief, through the planning process and construction stage to the finished project. For more details on what an architect’s responsibilities typically include, see our posts on The RIBA Plan of Work and Architect’s Fees in the UK.

In addition to architects, most projects will require significant other specialist design and construction skills. Architecture for London has a broad network of local consultants, fabricators and craftspeople across the city that have the right experience with London properties. These help us to deliver the highest quality projects on time and budget. 

The consultant team required will depend on the size and scope of the project. As a minimum, you will need an architect, usually a structural engineer and an approved inspector. We typically recommend a cost consultant is also brought on board to help manage your budget. The role of each key member of the consultant team is explained below.

Structural Engineer

The structural engineer is responsible for ensuring the proposed design of your property will be able to withstand the required loads, including from occupants, furniture, wind and snow.

Their services include:

  • site appraisal and survey
  • commissioning geotechnical and geological investigations
  • structural design and detailing of foundations, retaining walls, walls, roofs, balconies, etc.
  • building regulations submissions
  • preparation of tender documentation, including drawings, specification and design calculations
  • assessing the contractor’s proposals for contractor design items
  • on-site inspections and testing
  • defects assessments and specifying remedial work as required

London architecture firms extension

Quantity Surveyor

The quantity surveyor (sometimes called the cost consultant) will provide estimates and advice regarding the cost of construction works.

Their services might include:

  • benchmarking costs against similar projects
  • assessing and comparing different options
  • helping develop the project budget as decisions are made with regard to the design
  • preparing cost plans, estimates and cash flow projections
  • advising on procurement strategy
  • preparing tender pricing documents
  • collating and issuing tender documentation
  • assessing tender returns
  • assessing the cost of variations
  • preparing valuations for the contract administrator to use for interim certificates
  • preparing cost reports as required
  • compiling the final account

Approved inspector

An approved inspector ensures that all proposals comply with the building regulations. Approved inspectors have to be registered and verified, as the work that they do is critical in ensuring compliance.

Approved inspectors will assess initial design proposals and highlight any potential issues of concern. The approved inspector will also visit the site during construction and issue a final certificate at the end of the works.

To view our recent work in London, please visit Architecture for London’s portfolio.