Architect / Architectural Technician Advice

18 Nov 2012
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United Kingdom

I'm looking for some advice / suggestions around architects please. We are planning on having an extension to our 3 bed semi detached home, firstly a first floor extension over the existing garage to the side to add an extra bedroom, and secondly to extend out the back from the existing kitchen and dining room area. The upstairs bit *should* be fairly straight forward from a design perspective, but the downstairs I'd like to do something a bit more 'special' with some design flair (e.g. vaulted roof) subject to budget - see link at the end as an example.

We've had three different quotes so far, all from personal recommendations, but not really sure what 'level' we need to go for.

1) The first was from a chap who came across very much as 'tell me what you want then I'll draw the plans for you', though relatively cheap compared to the other two, but this wasn't really what we were looking for.

2) The second was from a local architectural services company (architectural technician), who came across well, has good examples of work, helpful, coming in at a little under £2000 (initial survey, planning drawings, building regs drawings). The concern I have over this is he does not appear to be listed on the ARB web site, and although qualified seems to be an associate rather than full level (uses letters Arch Tech ACIAT, whereas some googling suggests MCIAT is fully qualified). However he was very open that he is currently working for a larger homebuilding firm and in the process of setting up on his own, and his work and meetings are currently done out of office hours (though this suits me better anyway so in itself not a concern)

3) The third was a 'full' RIBA architect company, and again came across very well, but the quote was much more than the second option, coming in at nearly £4000 in total. I suspect our project is smaller scale than many of their others.

Questions as follows -
  • What differences should I expect between an architectural technician and a full architect, is the latter necessary or an overkill for this?
  • Do the fees sound reasonable? (As an indication I'm hoping the total budget would be somewhere around 100k)
  • Are there any risks by using an Arch Tech if not ARB listed that I should be aware of? I would check he has some level of professional insurance, and I assume the process of planning, building regs and structural engineer work should be expected to give confidence in his plans?
Finally - as a rough indication of the type of thing I had in mind for downstairs, if it helps with the Arch Tech vs Architect decision: I found this online and would love something of a similar style, though without spending so much on the high end kitchen and materials -

Thanks in advance,
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Only Architects can register with the ARB.

Don't pay to much attention to MCIAT being "fully qualified". It's not like that, and a member is not necessarily any more qualified than an associate or a non member

Your choice of designer depends on how much design to want them to do as opposed to just drawing your requirements. If you are clear what you want, ie that picture, then you are wasting money on an Architect. With Architect firms, you may find that a technician does the drawings anyway once the Architect has done his concept sketch.

Be sure to get a fixed quote and guidance on all other likely costs. Many plan drawers have a habit of adding on extras here and there. In particular ask what happens with drawing amendments and dealing with other professionals. You want your designer to design something that not only can be built, but will pass planning and building regulations, and if they require changes, then you should not be paying for them. If water company build over agreements are needed, or party wall notices, or structural engineer design, then you want to know if liaison with these is included or extra, and if extra what fee basis will be used.

Ask to see some recent drawings and pay attention to the actual design that has gone on. Not fancy details or reams of text, but how the designer has interpreted his clients requirements and come up with something other than a box on the back of a house.

Above all, you want good, clear, well thought out working drawings for the builder. If the thing can't be built, or there are loads of fancy (but useless) standard details copied over from previous jobs to fill white space on the paper, then you will be hit for extras from the builder.

After reviewing all the above from the candidates, you should go with the one who you can get on with and who you think is the most receptive to your needs and who you can work with. And if you are the type of person that will let the designer just get on with it, or constantly want to see "what if" designs, or like to change things as you go on, then tell them that. You both need to be able to get on with each other.
Also ask them to quote a separate sum for planning and building regulations. If you don't get planning consent you will need to know what proportion is what?

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