Rogue Architect

11 Feb 2009
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United Kingdom

9 months ago I replied to a small ad in the local paper for someone advertising 'loft plans' and assumed the person behind it would be an 'architect', I went to visit him and look at some drawings he had previously done, he had many to show and I naturally assumed he had the requisite experience.

I instructed him to design plans for a hip to gable loft conversion. Several months later a certificate of lawfulness had been issued and 'conditional passing of plans notice' by Building Control.

Before instructing him I had read a book on loft conversions aimed at builders and architects, so knew pretty much what to expect, and spent several years practicing and learning what would be required of me.
This was to be a self build job, yes a big task, but one I felt confident to take on. I told my 'architect' that I would be consulting with him through out the build as obviously I would need advise as it went along. He felt it would be a fool hardy practice, but he knew that is what I would be doing.

I decided to use him at that point.

I had calculated there would be enough cu mt capacity available (50cu under permitted development on a semi) to build the gable wall up - flush with the flank wall, and use the available height to build up to the ridge, giving a reasonable ceiling height.
I also assumed I could have a hall window (obviously with obscured glass) and one or two velux windows on the front highway facing pitched slope roof.

It was like pulling teeth, what ever I tried to suggest he would convince me I didn't know what I was talking about, and advise me planning wouldn't allow what I was suggesting (ie flush gable wall, hall window, velux's) - so as a layman I followed his advise, after all he was the professional.

Plans arrived and I was surprised to see a much reduced dormer with stepped in roof line, the dormer size reduced both in height (200mm unused) and width (500mm). I questioned him, but he said thats how it calculated (48.28 cu mt).
The structural calcs showing the Purlin wall had also moved into the loft space 500mm or so to a centre point under the sloping roof rafters.

9 months on and I'm gearing up to get cracking, upon checking I find his volume calculations to be out by 9 cu mts. Another thread here proves he is wrong:
To crown it, a few doors up the road, a loft conversion on an identical property to mine has gone up - with all the elements I had read about and assumed would be allowed.

I am running over his plans again tonight, and see the plans do not include the height of the extra 115mm of insulation on the warm roof :(

I have checked on the ARB website, and cant find him, so must assume he is not what I would consider an arcitect, I dont know what he is if cant even calculate volumes correctly.

My last conversation with him several months ago was very strained, and he shouted at me telling me I'm out of my depth - and the conversation ended.
My borough council and his local borough council - whom I have spoken to about him report him to be an abrupt and rude man - in fact his local council have terminated their relationship with him on this basis.
I have spoken to trading standards - and say he has a case to answer, but obviously that was not a professional opinion.
Should I expect him to put this right, make the changes I originally requested, and ask him to pay for plans to be resubmitted to planning and Building Control, at his expense.
I just know he will be as difficult as he can, I'm not out to prove him wrong, I just want plans done properly.
I now wish I had gone to a recognised architect.
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I instructed him to design plans for a hip to gable loft conversion....blah, blah, blah....I now wish I had gone to a recognised architect.

The last bit makes a lot of sense.

Why not ask the people up the road for the number of their architect?

However, your architect may have a point about taking on a loft con. Not the easiest of projects and one that would require large amounts of skill, a large amount of building knowledge and at certain stages would need to be done quickly. Any architect would be nervous about having to babysit a novice through a job like yours and would rather deal with a seasoned veteran.

However, if you have the necessary skills then good on ya, crack on. Or if you pay a large enough retainer i'm sure there may be a designer out there who will deal with all the inevitable questions.
I should have been more succinct, sorry, yes its rather rambling.

His volume calculations for the additional volume are 48.23 cu mt, (but they are wrong by 9 cu mts), almost 20% of the permitted development volume is incorrectly unused in his plans.
This has meant the dormer ceiling height and width are less than what they should be.

The plans should also include 2x Velux's and a hall window, but going on his (what now appears wrong advice) they were excluded.

The Purlin wall on the Structural Calcs Plans is 500mm further into the living space than the Planning and Building Control plans. I only saw the structural calcs plans after they had been approved.

The issue is, now its all been approved I dont know what my position is in asking him to put it right, it will require revised Planning and Building Control plans, and possibly revised structural Calcs to be amended - and then resubmission to the two council departments with subsequent costs.
I fear he may argue that I should have raised all this before plans were submitted, but he was just so dogmatic that he was right in his attitude, and I was wrong to question him, I trusted what he had done - so through they went.

I am hoping for a professional opinion on this matter and his obligations now, to put this right in view of the above issues.
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My architect knew from the start it would be a self build job and I would be asking questions ... so he still took my money in that knowledge.

I haven't underestimated the task in hand, and have studied and practiced to the best of my abilities for several years, I will have a first fix carpenter on hand to assist whilst building the shell.

All around where I live there are some very ropey 'builders' knocking up lofts and buildings left right and centre. I've clambered up scaffolding after working hours on unmanned works and studied what they are doing ... very bodge - I am sure no one has the holy grail to loft construction ... but I will get the job done as needed.
it would be a self build job....... I will have a first fix carpenter on hand.
Not really self build then.

Your architect will have taken his fee and rightly so, but is by no means obligated to hold your hand all the way through the project.

Just as the architect has professional obligations, it is the responsibility of the builder to be in a position to make decisions himself should he need to and only refer to the architect for architectural decisions and not to pester him on how to say cut timber or mix compo, check dimensions and make things work etc.

We can advise architects as much as they advise us. The last thing they want is a novice screwing up a drawing.
I don't really follow the OP's story? Is it just me? :oops:

Bullet points would be good

I just wonder why the OP did not approve the design drawings before they were submitted?

Ok, if volume cals are out, then there may be a reason or a mistake. But if the OP instructed a particular design, and then approved the final plans then this would have been sorted out before hand

As for Architect, well an Architect has a capital A and anyone who calls himself and Architect must (by law) be a member of the RIBA or ARB or have foreign accreditation, to call himself one. If a person does not specifically call himself an Architect - eg "architectural services", "architectural design", "architectural technician" etc then he will not be an Architect

But not being an Architect does not make him inferior and prone to mistakes. Architects make the same mistakes and probably on a bigger scale too
Before submission to the council, I assumed his volume calcs were correct, and his advise on the Veluxs and hall window also to be correct, before they were submitted, I went on his professional work.

I guess a capital 'A' buys a better bit of assurance, hopefully, but guess you need to judge someone on the results.

I simply asked a few questions about the notes on the plans - no more than 2 or 3 calls, no more than I'm sure a regular builder would need to ask, but he was very unprofessional in his replies. There certainly wont be any hand holding - I feel competent enough to crack on without that.

I visited the site up the road, met the builders, inspected the build at several stages, and spoke to the architect who is happy to take on the work. A much better job all round, they only had one steel and a flitch beam (using the spine wall) in the floor, I have 6 huge steels, the purlin wall is where it should be, the ceiling and dormer width (ie volume calcs) are correct. They have two velux's and a hall window.

Should I show my 'architect' this other development and say this is how it should have been designed ... and tell him to put it right ?
Should I show my 'architect' this other development and say this is how it should have been designed ... and tell him to put it right ?
Show hime what you like, but while I dont know what you currently owe him , if anything, I would tell him to sling his hook if I wasnt happy.

I visited the site up the road....... A much better job all round...........Should I show my 'architect' this other development and say this is how it should have been designed ... and tell him to put it right ?
Yes i think you should make him aware that the job up the road is how you expected and would like your job to be done.
.....and that it is completely doable.

:idea: N.B. Make sure the job up the road is totally above board and passed by building control before spouting off to your architect though. ;)
Now I'm a complete novice at such matters, but isn't a hip-gable conversion a permitted development ? No need to set back anything, just extend the wall up to form a gable and extend the roof to meet it ?

Ah yes, it's number 6 in this thread.

So my interpretation would be that the hip-gable conversion is OK using the existing roof line and wall, and then you'd need to consider the loft conversion as a separate project even if it's done at the same time. But then I could be completely wrong.
SimonH2";p="2436797 said:
you'd need to consider the loft conversion as a separate project
Not quite; the volume of the hip-to-gable, and the volume of the dormer itself are added together and to be pd the total volume increase must be less than 50 /40 cub.m
The job up the road has a cert of lawfulness based on the plans submitted, which without me getting a tape measure out, look correct now built.
Regarding building control completion cert, I can only assume its been passed without issue, as they are now building a second phase with side and rear extensions - which was a separate application.

I'm emailing my acrhitect today to say there are errors with his plans, and that he should put them right, and show him the example of the development up the road.

He's already been paid, and we've not spoken for over 6 months, so this will all seem an unwanted surprise I guess.

Yes steels, in the floor mind, but they are huge, and heavy, and costly ... one day I will work out how to calculate and specify floor members, someones just covering their back, at my expense - I'm sure !

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