How to choose an architect for your self-build project

Needless to say, choosing to build your own home is a major decision that’ll leave you with a number of different aspects to manage and plan. One of the most important, of course, is choosing which architect you’re going to have come on board. How can you go about making this substantial decision? Read on…

Know you’re getting the real deal

Architects have to undergo a lot of training and qualification before they’re considered the genuine article. They go through seven years of training before they can gain membership to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and be considered for registration with their own body: the Architects’ Registration Board (ARB). As a result, a really good place to start your hunt is with the RIBA’s client services team: they have a comprehensive record of more than 4,000 different practices in the UK, as well as a lot of information on the types of work the difference practises carry out.

The particularly brilliant thing about the RIBA is that you can request a free shortlist of practises that’ll suit your needs: essentially, they’ll do some of the work for you!

(ASBA Architects is also worth looking at: it’s a national network of local qualified architects who specialise in the self-build and renovation markets).

If you’ve already got a design

Some people already have an idea as to what they want their new home to look like. If that’s you, it might be worth taking a look at an architectural technologist: these specialists are trained in the scientific area of architecture rather than the artistic. Essentially, they will manage the construction process as opposed to the design itself. If this sounds like what you’re looking for, check out the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT) who have a substantial online database of their own.

Get to know them!

Once you’re satisfied that an architect has the qualifications you require, you’ll need to actually sit down with them and have a proper conversation. Compatibility and communication are both essential: you’re going to be undertaking a massive project together, so it’s vital that you get on! It’s important to ask if you can see portfolios and view previously finished projects too, but the most important thing is that you feel at ease with them. If you don’t feel 100% confident in their abilities, don’t rush in: take the time to find someone else. You’ll regret it if you don’t.

Take care of the legalities

Once you’ve chosen your architect, you’ll need to have a formal contract written up as well as a clear, defined brief. Fortunately, the RIBA publishes a range of legally recognised contracts, agreements and contractual letters. They also publish a number of other important documents, such as the schedule of services and the schedule of fees. If you are still unsure about which documents you require, consult a solicitor: preferably one that specialises in these projects. It pays to be completely sure what you’re signing in any situation, let alone when there are hundreds of thousands of pounds on the line!

A self-build house is a major project. If you are at all unsure about any part of the process, give Livingwood a call on 01284 764045: we’ll be happy to help.