An Architect’s Guide to Extending, Renovating or Building

A quick guide to building, extending or renovating your house. This guide starts with choosing your architect and continues with a quick walk-through of the project stages as well as the role of the various professionals involved.

Choosing Your Architect

Your first step (and this can take awhile) is to find an architect that’s right for your project.

In terms of costs, getting the balance right between ‘cheap and cheerful’ and a good design can be tricky. Many architects charge on a percentage basis, which can be quite misleading as a lot of clients initially underestimate how much the actual build will cost, and so the architect’s fee gets inflated also.

Ideally, try and negotiate a fixed price because then you will know from the get-go how much your architect’s fees are taking from your budget.

As regards design, good design isn’t just about looking nice from the outside but more so about how the spaces work together. A good idea would be to shop around, go to various architect websites and make sure they have plenty experience in that particular area of your build, i.e. is it in house extensions, new builds or farmhouse refurbishments.

Design Process

The Consulation

Once you have chosen an architect, generally a consultation is organised where the architect calls around to your house, goes through your wish list and gives their initial thoughts on ideas, any issues that may arise and whether or not planning permission may be needed. Most architects charge a fee for this consultation which may later be deducted from the final bill should you decide to go with them.

The Quote

After sizing up the design work involved, the architect will then get back to you with a quote for both design and supervision work during the construction stage of the project. The latter of which is so they can sign off that the construction meets building regulations. Make sure when choosing your architect or designer that they are qualified to sign off on this. In order to do this they must be members of the RIAI (Royal Institute of Architects Ireland), CIAT (Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists), Chartered Society of Building Surveyors or Society of Chartered Engineers Ireland.

Make sure when choosing your architect or designer that they are qualified to sign off at the end of construction that the project meets building regulations

The initial design proposal

After you sign terms and conditions with the architect, the architect will arrange to come out again and carry out a dimensional survey of your building. The architect will then draw up the survey and return to you with an initial design proposal, taking into account your wish list and budget from chatting to you in the consultation. There is normally a back-and-forth process between yourself and the architect in terms of finalising design.

The quantity survey

quantity survey may be engaged to do up a Bill of Quantities to make sure the project comes in under budget. Once you are happy with pricing, and if the project is exempt from planning, the quantity surveyor (QS) will send off to builders for pricing in what is known as the tendering process.

The planning application

If planning is required, the architect will prepare a planning application and send that off to the council for planning permission. This process takes approximately 12 weeks. (The tendering process can take place during this time.)

Construction Process

As mentioned before, make sure your architect/designer has the qualifications to sign off at the end of the build that the project meets building regulations. 

In order to do so, the architect must call to the site and do periodic inspections during construction to ensure that it is built in accordance with the drawings and building regulations, for example:

  • correct levels of insulation
  • adequate ventilation is installed
  • fire safety measures are in place

Should any issues arise during this process, the architect would be involved in coming up with a feasible solution. Once the construction phase is complete, the architect will call around to do a final visual inspection to make sure building regulations have been met and work is completed to a good standard. They will then prepare a snag list of any unfinished work by the building contractor.

Other Professionals Required

The Quantity Surveyor

Engaging a quantity surveyor is always a good idea to help you keep within your budget. Generally when design is complete, they will do up a Bill of Quantities to get a precise cost for the build. If it comes in over budget, they may suggest cost-saving measures to get back within budget. Once the client is satisfied with the costs, the tendering process begins, i.e. the quantity surveyor sends the job out to a number of builders to price it. Once the builders come back with prices, the quantity surveyor will analyse these and advise the client on what builder to go with. A number of factors come into play here, but mainly cost and best available start date. The quantity surveyor will then draw up a contract between the builder and client, which they will both sign.

Engaging a quantity surveyor is a good idea to help you keep within your budget

The Structural Engineer

A structural engineer is needed to design structural elements of the build, such as foundations and any steel beams required, i.e. if you’re breaking out an opening in the existing wall for an extension, loading calculations need to be done to specify and certify the size of the beam required to support the wall overhead.

A structural engineer is needed to design structural elements of the build

The Project Supervisor Design Process (PSDP)

A PSDP is required by law for any project that is going to last more than 30 days or has a particular risk involved, such as working from heights, close to power lines, etc. Basically this is to cover yourself should an accident happen on site. The PSDP prepares the Preliminary Health & Safety Plan, which he gives to the builder to follow during construction. The builder then becomes the PSCS (Project Supervisor Construction Stage), making sure all criteria in the Health & Safety Plan is followed accordingly.

The PSDP prepares the Preliminary Health & Safety Plan would like to thank for their helpful advice and tips for this article.

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