Briefing Your Architect

Contract an Architect

Once you have selected an Architect, its crucial to the success of your project that you both have a clear understanding of client expectations, timelines, budgets and fees - and its important to get this all into a formal agreement.

Start with a brief

The ultimate success of your project depends on the quality of your brief, i.e. your ability to describe clearly to your Architect the requirements and functions of your building, and proposed methods of operation and management. It is wise to ask your Architect to assist you in preparing a final brief. Your architect will need to know:

  • your aims
  • your budget
  • your design style: are you looking for a design in keeping with the existing building? Do you want a contemporary or high-tech design? Are you concerned about having a sustainable or ecological design?
  • your reasons for embarking on this building project: what activities are intended for it?
  • your authority: who will make the decisions about the designs, costs and construction when the project is underway?
  • your overall expectations: what do you hope to achieve by this project - more space, more light, variety of uses, greater flexibility etc etc?

Establish the scope of works and the fees

It is important that the scope of work to be carried out and the fee structure i.e. how fees will be charged at each stage of the work are clearly set down in writing from the outset. To this end the Institute publishes a standard form of Architects Appointment, which includes the statutory Conditions and Engagement and Scale of Fees. This document outlines in detail the general and specific duties of an Architect, the manner in which disputes should be handled, or services terminated. It also sets down the minimum fees chargeable.

Establish a clear client brief and budget

It is essential in achieving a successful building the the Client and Architect work together as a team. It is important that your brief and schedule of accommodation is as complete and well thought out as possible. Strong likes and silks of materials, forms or styles should be communicated to the Architect at the beginning of the project. Bear in mind that he is an expert in translating your requirements into reality and you should allow him to maximise that expertise, for which you are paying. Be very frank with your Architect as to the financial constraints on the project and the amount available for the building. It is then the Architect’s responsibility to design within that budget.

Its a step by step process

Go very thoroughly into the proposals at the design stage, and do not give approval to proceed to the next stage of the Architects work until you are totally satisfied with the proposed scheme. Changes are part of the process - but once the building has begun, try to avoid changes on site. They are much cheaper to make while the scheme is on the drawing board and can cause significant delays for completion, as well as raising costs.

Being a good client

  • As a client, by all means maintain your interest in the building as it progresses, but never give instructions directly to the builder. Always give these through the Architect; this is a very common cause of disputes arising on site.
  • Pay the builder promptly when the Architect certifies that payments are required. Failure to do so could put you into breach of contract.
  • Do not hesitate to discuss any worries you may have with your Architect. He relies on your confidence and trust, as much as you rely on his skills and commitment on your project.