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Tim Offer Architects
Cornwood
Devon
PL21 9PU

01752 878 986
studio@timoffer.com

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Frequently Asked Questions

If you are looking for an architect in Devon you may not know where to start.  There are some questions that we get asked a lot, so we thought that we would put them all in one place.
We know that this doesn’t cover everything, and that every project has its own questions and specific answers.
If you have any other questions that you would like to ask, or have your own project that you would like to discuss please get in touch.

Right here! Any building project can be daunting, especially if you have never done it before. Why not give us a call or drop us an email and we can talk through the process in a little more detail or arrange an initial visit to discuss your aspirations and how we can help. Have a look at our process and workstages sections too.

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Architects are highly skilled and professionally trained to turn your aspirations into reality. They will guide you through the design, planning and construction process whether you are constructing a new building or adapting an existing property.

Architects apply impartial and creative thinking to projects large and small. They add value, whether from maximising light and space, adding functionality, or achieving the best return on your investment.

An architect can help you at every stage of a project: from getting the brief and the design right at the start; through negotiating planning and building regulations and working out how it will be built; right up to administering the works on site, working with the builders to get it built as you want it.  And an architect has done it all before, so will be able to guide you through the process and make it as stress free and as enjoyable as possible.

Have a look at the RIBA website

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Qualifications and professionalism.

The title ‘architect’ is protected by law. Only people on the Architects Registration Board (ARB) register can call themselves architects. Architects are subject to rigorous training and codes of conduct; they study design for many years (it takes at least 7 years to qualify), and should be masters at creating spaces and using them as efficiently as possible. As professionals, architects are also bound by codes of professional conduct to put the interests of their clients first. The ARB requires that all architects carry professional indemnity insurance, which provides peace of mind for clients.

Architectural technologists are also professionals, registered with the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT). They also have to go through rigorous training and qualifications to become chartered. Broadly speaking, technologists tend to be more detail and construction focussed, and architects tend to be more aesthetically minded, but this isn’t always the case. TOA pride ourselves on every aspect of our service.

Anyone can call themselves an architectural technician or architectural designer. You don’t need any qualifications, or have undertaken any training to do so. That doesn’t mean that they are all bad; some will have completed parts of the training to become an architect or a technologist, or may have trained as engineers or surveyors. Others, however, will have no formal training at all. As a professional body does not regulate them they have no professional obligations to look after their clients interests or to carry professional indemnity insurance.  You should always check whether your designer has appropriate insurance, and ensure that they will be giving you the level of service that you require. Always insist on a formal appointment setting out the terms of service and look at previous work before engaging someone.

See the ARB website and the CIAT website

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Only architectural practices that meet strict eligibility criteria can register as a Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Chartered Practice. They need to employ RIBA chartered architects, have appropriate professional indemnity insurance, have quality management and other policies in place, and most importantly conduct themselves in accordance with the RIBA code of conduct and code of practice.

Chartered practices are committed to excellence in design and customer service. That’s why the RIBA only promotes accredited Chartered Practices to clients. (see the RIBA find an architect website)

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Architects are problem solvers, who will ensure that you address the core needs of your project to get to a solution that meets those needs.  An architect will work closely with you to hone your ideas into a brief, and will also be able to identify solutions and opportunities that you may not have thought of. An architect will be able to suggest layouts, materials and products that go beyond the conventional to truly meet the needs of the project and maximise returns. This is what we are trained to do – to think creatively about a problem to come up with solutions that are not always obvious.

An architect will also anticipate the unintended consequences of any decision. An 8m deep extension on the back of your detached house may sound great in terms of the additional space, but what about the natural light and airflow in the middle of the plan?

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Having a builder on board is great – they are sometimes hard to come by!

But you should use people for jobs that are appropriate to the skills that they have. A builder is usually great at building things, but is unlikely to produce accurate and detailed layouts and schedules, which will make it very difficult for you to know what you are going to get and agree exactly what work will be done. If you leave it to your builder then they will be deciding your construction materials and methods, the performance of the fabric, the heights of windows, the details of the eaves, the number of sockets in each room….

This often ends in misunderstandings and a long list of additional extras that weren’t discussed at the start but are essential to your satisfaction with the project. These extras will end up costing you more as the project progresses.

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Investment at the right stages of the project will save you money in the long run. Getting the brief and the design right at the start reduces the need to make costly changes when on site. A full set of drawings will allow accurate pricing and programming by a builder and with everything thought about and coordinated before you get to site you can be confident of what you are going to get and how much it will cost.  You will also know that what you will get is what you want.

“A good architect actually pays for themselves – more than once. You will reap the reward and the building will be hugely better and deliver much better value for it.” Kevin McCloud, Grand Designs

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Almost every job will need a structural engineer. There are a number of other consultants that might be needed too, from ecological consultants to check whether you have bats to party wall surveyors to draw up agreements between you and your neighbours. Every job is different and part of the briefing process is to identify what the project will need in terms of additional help and expertise.

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You are likely to need planning permission if you are changing the outside of the building, or building something new. There are certain things that you can do under permitted development rights. Even these sometimes need to go through an application process before you can start work, however.

There is loads of useful information on the planning portal website. Or you could give us a call to have a chat about what you are thinking.

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The building regulations help ensure that new buildings, conversions, renovations and extensions are going to be safe, healthy and high-performing. Detailed regulations cover specific topics including: structural integrity, fire protection, accessibility, energy performance, acoustic performance, protection against falls, electrical and gas safety. The building regulations are defined by the English and Welsh Governments.

Construction work is signed off by a local authority inspector as the project progresses. You can also have your designs signed off for compliance before you start on site so that there are no nasty surprises.

The planning portal has lots of information about this too.

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Probably longer than you think.

For a typical large extension and reconfiguration project it may be 8-12 months before you even get started on site, allowing for proper briefing and design development, waiting for planning (a minimum of 8 weeks needs to be allowed for this), and then working out all of the detail and coordinating the work of other consultants like engineers and other specialists. Then you need to find the right builder at the right cost before you can start.

The work on site might take 4-6 months, or even longer if the conditions are complicated or you are doing something interesting.

 

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Probably more than you think. You can ignore most of the budgets that you see on Grand Designs – these generally only work if you give up your job, manage the construction and do a lot of the building work yourself.

We advise to allow around £2000/m2 for new construction as a good base. Higher levels of performance and specification or more complicated designs will push this higher. As projects get larger there are greater economies to be found as the one off costs are spread over larger areas. The opposite is true for smaller projects.

If you are installing items like kitchens or large areas of high performance glazing these should be considered as stand alone items on top of this. You can get good kitchens from Ikea on a budget, or spend tens of thousands for something hand crafted with top of the range appliances.

You should also factor in a contingency for anything unexpected and around 15% of the construction cost for all of your consultants’ fees and planning and building regs…

Oh, and then there’s VAT. If you are working on an existing house that’s another 20%, and usually 5% for conversions. New build houses are zero rated.

You also need to think about indirect costs too: where will you live while work is happening at your house? Will you need to borrow more on your mortgage to finance the project? Will you need additional insurance while the work is ongoing?

This is why it’s important to plan your project before you start. Work out what you budget is and hone the design to something that is realistic rather than bankrupting. To get a better idea of build costs you can employ a quantity surveyor to prepare a detailed cost plan as the design develops, or get a builder on board early to help hone the detail and the aspirations to the available budget.

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You’ve already started; doing your research is key. Have a look at architects’ websites and give them a call to find out more or arrange an initial meeting. Most architects will meet to discuss your aspirations for free. If you want anything more detailed or any design work you should expect to pay a small fee.

Once you have narrowed down your options and got comparable fee proposals (make sure that they are all quoting for the same levels of service and deliverables to get a real comparison) you need to make a decision. Lots of factors will influence this. Cost will of course be important, but so will design quality, approach, personality and confidence. Getting building work done can be stressful, so you will want someone to guide you through it that you can trust and engage with, and whom you feel will be honest and straightforward with you.

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We pride ourselves on our service and outputs, but don’t take our word for it – give us a call and arrange a meeting. You can come and visit us in our studio to see how we work and examples of the information that we produce, or we can visit you on site to have a chat about your aspirations and how we can help with your project.

Either way, we love hearing from new people and sharing what we do, and hope that we might be able to help you with your project.

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