Finding an architect to bring your dream home to life is never an easy task, no matter how big or small your project is. But without an architect, your project idea is unlikely to move from the drawing board (and your imagination) through to completion.
A good architect will be able to create a design tailored to your needs taking into account all possible obstacles so that it sails through planning permission and (with the help of a good builder) moves through the building stage to completion. The knowledge and expertise an architect brings to a project are essential to ensure that work not only starts on a firm footing but is less likely to encounter problems as it progresses.
But the question is, how do you know which architect to choose for your project? Well, never fear because we are here to help. In this guide, we will discuss what makes a good architect and the questions you need to ask to make sure the one you hire is right for you. Let’s get started.
What does an architect do?
An architect is a person who plans, designs and oversees the construction of a building or building project. But ask different architects what they do daily, and the answer will be different every time. The task an architect performs every day depends on where they live (whether this is a small town or big city), what type of architecture firm they work for, as well as many other factors such as the stage of development, etc.
Some architects choose to work on specific parts of projects, while others will be present at each stage of the journey and lead the entire design process from start to finish.
Most architects will perform the following duties:
- Design the project. Most architects will be involved in the drawing up of blueprints and other architectural drawings that bring the building project to life. They will make sure that designs meet the customer’s needs, is practical to implement, and doesn’t fall foul of any legal or statutory requirements.
- Managing and supervising the project. Some architects will manage the building project by hiring, consulting with, and overseeing work. They will bring in the required tradesmen and make sure that work is not only up to standard (and meets statutory and legal requirements) but is in line with designs.
What is the process of a building project when an architect is involved?
When an architect is involved in a building project, the first task they complete is a discussion of the project’s requirements, objectives, and budget with the client. After this, the architect will enter the predesign phase. This is the part of the process where the feasibility of the project is assessed and things like land use studies, environmental impact studies, and cost analysis take place.
Once the pre-design phase is complete, the architect will prepare initial drawings of the structure that is to be built. These will include everything involved in the project, including things like electrics, ventilation, heating and plumbing, air-conditioning (if necessary), any communication systems. It will also include site plans and landscape plans. These plans may also feature details of the building materials to be used or even interior furnishings that the architect thinks will be a good fit for the project. Once created, the plans aren’t set in stone and may be revised continuously as the project progresses to ensure the final building meets the needs of the client.
Where to look to find an architect in Oxford
When it comes to finding a good architect for your building project, the Internet is often a good place to start. Google architects in Oxford and look for ones that have testimonials or other recommendations. Have a look at social media too. Places like Facebook and Instagram are great for getting a feel for what other people think and may allow you to see some of the architect’s previous work. The RIBA website (The Royal Institute of British Architects – link here) is also a great place to start as it includes a handy Find an Architect tool to help you with your search.
Another great place to start when looking for an architect is to ask friends and family if they have any recommendations, especially if they’ve recently had building work completed. They may suggest the architect they used for the project. If they do, this can cut down on the time spent searching.
Alternatively, you could drive around your local area looking for houses and other buildings that are similar to what you want from your project. Don’t be afraid to ask the owner of the property which architect they used and whether they would recommend their work.
The benefits of hiring a local architect
There are many benefits to hiring a local architect, including:
- Local architects understand local building projects. Hiring an architect local to Oxford means getting somebody with advanced knowledge of the properties in the area. They will be able to advise on the styles of building that suit the area as well as the right materials to use.
- Work can often be completed quicker. If your architect lives on your doorstep, it is easier for them to be at the building site overseeing work. This can allow issues to be resolved quickly as there will be less in the way of lag caused by travel times or communication issues.
- Fewer issues with the local planning authority. It’s likely that a local architect will have a friendly relationship with the local planning authority (if they don’t then you need to hire somebody else). This may make it easier for them to overcome any issues with plans or planning permission than it would for an out-of-town architect. On top of this, local architects understand what the planning authority are looking for and will have a better chance of getting planning applications agreed quicker with less fuss.
- Local architects will worry about their local reputation: All local businesses rely on their reputation and word of mouth to be successful and make money. One bad review can tarnish everything they have worked for and reduce their ability to find work in the future. Out of town architects also worry about their reputations but word of mouth is less likely to spread to the areas where they complete the majority of their work. Our advice is to thoroughly research any architect before hiring. Don’t choose the first one you come across. And look on websites like com and Ratedpeople.com to get an idea of what other people think about them.
- A local architect will have links with local tradesmen. Most architects will have relationships with builders, electricians, plumbers, and any other tradesman required to complete your project. In most cases, they will be able to recommend those they think will be a good fit for the job and may even be able to liaise with them to get work done.
- It’s easier to gauge word of mouth: Finding information and recommendations is far easier if the architect you are thinking about hiring is local. They may have been recommended to you in the first place and even if they haven’t, you’ll find it far easier to gauge what other people think about them just by asking around.
How to choose an architect in Oxford
Understanding the need for an architect doesn’t make choosing one any easier. So, to help you out, here are some of our tips for what to look for when hiring an architect in the Oxford area.
Before hiring an architect (or any other tradesperson for your building project), ask them what their style is. All architects have a specific way of working and will tend to favour properties built in a specific way and with a specific style. For example, if you are looking for a property that is eco-friendly in nature, make sure the architects you speak to are capable of this type of work before hiring. Ask to look at examples of their previous projects and make sure this matches what you want for your property. And if they have little to no experience in the style you want (or show a reluctance for it), look elsewhere.
Make sure the architect is available for the full length of your project
Most people want their building project (especially if it is their home) built as quickly and as cost-effectively as possible. Hiring an architect whose time is already stretched by other projects or who can’t give assurances that they will be on board for the length of the work is a sure-fire way to experience delays (as well as other issues). You want to hire an architect who is dedicated to your project and is available at every step of the process. Hiring an architect who jumps around from one job to another may lead to a messy project that could struggle to come to fruition.
Make sure that timelines are agreed from the beginning
While we are on the subject of avoiding issues and delays, its important at the beginning of any building project that timelines are agreed and written into contracts. Building a property can be incredibly time consuming and delays can be incredibly costly. Make sure that your architect is aware of any deadlines you have and get him to confirm that they can be met. Have him sign a contract with these time frames explicitly written into them. Even the most well-run project can experience delays and there has to be some flexibility involved once work starts. But by having a timeline written down and agreed upon, there will be less chance of ‘avoidable’ delays or architects prioritising ‘other’ work ahead of yours. If an architect you approach is wishy-washy about timeframes or gives no guarantees, it might be better to look elsewhere.
Choose an architect who you ‘gel’ with
From the outset, look for an architect who you have a good rapport with. You will be working with this person for many months and a fractious relationship is never good for your property, bank balance, or general well-being. When speaking to an architect make sure they understand what you want and show an interest in your project. You want them to be accommodating to your needs, but firm with you if your ideas are impractical. Conversations with an architect should always be positive even when they are disagreeing with you.
Don’t ignore the advice of an architect
This tip is an extension of the one above. Remember architects are specialists in their field and understand the process of building a home far better than you do. And while it is fine to run your ideas by several potential architects, if they say you cannot do something for a specific reason, they are probably right. It’s ok to think that an overhanging bedroom with no supports over a swimming pool is a great idea, but your architect will understand that this is not feasible from both a safety, practical, and (more importantly) legal standpoint. If one architect says they cannot do something you can always try another. But if more than one says no, then you may need to rethink your plans.
Get a guarantee that they can stick to your budget
When hiring an architect, make sure they understand your ideal and (more importantly) maximum budget. Again, make sure that the details of your budget are written into any contracts that are signed. There’s no point hiring an architect who either a) doesn’t know what the budget is or b) has no intention of sticking to the budget because the details were never agreed (and written down). And while you may need to show some flexibility in the costs involved with a project (unforeseen events can increase budgets markedly), you need to make sure that everyone is on the same page where the maximum amount you can spend is concerned.
Check what services the architect offers
As discussed previously, some architects will practically run your project while others will offer only certain services, like drawing up plans. It’s important when hiring an architect to understand exactly what they can do for you. And it’s equally important to make sure this fits in with your needs.
Choosing the right architect for a building project can be a difficult task. But armed with a little knowledge and the tips in our guide you should find the process far easier.
The next time you are thinking about hiring an architect in Oxford, remember the tips above and hire local. You won’t be disappointed.