If you are considering a building project, make sure to engage a registered architect. Sandra O’Connell explains how working with an architect can save you time and money and add value to your home.
Whether you are planning to build your dream home or are extending and renovating your existing house, a registered architect has the qualifications, vision and experience to take you expertly through your building project. An architect does a lot more than just provide you with a set of drawings, they will help you set a viable brief and budget, guide you through the planning process, obtain quotes for the work, manage consultants like surveyors and engineers, monitor the budget and administer the construction contract.
Why is the title ‘Architect’ registered?
In Ireland, the title ‘architect’ is registered and a person cannot practice as an architect unless he or she holds the relevant qualifications. The RIAI is the regulatory and support body for architects in Ireland. The online Register, lists over 2700 architects. You can search the Register on the RIAI website to see if your architect is registered. www.riai.ie/register/the_register_of_architects
Prior to becoming a registered architect, they will have trained professionally for seven years in approved universities and institutes. Architecture has one of the longest training durations among the professions in Ireland and reflects society’s concern that building – an important investment on behalf of a client – should be directed by a properly trained individual.
A registered architect is professionally qualified, legally registered to practice and bound by a Professional Code of Conduct. Due to their design training, an architect offers a level of professional design service and expertise which no other building professional can provide.
How do I find an Architect ?
It is important to appoint a registered architect. The RIAI provides on its website a search tool – the RIAI Practice Directory – that enables you to find a registered architect in your area. You can search the directory by practice name, if you have already identified a practice, by skill or simply by location. www.riai.ie/practice_directory/
If you cannot find a suitable RIAI architectural practice, please contact the RIAI by giving details of the project, address, location and the RIAI can provide a list of architects in your area. If you have found an architect without our search facilities, do check the Register to see if your architect is registered.
Once you have identified your architect and agreed to engage them for your project, a contract is drawn up. The RIAI publishes a range of agreements for use by client and architect, which are suited to projects of varying complexity and explain the scope of the services available to the client. Your architect will advise on the most appropriate contract to use.
How much will it cost? – Architects’ Fees
An architect’s fee depends on the requirements and complexity of each project and the scope of services provided. For this reason there is no set or standard fee. Some architects will charge you on the basis of a total project cost, others on a fixed price lump sum or on a time charge basis. An architect can also save you money on a project, as they will research viable alternatives and solutions to suit your budget.
How does it work? – The Project Stages
Step 1 – Brief Development
At the start of your project you and your architect will meet to discuss in detail your requirements and aspirations. It is important that you advise your architect of your budget, time frame and any other parameters, as these will impact on the design. The information you provide for your architect is called ‘The Brief’. Time spent at this initial stage is invaluable as a design is only as good as the brief.
A good place to start is by going through your existing home and making a list of what works for you and what does not work for you. You may also decide to put together a ‘mood board’ of things that you have seen online or in books and magazines.
Step 2 – Initial Design and Detailed Design
When you have finalized the brief, your architect will carry out a survey of your site (new builds) or your home (extensions, renovations). They develop an Initial Design in form of outline sketch designs to be discussed with you as the client. At this stage, you and your architect will also agree a time plan, budget, roles, communications and the services you require from you architect. (For example you may want them to also provide interior design). Your architect will advise you on the need for specialist consultants or services and on planning requirements, building regulations, and Health & Safety Regulations. The design may still change at this stage or your architect may provide you with a number of alternative proposals in form of drawings and sketch designs.
Your feedback on the Initial Design will become part of the developed design and your architect will present you with a Detailed Design for your approval. Your architect will provide you with drawings – including floor plans, elevations (views) and sections (cut-through). Other presenting tools your architects might chose include models and 3-D walk through. Drawings can be sometimes difficult to understand but this is an important stage in the design and a two-way process into which you must feed your concerns and requirements. You will also need to decide on the optimum renewable energy sources, their impact on the design and future management of the building and if you wish to exceed regulatory requirements.
Step 3 – Planning Permission and Construction Drawings
If planning permission is required for the project, your architect will prepare the drawings and make the application on your behalf.
Following successful planning permission, and once you have instructed your architect to proceed with the developed design, they will produce full construction drawings, including site works and specification finishes. A technical and quality specification also forms part of the detailed design to ensure that the project requirements are clearly formulated for the contractor. The detailed design will have to incorporate any changes as required under a Grant of Planning Permission. Your architect will also liaise closely with specialist consultants, such as the structural engineer, to incorporate their designs contributions. As the design is now developed, check on Building Regulation compliance should be carried out at this stage and any necessary modifications incorporated.
Step 4 – The Tender Process
Your architect will prepare Forms of Tender for main and specialist contractors. It is advisable to have at least three contractors submit costings (tenders) for a project. As each contractor will base their costing on the same information, tenders can be compared and analysed and the best price found. You and your architect should be satisfied, however, that each of the contractors is competent to carry out the work. For example, you should ask a contractor to see samples of previous work and speak to previous clients. In relation to the future performance of the building envelope and energy loss, quality control on site is paramount. The successful tender may not necessarily be the lowest one. If a tender is very low, the contractor may have missed something. In some cases, an architect and client may agree to negotiate a tender price with just one contractor.
Your architect, and your Quantity Surveyor (if applicable), will use their expertise to help you evaluate the tenders received. Your architect will also advise on the most appropriate RIAI Form of Building Contract for your project as well as on insurance during construction.
Step 5 – Building Works
During construction, your architect will act on your behalf as an independent advisor, inspecting the building work at intervals to ensure that it is being carried out generally in accordance with the contract documents. It is the duty of the builder to supervise the work. If your project is carried out under BC(A)R, your architect may act as the Assigned Certifier. For more details read our article of BC(A)R.
Step 6 – Project Completion
Prior to the final completion of a building and before you take ownership, you will be asked to produce a snag list to identify any building defects. Defects can be easily missed and architects are professionally trained to look at building details. Typical building defects may include poor workmanship and finishes; faulty plumbing such as leaking cisterns and WCs or poorly connected pipes.
A Client’s Responsibilities under The Building Control (Amendment) Regulations, BC(A)R
The Irish Government introduced new regulations, S.I. 9, which came into force on 1 March 2014, which set out new procedures for the control of the building activity. Under the new regulations, the Building Owner is responsible to ensure compliance with Building Regulations and must appoint competent Designers, the Builder and the Assigned Certifier.
In August 2015, the Government introduced an ‘opt out’ from BC(A)R for one-off houses and domestic extensions (S.I.365) There are implications for ‘opt-out’ and we advise that you read the article on BC(A)R in this issue.
About the RIAI
Founded in 1839, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) is the Regulatory and Support body for Architects in Ireland. Support services are also provided for Architectural Technologists. The RIAI also promotes the value that architecture brings to society for everyone’s benefit and engages with government, the professions, industry, clients and the public. riai.ie