THE INITIAL CHAT
This usually takes about an hour.
If the project is for an extension or renovation we prefer to meet at the client's house. This not only helps us to get to know each other but also gives us an idea of how the family or individuals interact and use the spaces. At this stage we are not officially appointed and we're there just to see what is involved in the project and get an idea of the amount of work required on my part so that we can provide a fee quotation for our services. It's also very important to be able to get on well with your architect and this initial meeting should give a good idea of this.
We chat about what you want to gain from the project and we help you draw up a wish list. Sometimes a property can be improved by simply reconfiguring the existing layout. We talk about the whole house and what you would like to achieve. This includes how the spaces are used at the moment but also how they could be used in the future with teenagers or with grandparents.
We talk about your budget and when you would like the project completed. Even though we will get to know all individuals I ask that one person is nominated as the principle point of contact and will make all the final decisions on day to day matters. This keeps the lines of communication clear.
We tend not to give design ideas immediately as we don't think it's possible without considering all aspects from how spaces are used by the individuals to how they will be used in the future, budget etc. We view each project as unique and never give an off the peg design.
We are quite flexible as to the format of fees. Quite often a client prefers to know exactly what they will be paying out and therefore chooses a fixed fee. Sometimes at the beginning of a project, if the scope of works is unknown or if the project is very small an hourly rate is preferred.
Once you have accepted the fee proposal we draw up an agreement known as an 'appointment document' which explains when the fees will be paid, what the services are and what to do if you decide to cancel. This will include our understanding of your brief as was discussed at the initial chat.
We carry out a full measured survey of your house. This can take about 3hrs typically. Once we have drawn the existing plans we'll start designing. This is our favourite part of the process where we can get down to the real problem solving. With our expertise we can help you come up with an imaginative solution to maximise your budget.
There's quite often more than one solution and we'll send you some sketches and plans to illustrate these. This gives you some time to fully consider all options at home. We would then organise a meeting to run through the ideas and answer any questions you might have, or discuss any alterations.
Once the initial design is decided upon we refer to it as 'signed off' and only minor changes should be made after this point. This is therefore a good time to have the proposals costed by a Quantity Surveyor commonly referred to as a QS. Any cost advice we will have given up to now will have been a very rough guess and we'll have made sure that this is understood. Therefore if you want some cost certainty before proceeding to the next stage, we would advise a costing from a qualified QS.
We will now work up the drawings in CAD ready for a planning application. Planning Permission can take about 8 weeks. During this time it is useful to be thinking about the kitchen design and any internal finishes, fixed furniture etc.
If your project involves modifications to load bearing elements or new structural elements you will also need to employ a Structural Engineer to design the structure and provide calculations for the Building Warrant Application. We can recommend a few engineers if you don't already know one.
The next stage is to work up the drawings to a larger scale. At this point we would usually meet your engineer at the house to run through the proposals and in the following weeks we liaise to coordinate our details. We go through the Building Regulations, a large document of approximately 600 pages, and make sure we have designed everything to the current standards. This is an in-depth process and involves all technical aspects of the room layouts and building fabric. This includes drainage and electrical layout design, staircase, kitchen and bathroom layout including accessibility, acoustic and ventilation design.
TENDER/DRAWINGS FOR THE BUILDER
There are a number of ways to employ a builder and we've explained the most common methods in the FAQ's page. Most of the drawings will be complete now but there will be a few extra details needed to ensure the builder knows how to construct all parts of the proposals. We will also draw up a list of specifications which tells the contractor what and where to source all aspects of the building. A list of specifications is a written document which explains the standards of workmanship, the method of construction and the precise types of product to be used to complete your project.
Once all the information is complete and you have agreed the price with a builder, you will both sign a contract and agree a time to start building.
It's of utmost importance that you allow in your budget for what's known as a contingency sum. A contingency sum is a 'pot of money' that you should set aside, which is separate from the tender price given by the builder. This varies from project to project but for a simple extension we would recommend about 10% of the builders tender price and is for unforeseen circumstances which might occur during the building work.
The exciting part...
Your house now gets referred to as 'site' and we usually refer to the builder as 'the contractor'.
We will have an initial site meeting with the contractor to discuss site safety, explain the process, lines of communication and any technical issues to look out for and basically to get to know each other. If you have asked us to administer the contract we will make periodic visits to inspect the general progress and issue any instructions to the contractor or reject any obviously unsatisfactory work. We would also check that the contractor has completed all of the work described in their invoice and recommend the amounts actually due for payment. We will always hold back 5% as a retention to be released at the end.
Finally you have what feels like a new house. The contractors will have cleaned before they left but we always recommend employing a cleaner to give the whole house an intensive clean. If you've had walls removed, plaster dust gets everywhere, even if rooms have been sealed up during the build.Once the contractor has completed everything on the contract documents to my satisfaction we can issue a 'Certificate of Practical Completion'. The contractor will now issue you an invoice for his work and depending on the contract we can now release half of the retention money as well. After a period of 12 months (or as stated in the chosen contract) after Practical Completion we will ask the contractor to fix any faults that have arisen in that time. These are only faults that he would have been responsible for. Once we are happy that all is complete we can issue a 'Certificate of Making Good Defects' and the Final Account can be drawn up. This includes any extras or changes that you have asked the contractor to make and releases the rest of the retention.