What Does An Architect Do?
A separate blog post discusses briefly if you need an architect and what they can offer to a project. This page focuses more upon their output. E.g. what do you get from an architect, both physically and intellectually. Much of the ‘product’ is tied up in experience, guidance and design development. The final few pieces of paper and drawings could seem underwhelming to someone who has not experienced the added value an architect can bring. However they represent many days worth of measuring, listening, eliminating, developing, honing and technical know-how. Generally speaking, in most small-scale projects (usually extensions and alterations) an owner contacts an architect when they have exhausted all their own ideas, or simply are not confident in their own suggestions. Using an architect is a great way to challenge your own ideas and also add more to the pot. However ideas are not created without work – several versions, experience and layers and layers of tracing paper get passed over to get to the final few.
After defining the brief, having an accurate scale drawing of the building is the first step. This measured survey forms the backbone of all subsequent work and enables options and ideas to be worked up to scale, so you can be confident that everything will fit. As well as critical for architectural design, a set of accurate plans of your property will be useful to keep in the house file, for different uses such as future work, fitting carpets or even checking a dimension of an alcove standing in Ikea!
Using the existing drawings as a base, options can be developed with sizes and positions of key features. These options are usually in freehand traced over the scale drawings. This keeps the options as quick as possible and loose enough that aspects do not become fixed before they have been thoroughly tested.
Whereas some projects benefit from a basic computer model. This takes a bit of extra time to create, but is a valuable design tool as well as helping clients imagine the outcome better. It is quicker and infinitely more malleable than a traditional card model, if a little less tactile. Generating a model is usually an extra charge as the time spent creating the model can be quite lengthly. On the whole basic non-rendered models are produced by Tom Spriggs Architect Ltd as the rendering and 'painting in' materials is very time consuming and is a fairly specialised skill. These outline virtual 'card' models are useful to ensure the spaces are as imagined.
Following another meeting to run through each option, a hybrid scheme, pulling the most favourable aspects of each option can be drawn up on the computer. This gives an accurate CAD drawing of the proposed to take forward to a planning application. For the actual planning application drawings are usually complimented with a written design statement and necessary forms. Once all agreed, the drawings, forms and council fee are all submitted to the council for determination. The council will then make statutory consultations (highways, environmental health etc) and your neighbours. After a few weeks, they will then gather all of this information and make their decision. If there is a simple issue that can easily be resolved, they usually offer this for inclusion or not, to maximise potential for approval. The council will then either grant or refuse planning permission.
Once you have secured planning approval, then construction can be carried out straightaway. Some projects can be built straight from planning drawings, and if you and the builder are confident and the construction is straight-forward then this is a practical way to save costs. Building control can make the necessary site inspections to ensure the work is compliant. If the project is more complicated or detailed technical plans are needed for builders to accurately quote, then these can be completed by an architect or a technician prior to construction. These drawings will include details of insulation, damp proof courses and layers of construction. They are adapted from the planning CAD drawings and presented at a larger scale and in much more detail. Structural alterations will require input from an engineer, who will size elements of support. These sizes can be accurately reflected in the detailed drawings. This technical detailed design stage can vary in detail, complexity and volume of work, just like different projects. The level of information required for a small masonry lean-to extension will be quite different to that of a new build multi-house project. Equally a small but finely detailed or complicated structure will need more drawn information than a larger but straightforward building.
The examples here are reflective of a typical project carried out by Tom Spriggs Architect Ltd, but each project has its own specific requirements. Any architect’s firm can tailor services to suit and be at a proportional scale for the work. The above should give an insight to the type, detail and amount of work that architects do, but do get in contact if something is unclear or you would like to talk about a potential project.