Question for architects or people who have used one recently.

(5 Posts)

We are in the very slow process of extending our house. At the moment I would say we are at least a year behind schedule - and have yet to start building work at all. I know my question is a bit how long is a piece of string, but I'm hoping for some sort of guide.

Our project will be big - single storey extension, 2 storey side extension, loft rooms, basement rooms, interior walls moved, whole house rewired, plumbed, heating, new windows and roof. So basically a gut and rebuild.

How much work would you expect it to take to get from planning permission to having documents ready to send to builders for tender? We keep being told there have been delays.

Although cross about this we felt that they were ignoring our job in favour of other work so decided to keep closer checks on them to get ours prioritised. However we now have another bill and basically they seem to have billed us 30 plus hours a week for the last 6 months. Most of this hasn't been the architect, but his assistant, but it just seems excessive.

We haven't been changing our minds - sometimes we have made them change plans because they have ignored our requests - so at the meeting I will say I want X, they come to next meeting - no X - so I say I really want X, they go away again and give me what I asked for. Or for example we spotted late on the only heating they had put in a large bathroom was a towel rail so we made them put underfloor heating in all bathrooms (we had just assumed it was in place).

So does this seem a reasonable length of time or are we being charged for hours of aimless internet searching / someone learning on the job and being very poor at it.

TBH if we had been given a bill of this size 6 months ago, but been about to start building we would have been shocked but glad we were starting the work. It's the huge bills and the massive delay that makes us feel they are taking the piss. (Oh and we have a QS, structural engineers, some guys who checked the ground for water table depth for basement and a drainage engineer who we have paid independently)

I would be very grateful if anyone could give some sort of guidance. I'd really like my family home finished before all the children leave home!

wonkylegs Tue 18-Mar-14 12:32:04

It would be difficult to know without full details of the job whether they are taking the piss BUT they are obviously not communicating very well.

I would start by requesting a formal meeting with a senior member of staff preferably a director. I would state that you have concerns that the job is wandering and costs are spiralling.
I would want them to confirm clear detailed parameters regarding time & costs obviously with caveats for say if you completely changed your mind. I would want explanations for the time charges.

I would be asking for written deadlines and setting up a series of progress reports to get your project back on track. Can you negotiate to move from an hourly rate to fixed stage payments now you are past the initial feasibility/concept ideas and know what they are doing - this would give you greater comfort that time isn't being wasted.

It does feel for a domestic project to be an awful lot of hours for something that hasn't been completed. Thats almost 1 person FT for 6mths - I would & have spent that many hours on large commercial projects. Unless yours is particularly large, complicated or has special features (historic/ disability/ planning) I would be surprised that you aren't onsite & building already.

Have you signed a contract - if so what does it say about payments/ rates, deadlines and progress.? What is the fee structure for your job?

If not why not? This is the most important things to safeguard both you & them, if they are architects (registered with the ARB) then they should have got you to sign a contract setting out fees as part of their professional duty. This needs to be rectified ASAP.

I would point out that if you cannot resolve these issues you may have to make a formal complaint and if ultimately not resolved look for new architects and look towards forwarding your complaint to the ARB.
They should have a complaints procedure.

All architects must follow the ARB Code of Conduct which has procedures for contracts, complaints etc

There is a guide to complaining to your architect & taking it further on the ARB website

I am hoping that this is just a case of miscommunication and you can resolve this very easily.

As an architect I do understand that its hard sometimes to predict the path of a project as every one is different and clients, planners & contractors can all throw a spanner in the works. This usually only becomes a problem though if you as the architect don't communicate properly changes, problems, delays & issues. They are the professional and should be taking the lead obviously somewhere this has fallen down in your project, they need to fix this. So clearly make them aware of the problem (always confirm discussions in writing so there is a record in the case of any dispute) and tell them they need to fix it.

good luck

Thank you wonkylegs for your detailed reply. The problem is we have had meetings with the director - he is the architect we appointed! He turns up to meetings but seems to do nothing else.

We have many emails promising deadlines - and then there is always a problem that will take a few weeks to fix. This runs to three / four weeks - we hassle them, another deadline is promised. We have finally got to the end of this process - our problem now is that all the builders that had been checked out and asked to tender have dropped out (because we asked them this time last year, trade has picked up this year and they now all have projects lined up). So we need to find new builders and extend the tendering process.

Then the bill turned up - evidently since they have done months more work they were never going to be ready on time. I think this is what has really annoyed dh. They suggested hourly rather than a percentage and gave us an estimate of hours, which have more than doubled and the project is straight forward, nothing unexpected has turned up from any of the numerous types of engineers we have appointed.

Sadly I think we have no faith that they will be able to project manage the build, so I think we will replace them. Dh will also ask for a break down of all the hours before paying this last bill.

We used this firm, based on recommendations. It was the other director of the firm who had worked for neighbours, but he was away so we had our first meeting with the architect we ended up with and ended up sticking with him - so a lesson learned there - even tiny firms have massive differences.

To get to is point has taken more than 18 months - the only bottlenecks have been the architects - to get to the planning stage and then more trouble getting tender documents put together. The final house will be great.

wonkylegs Wed 19-Mar-14 09:51:08

From what you've described I think you need to ask them for their official complaints process and make an official complaint. You may have grounds to appeal the latest bill. I would state the lack of progress despite numerous promises & the doubling of the estimated time, the increase in costs without obvious justification.

If I had been working for you and realised I had underestimated my workload I would inform you when we were approaching what we had originally said and then informed you of the potential cost / time overruns prior to incurring them. This is what they should have done, as it not only keeps the client informed but protects you as the architect from the client just not having the money to pay you when you finally send out a bill.

I think they have lost your trust so I would completely understand wanting to progress from this point with another professional.
I'm sure that your house will be fab even if its really stressful getting the end.

I think works to your house can be stressful even if its all going ok - I am the architect for our own house refurbishment and i'm finding it horrendously stressful even though i'm completely in control.

Thank you for your comments - makes me feel better that another architect thinks things aren't right here. It is the lack of control that causes stress (that and the fact the house is falling down around about us!)

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