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Extension newbie- architect vs architectural technician and a million other questions

(30 Posts)
FourOnTheHill Mon 13-Nov-17 22:38:06

Hello wise property/ diy mners.

We are looking into getting our conservatory / existing extension converted into a proper kitchen extension. We are 90% sure the footings we have are adequate though we will get this checked out, and so we hopefully already have a base and a party wall. We have spoken to two architects, one a family friend, and one is the local architect who does a lot of the plans for domestic extensions round here. I’ve also spoken to a local architectural technician who would be much cheaper, and who could draw up plans for us and submit to the council.

Local architect’s main selling pitch seemed to be that he would cover every stage as needed and the whole thing would be under his insurance. It was implied that builders won’t take jobs on if they aren’t covered by an architects insurance. Is this true? If I got plans drawn up by a friend (qualified registered architect doing it on a moonlighting basis) what would the situation be regarding insurance?

Anything else we should consider when choosing someone to draw up plans? We know more or less exactly what we want in terms of layout and build so imagination and artistic flair isn’t really required. We are clueless about legal stuff and how the process all works however.


Archipops Tue 14-Nov-17 03:57:36

Architect’s insurance if u r talking bout PII (Professional Indemnity Insurance) would not cover the builder’s work, it would only cover the architect in his professional capacity as an architect providing architectural services/advice to his clent/members of the public. When architect’s refer to their insurance, their PII is what they would usually mean. (Ask your architect if he meant his PII?). It is there to protecf the interest of the client should he/she wish to make a negligence claim against the architect, it would ensure the funds would be available if an architect is found negligent. It is a requirement by law for all praticing architects to be covered by PII. Hope this helps.

whiskyowl Tue 14-Nov-17 07:28:14

No, the reason for employing an architect is that you need design skills beyond what a technician will deliver. Pretty much anyone can draw a perfectly adequate box on the back of an existing house, but to make that box work optimally in terms of materials, aesthetics, interior space, light, air, orientation to views etc takes skill, and that's where you employ an architect. The main thing is that you pick someone whose work you actually like - all architects are not the same. There are people charging a lot of money for very, very boring and standard work and there are practices with ambitions to build differently and better, and with some aesthetic intent in there too.

Basically, things can go a bit wrong with a bad/incompetent architect, the same as you can get bad versions of any other profession. The thing is, though, you have checks built into the system to stop them having full sway - you need to get planning permission, building regs, structural engineering, and, of course, you will have the skill and knowledge of the builder you employ. Provided you do all those things properly, and you get eyes on your plans plenty of time in advance of starting the build, you should be fine! I had very good architects, but even they messed up with a structural element of the design - it was caught by the structural engineer, and solved by the builder.

Builders have their own indemnity insurance and a good builder will project manage your extension. As long as you have a clear vision yourselves, you don't really need the architect to project manage it as well.

whiskyowl Tue 14-Nov-17 07:29:46

(I should add, I'm a big fan of using a really good, leading-edge architectural practice. Extensions are expensive things, and if you're prepared to put some work in, you can get something really extraordinary for not much more than a standard build cost).

FourOnTheHill Tue 14-Nov-17 09:39:02

Thanks whiskeyowl and archipops.

Because it’s hopefully ‘just’ a case of new roof and two new walls and windows it seems excessive to spend the best part of 10k on architectural fees (this is one quote we’ve had). But I do want to get it right.

whiskyowl Tue 14-Nov-17 10:01:03

I think if you have an internal configuration and a site that just lets you put a box on the back easily, without negatively affecting movement flow between rooms, light levels in the middle of the house, or creating awkward corners, then go for it! If, however, you're spending £100k on an extension on a house you're staying in, and you want a dream space, and the site is sloping, and the internal configuration will leave all kinds of strange spaces if you just plonk a box on the back (or side!) an architect can really help.

Archipops Tue 14-Nov-17 12:33:43

It must be a big job if your architect is quoting £10k! if you don’t mind me asking, is it for full scope of works ie. design right to end of contruction phase? Sorry to pop this question I could help myself: Would you like a fee quote from me? ie. if u haven’t appointted an architect yet. I’m Arb registered with 15 years experience and the last 2.5 years doing lots of house extensions in London and elsewhere.

Archipops Tue 14-Nov-17 12:35:11

*I couldn’t

PissedOffNeighbour Tue 14-Nov-17 20:22:17

So glad we used a proper architect. She had fab ideas and really focussed on maximising light and has made a really interesting space. Our neighbours used a technician and have the box result.

FourOnTheHill Fri 17-Nov-17 16:55:17

Thanks all. The 10k figure is a bit random, the person who recommended this guy said that’s what they paid/ were quoted and he’s so far not managed to send us a quote. Maybe the job is too small for him.

Archipops I’m wary of someone touting for work on mn (!) but do pm me your website and I’ll see if you’re near enough. All advice gratefully received at this stage.

FourOnTheHill Fri 17-Nov-17 17:00:50

Also whiskeyowl we do indoors have an internal configuration and a site that just lets us put a box on the back easily, without negatively affecting movement flow between rooms, light levels in the middle of the house, or creating awkward corners smile I know because all we would be changing is two walls and a roof. Internal co figuration would hardly change and I’ve seen examples on our side of the road of what I want so I’m very clear about how it would work. Hence wondering if I need an architect!

FourOnTheHill Fri 17-Nov-17 17:01:07

Indeed not indoors...

ElleMcElle Fri 17-Nov-17 18:46:30

We are using a technician but have to push at every stage to make sure it doesn't end up feeling too "off the shelf". There are things that most people do as standard (Eg. bifold doors / velux windows), so they tend to assume you want the same thing as everyone else... If you want something a bit different, you might find that you have to push them for it.

dietstartstomorrowok Fri 17-Nov-17 19:33:04

Different such as what? Need inspiration

4yearsnosleep Fri 17-Nov-17 19:53:44

Touchwood we’ve used a technician and so far it’s gone very smoothly. We’ve just had the buildings regs drawings and spec done and inc the legal planning cert & structural engineer work, it’s cost £1100 total. We did however know pretty much exactly what we wanted and felt the design expertise wasn’t required as it’s a straightforward, single storey extension to the whole rear of the house

polyjuice Fri 17-Nov-17 20:54:43

Architects very expensive because many will charge you a % fee - they get a cut of everything! Were I starting over I’d look at local design & build - they often have an architect in house and if they work in your area a lot they do understand how the houses work. Our architects have been largely very good but we know people who’ve renovated homes for less than their fee... shock

HernandezEC Fri 17-Nov-17 22:42:55

@FourOnTheHill Check with your insurance provider that your policy covers you for these works, also ensure that your builder and architect have their insurance in place. Citizens Advice have a good section on their website about this - Just tap it into google.

Also, when choosing an architect selecting one who has actually worked in your borough with a proven track record is a good start.

FourOnTheHill Sat 18-Nov-17 15:15:31

Good point Hernandez I will add checking my insurance to my to do list.

Architect has sent quote and it’s actually around £7.5K including project management and VAT. Probably 10K by the time we’ve paid for pp and building control fees and all those bits and bobs that aren’t included.

Next question: please explain to me why is should or shouldn’t project manage the thing myself? I had kind of assumed you just get a builder to build once you’ve got pp. i suppose there are degrees of involvement with project management, ie if you really know what you are doing then you order in the materials yourself and get individual tradespeople and employ each one directly. I am not proposing to do this as I wouldn’t have a clue about quality control and timings, but do I need an architect to project manage? Surely a decent building company will do this?

FourOnTheHill Sat 18-Nov-17 15:17:23

And yes both the architect and the technician I’ve been talking to have done plenty of previous work in the borough and extensive track record of getting pp here.

Lesley1980 Sat 18-Nov-17 19:52:20

My brother originally trained as an architect in the 90s & then as a Civil Engineer in 2000s. He has had his own business since 2006. He always says if you find a good technician the only difference between them & an architect is the cost.

Lucisky Sat 18-Nov-17 22:59:19

We used design and build. I knew what we wanted and it was drawn to my design with a few tweaks. I also think that, having lived here for many years I have a better idea about light/views/orientation of our house than someone visiting for the first time with a view to doing architectural drawings. I agree, if your site is awkward re levels, or you are trying to squeeze a quart into a pint pot, or you want something unusual, then you may need an architect, but for a bog standard semi like ours with a large flat area at the side begging to be built on, some drawings for planning were all we needed. They cost about 1k, then there were the building regs on top. I never felt I needed input from an architect at any time.

ElleMcElle Sun 19-Nov-17 13:38:43

@dietstartstomorrowok - steel doors and then a separate window with a window seat can be a nice alternative to bifold... Single piece of glass instead of row of separate velux windows... L-shape extension rather than one that goes straight across... Internal courtyard to keep light in the centre of the house... Lots of options - depends what sort of thing you like! We just found that it took a bit more pushing with the technician to get plans drawn up that weren't the usual layout for the area (probably varies from region to region, but lots of people do side return and wraparound extensions on Victorian terraces in London - and almost all of them go straight across with bifold across the back and 3 velux windows over the side return).

4yearsnosleep Sun 19-Nov-17 14:40:47

Ha Elle, that’s exactly what we’re having, but we like it smile straight across the back, 3 velux and a set of bifolds. But it did mean that I knew we didn’t need an architect

ElleMcElle Sun 19-Nov-17 19:08:41

@4yearsnosleep - Ha! Well there's a reason lots of people opt for that - they can look awesome! Hope your project is going well. I agree that architects can't really add all that much - most Victorian terraces have basically the same footprint and most planning departments have pretty clear ideas of what they will / will not allow. So when it comes down to it, there's only a small range of options available anyway and a builder who has done lots of similar projects in the area will know what those options are - so I'm not really sure how much an architect can add value.

Archipops Sun 19-Nov-17 23:26:23

@polyjuice, an architect that gets a cut out of everything shouldn’t be doing that at all, that would put him/her in conflict of interest. if he is administering the contract he would hv vested interest to not question the builder/supplier on anything! This could influence the fair administering of the contract between the client and the contractor.
@fouronthehill, i think i’ll pass, thanks. to start on a ‘weary’ note wouldn’t be a good starting point for a working relationship, no offence intended. If you are curious though, what I can say is someone in my position would have a fee proposal that would reflect figures a lot lot less than £7500. Was just trying to offer assistance. but may I just point out as many might not know this; architects cannot simply just offer advice to the public. As professionals we have duty of care and are liable for any advice given even though it’s free ‘informal’ advice. The advice that can be given outside of a more structured professional role (ie. outside of a formal appointment) would be very limited as there are too many uncertain factors and variables. That is why you do not see many architects offering architectural/design advice here or in any forum. Those offering such advice are not usually architects. Good luck with your extension, but do get 1 or 2 other fee proposals from other architects.

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