“Architects add value, whether it comes from maximizing impact or functionality, bringing about change of use, increasing capacity or marketability,” says RIBA. Architects begin to offer a full service for projects over £30,000. Their fees are a percentage of the renovation cost, normally in the region of 10-15%, less if there is no supervision. One Wandsworth resident living on the Tooting Common/Streatham borders shared his experience of a major renovation costing £100,000 to his five- bedroom house. He relied on architects’ drawings and calculations, then used his builder to project manage. He does concede, however, “An architect/project manager would have made my life easier if there was more of a step-by-step guide. “Cost is one of the main factors, as once architects and project managers are appointed, costs do ratchet up quite considerably. If I were attempting some ‘Grand Design’ then I would definitely use an architect through the whole project.”
They gutted the ground floor, added a side return, changed the garage into an office, extended the back and loft (with two new dormers) and added 600 square feet. Unfortunately it fell foul of the planning authorities. “As a result [our builder] was held up with men on site and ended up doing things in slightly reverse order. Nonetheless, the builder brought the project in on time, after four months. “We were lucky [the builder] was so relaxed and willing to be flexible, I guess. Once Lambeth produced the paperwork it was full steam ahead, but only after some stressful moments.” (For guidance on smoothing the planning process, go to our feature “Best laid plans”).
Rob Wood, Director with Simply Construction, says, “Builders can pay a project manager to coordinate all the tradesmen and liaise with the client, so I don’t know what an architect would be paid for. A good builder can manage their team themselves.”
Moreover, builders and architects can rub each other up the wrong way. Mike Scudamore concedes, “Builders can come up with better ideas on site. Don’t forget we just sit at a drawing board in a clean, dry office but builders work in the thick of it.”
This is an opinion echoed by James Gold, CEO of Landmark. “If you ask a separate architectural firm to design your loft, for example, they may draw up plans that appear fantastic. However, the cost to build it may be outside the client’s budget. Our in-house architects provide solutions that fit a client’s personal budget.”
Builder Tele Kyriacou of Telemark Construction can see both sides. “Those [architects] that do their job properly are fantastic, with the right detailed drawings and the right spec.” But he warns that when their work is less than comprehensive, it can lead to a breakdown in the project between the client, builder and architect.
He cites inaccurate initial surveys, not acknowledging variations which should be incorporated into drawings with new costings, and younger architects with insufficient technical knowledge of building products.
Clients aren’t blame free either, because they change their minds once the project has begun. It’s usually where arguments begin between client and builder/architect, as the client often won’t accept the resulting additional costs and delay. “We allocate manpower to each stage of the job so if the plan changes, so will everything else. The architect should head them off at the pass and explain that there is a serious cost implication to any change,” says Tele of Telemark Construction.
Dermot Steedman, owner of Dermarta Construction says variations occur in 50% of jobs. He advises “to be clear and upfront at the start” and stick to it. Be sure to get an itemised costing so if you are going over budget, you can see immediately what can be saved and where. Ensure the contract with your builder is watertight, stipulating level of deposit, phased payments, a retention for snagging and penalties for delays.
Lastly, be realistic about timescales. “Everyone wants their project done quickly,” says Rob at Simply. Allow four months from appointing an architect to starting on site. See below for our more detailed guide to costings and timings.
Digging under front bay window to create space for a playroom/living room, bedroom/ shower room and utility room. Average time taken: Allow 15 weeks for the structural dig, then a further 12-15 weeks for fit-out and finish. Total = 27-30 weeks. Average cost: Anywhere between £130,000 – £200,000 + VAT
Media room/playroom, wine cellar, utility room, bedroom & bathroom. Average time taken: Allow 32-40 weeks, depending on size and spec. Average cost: £250-£400,000 + VAT
Average time taken: Allow 10-12 weeks (plus or minus 2 weeks) to construct and decorate. Average cost: Anywhere between £35,000 – £55,000 + VAT Plus cost of fit-out.
LOFT WITH REAR DORMER
Average time taken: Allow 8 weeks (plus or minus 2 weeks) to get to a plaster finish, snag and decorate. Average cost: From £32,000 upwards + VAT