Choosing to work with an architect
It's important to remember that architects are experts at unlocking the potential of a site or building and can usually add substantially to the value of a property, far out-weighing the fees they charge.
There is quite a lot of information out there about the general benefits of employing an architect. Please see the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) guide here for example.
Big office expertise, small office fees
It almost goes without saying that a small office with low overheads can pass on substantial savings to the client. But small offices also give you a direct relationship with the main architect unlike most larger practices where, even though your initial meeting may be with a senior partner, your work is likely to be carried out by someone much more junior.
What happens when you contact Field Studio?
After the initial contact I will usually invite a new client to visit my office for a brief meeting so that I can see what it is they wish to achieve and I have a chance to explain more about how the design process works. This is also an opportunity to visit Field House which is next door to my office. This initial consultation and visit is free of charge.
The next step is usually a site visit where we can discuss any physical limitations and what might be possible. I usually charge a low hourly rate for this service.
Having got a better understanding of what's involved, it is at this point that I will usually produce a fee proposal for you to consider. At Field Studio we try to be as transparent as possible when it comes to fees and are always comparing our own fee structure to that of the wider industry - we have produced a document full of graphs and charts that is available for you to see. There are various ways we can structure our fees but the bottom line is that we are confident that we can offer a better-value service than almost all other architects in the area.
Having agreed a fee structure the next task is to gather the necessary site information to allow the design process to begin. For very small jobs we sometimes carry out our own surveys but more often than not we will recommend that you commission a measured, topographical survey from a third party with specialist equipment - we can recommend local companies who can do this. While this is another early financial outlay, the information we receive in CAD format will form the backbone for all of the future design work and all applications to the necessary authorities etc - in other words, this is a large chunk of the background work already done.
Stage 1: Feasibility and concept design
Using your initial brief and the site information we have gathered we then begin to develop some outline proposals. As well as producing 2d plans, very early on we tend to begin building a working 3d computer model that can be adapted as the project develops.
We will present our ideas to you – there may be several options - and agree on a scheme to take forward into the developed design stage.
Stage 2: Developed design
We will work up the scheme in more detail in order to gain the necessary permissions from the planning authority. Sometimes this can be done under Permitted Development rights. Sometimes it is necessary to submit a pre-application inquiry in order to get informal feedback from the council which can then be used to inform the design. In other cases it can be better to go straight in for full planning permission. We can advise on the options available.
For a full planning application our portion of work will typically include 2 and 3d drawings and a Planning Report which explains the rational behind the design. We will also co-ordinate other consultants that may be required at this stage. Depending on the site and the level of intervention it may be necessary to commission, for example, an Ecological, Drainage or Contamination survey.
Stage 3: Full design
At this stage we produce detailed drawings which show all elements of the building and explain how all materials and components fit together. Along with the structural engineer we will submit these drawings to the local authority to ensure that the project complies with all the safety legislation and other requirements covered by the Building Regulations.
Alongside the set of drawings we will draw up a detailed specification listing all the fixtures and fittings and describing the construction of the work. The entire package can then be tendered to several builders to obtain the most competitive price.
Stage 4: Tender and Construction
Once you and the builder are ready to start construction we will act as the Contract Administrator and make regular site visits to monitor the progress and check on design quality.