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Better by Design

Employing an architect can make any job, big or small, run more smoothly and be more cost efficient. However, finding the right one, establishing a relationship and communicating your wants are all key. London architect Bruce Lowrie shares some advice on how to get it right.

“An architect does bring added value. I personally like the programme Grand Designs – it’s helped demystify what goes on between a client and an architect. I know it doesn’t always run smoothly but they have an entertaining show to make – nine times out of 10 things will go well.”

“Finding a good architect is like going to buy any service. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is a great first port of call, they can recommend an architect for your job in your area. Of course, word of mouth is also another good way to find someone. Look at least three people before you decide – it’s a bonus if you can sense a rapport. A good thing about RIBA is that through them you can contact a few architects, arrange to meet and chat through the job.”

“If you don’t think you’ll get what you want from your first choices, keep looking. An architect will show you his portfolio and may be able to contact the clients he’s worked for to see the job first hand.”

“Domestic properties extension or refurb, they’ll have something in mind, seen magazines and website, see a shop front.”

“An architect can take on simply the design of the job or oversee the whole thing. It is important to establish a brief at beginning – this is a functional document the architect will work from outlining what you want from him or her, the budget, timings, etc. Most people come to me with an idea of what they want but an architect can make suggestions a client hasn’t thought of.”

“An architect can also put in for planning permission, and is to obtain quotations from builders. Try and find an architect with local knowledge, the likelihood is he or she will already have relationships in the planning office and with local trades people. No one can guarantee to get planning permission for you but an architect is well placed to fill in the ‘design and access statement’, a new thing in the planning process. It’s quite a straightforward process for a small job like an extension but for a new build the statement has to outline the reasons why design is valid and what it contributes to the local area.”

“Any job is about creating the home you want. I think there is a misconception that an architect will try and foist ideas. There might be the odd individual who does that but for me it’s about listening and responding to the client."

To find an architect visit RIBA at