WHAT WE DO – A GUIDE TO ARCHITECT’S SERVICES

 

As you are reading this you are probably thinking of building, extending or renovation your home. For most people this can seem like a daunting task. It can seem complicated, messy and expensive. Most likely this will probably be the biggest expenditure of your life the results of which you will have to live with for a long time. 

Where do you start? Do you need planning permission? How do you find a good builder? Is it worth getting a professional architect involved? The following guide will answer these questions and provide you with enough information you need to get you started.

GET IT RIGHT ON PAPER

 

We cannot stress this enough. Building is an expensive business and mistakes can be very costly. The initial investment you make in getting your ideas on paper will be the best money you spend on the whole project. It is easy to make changes and try multiple variations on paper and a good architect will help you visualise these in advance of any foundations being laid.

Why pluck a plan from a house design book or copy the a neighbour’s extension when it will still cost you as much to build as a house or extension designed to meet your unique needs? That’s were architects come in: we ask questions you hadn’t considered and offer ideas that would never have occurred to you.

 

WHERE TO START

 

You have a site or need more room at home. Maybe you already have a budget to work to or possibly you are wondering how much it would cost to build what you have in mind. In either case you can contact us for free to talk about your ideas. In many cases, depending on where you live, we also offer a free on-site consultation to give you more ideas 

 

for what is possible and advise you of the feasibility of what you are planning in relation to your budget. Use the contact button above to send us your initial thoughts and we will contact you next working day to discuss them in more detail.

DO YOU NEED PLANNING PERMISSION?

 

If you are planning a new house the answer is yes. In the case of an extension, if it is less than 40 sqm and to the rear of your home (i.e. not visible from the front), then the answer is probably no.  Click the image below to download our guide to planning permission. 

We can advise you if your case is not clear. All of the county council website provide guidance on what you need to do to make a planning application and these can be summarised as follows:

1.       In many cases a pre-planning meeting with the council is advised. We can attend this meeting with you and make the case to your Local Area Planner for your new home or extension. The Planner will be able to tell you if your idea is acceptable in principle and what issues you should address in your planning application to avoid problems later on.

2.       With the principle in place we will then work with you to develop your ideas on paper. This design process is a back-and-forth exchange of ideas which allows us to create a design which meets your needs within your budget.

3.       When you are happy with the design your planning application is ready for submission to the county council. We will put the necessary paperwork and drawings together for you and make the submission. This package will include the site notice, newspaper advert, drawings, Ordnance Survey map, planning report, percolation test results (if you live in a rural area off a public sewer) and any other necessary documents.

4.       There follows a 5 week period in which neighbours can view the planning application online or in the council offices and submit observations which will highlight any concerns they have. The Planner then has 3 weeks to consider the application and take onboard any observations he/she feels are relevant before making their decision.

5.       A DECISION TO GRANT (with or without conditions) is issued. If there are no appeals against the decision within the following 4 weeks a GRANT OF PERMISSION, which is valid for 5 years, is issued and you are free to proceed with your project.

 

FINDING A BUILDER

 

The next step is to obtain quotes from builders. You may know a builder who’s work you have seen and who friends have recommended (important note: avoid hiring friends or relatives to do your building work. The building process can be stressful enough to strain any relationship to breaking). Alternatively you can tender your project to a panel of 4 or 5 building contractors to obtain competitive quotations. We have worked with many building contractors over the years and can make recommendations based on our experience.

 

In either case it is vital to once again to GET IT RIGHT ON PAPER. A comprehensive set of tender documents (drawings and specification) will ensure that the builder prices the entire job from start to finish and will avoid any nasty surprises of additional costs not accounted for in the quotation. Investing in a good set of construction drawings will potentially save you thousands of euro later on.

STARTING ON SITE

 

Finally you ready to start on site. You have your planning permission and a detailed quotation from your builder and are keen to get going. Apart from checking the builders insurances, signing a BUILDING CONTRACT is the next important step. This gives both you and the builder the comfort of knowing your rights and a way of resolving problems as they arise. The builder is joining the project at a late stage and is not be aware of the detailed conversations you had with your architect and the reasons for the decisions you have taken.

 

As architects our most important role is maintaining the original vision for the project. Over the course of the project on-site we can provide answers to questions as they arise and guide both you and the builder through the process by keeping the focus on the design which was carefully worked out on paper. More importantly we will be keeping an eye on the quality of the construction and making sure it complies with the many complexities of the Building Regulations as we will be signing off the compliance certificates at the end of the job.

THE BUILDING REGULATIONS

 

The days of “self-build” are at an end. Under new legislation which comes into effect in March 2014, as a result of Priory Hall, you will have a legal obligation to have any new building work certified by an architect or engineer. Over the years many people have managed the construction of their houses themselves, directly hiring blocklayers, electricians and plasterers and overseeing the work themselves. This method of construction is effectively being outlawed by the new legislation which will require you to submit

 

a Certificate of Compliance (Design) to the county council at the start of the project and a Certificate of Compliance (Completion) at the end of the project. To obtain these certificate you will need to have regular site inspections by an architect or engineer to guarantee the quality of the work. This is a service we already provide on most projects we work on and it provides you with the assurance of a well built home which meets all the requirements of the Building Regulations.

ADDING VALUE

 

When considering hiring an architect always make sure they are registered. You can check the Architects’ Register on the RIAI website which also provides lots more information such as “20 questions to ask before you start”. As RIAI registered architects, we will provide you with a professional, imaginative and efficient service which will ensure that the result of your building project is far more than the sum of its parts.

 

We will ensure that you maximise your space and light, provide you with cost effective suggestions and alternative solutions, propose energy conscious designs and sustainable materials and help you find the right builder at the right price. For a free consultation send us your details on our contact page above and we will get back to you the next working day.

 Image credits:

"Blueprint With Specs" by winnond / FreeDigitalPhotos.net