Architectural Design Process

To some the function of an architect may seem a little mysterious and you may wonder what we actually do or how we contribute to the success of a building project. Here we explain the process of engaging and working with an architect, what we produce, the timescales involved and the fees we charge for our services.

Why commission an architect?

An architect can add value to your project in many ways. We are professionally trained to develop creative solutions to challenges and to know what will work and what won’t. Practically, if your project is large enough to need planning permission then you will need an architect, but smaller projects can also benefit from our expertise. You can commission different services: from a one-off consultation, to drawing up a design, to seeing the whole process through to completion – including managing the planning and construction phases. Through our training and experience, we will know how to turn your aspirations into reality while getting the best value for money.

What is the architectural design process?

As a Chartered Practice we follow the Royal Institute of British Architects ‘Plan of Work’ (which you can download here for more detail). There are 8 work stages from 0 to 7 starting with project inception and ending with in-use feedback from you, the client, following completion and handover.

Although every project is unique, the process is the same starting with stage 1 and flowing through the stages to whatever stage you wish to engage us depending on your requirements, your design budget or previous building experience.

koru architects, eco architect, sustainable architect, green architect, sustainable design, eco design, brighton, green design, green buildings,

Extract from RIBA Plan of Work 2013. All architects are required to follow this basic framework for full architectural projects.

Stage 0/1: Preparation and Brief

This is the most important stage as it determines the rest of the project. You will discuss your goals, ideas, aspirations and budget with us and we will help you assess your options and if necessary carry out a feasibility study. Your budget will be established early on and we will manage your expectations about the size and specification of the build. We will also identify which other professionals need to be consulted, for example a structural engineer. During this initial stage a digital measured building or site survey will need to be carried out and we can recommend a cost effective surveyor for this.

The first meeting with you will be to establish the detailed brief of what new spaces you want to gain, sizes, uses, the relationship to other spaces and the garden, what levels of comfort you want and what atmosphere you’re trying to create. Its often useful for you to have some image examples or a Pinterest page of what you like to guide the design. Also during this initial meeting we will agree on a project strategy and timeline for key stages.

Typically the design phase for an extension project will be about 6 months* followed by a construction phase of about 6 months. For a new build the design phase can be as much as 9 months* followed by a construction phase of about 12 months.
* Subject to planning approval

Stage 2: Concept Design

We carefully analyse your brief and site context and begin the thought process to realise your aspirations. This is where the ‘magic’ happens and our unique skills are put to work to visualise a solution and prepare multiple sketches to test our concept designs. Sometimes this process can be a relatively quick and spontaneous thing, while at other times it can take many hours of looking at options and sketching out different scenarios until a solution appears. If requested, we can provide one or two options for you during the sketch design phase.

The sketches are then converted into digital CAD drawings which will form the basis for all the drawings to follow. We will meet with you to explain our sketches which usually consist of plans and section drawings to illustrate the proposals. If requested we will also prepare 3D sketch images to assist with visualising the proposal. Your feedback is crucial at this stage so we know how to develop the ideas into a full design solution. We will make any necessary adjustments to the design and prepare revised drawings for your approval and sign off.

If planning permission is likely to be a challenge we would recommend making a pre-app enquiry at this this stage which involves preparation of further drawings and a submission to the planners to gain their feedback before we proceed further. Also at this stage you will start to get an idea of the cost of the project and if cost certainty is a priority we can recommend appointing a quantity surveyor to prepare an elemental cost plan based on our design.
The concept design stage usually takes about a month but could be 2-3 months if a ‘pre-app’ enquiry is required.

Stage 3: Developed Design

With the concept design signed off, next we spend time developing the design into something that can actually be built. This more detailed version will go beyond the shape and style of the building/extension to include all practical considerations and the work of any other consultants. Structural and services engineers can begin to integrate their input at this stage and if your planning application requires additional support from other consultants such as a trees, highways or ecology specialist, a planning consultant or party wall surveyor, we will liaise and coordinate with them. At this stage we will produce a comprehensive set of digital CAD drawings to include plans, sections, elevations and 3D images. As the design is developed we give careful consideration to the materials and external finishes and advise what options are available for the roofing, wall cladding and glazing etc.

Once the developed design is agreed with you we will ask you to sign it off so that we can either progress to the next stage (if it falls under permitted development) or submit it for planning approval. If a planning application is required we will prepare a well presented package of documents that ‘sell’ your scheme to the planners. During the planning process we often have to liaise with the planning department and may occasionally have to amend the designs to gain an approval.

The developed design stage usually takes about 1 month and, if a planning application is required, this is followed by a 2 month period for approval or longer if there are contentious issues to be resolved.

Stage 4: Technical Design

architectural processAlthough the fundamental design is agreed at Stage 3, a further level of technical detail is required to create a set of digital CAD drawings that comply with the building regulations and are fully coordinated with any structural or building services requirements from engineers appointed to assist with the technical design. This stage involves checking the means of fire escape and protection, foul and rainwater drainage design, water and air-tightness design, designs for sound separation, ventilation systems, staircase design and design to minimise fabric heat loss. We also either carry out basic heat loss calculations or liaise with a SAP consultant to establish the energy rating of a new dwelling which is a great opportunity to exceed the minimum standards and create more comfortable, energy efficient buildings and extensions.

All these aspects and others need to be illustrated on our drawings to demonstrate compliance with the regulations and will also feed into written specifications and schedules. Any conditions attached to a planning permission will need to be discharged at this stage and we will also submit the drawings for building control approval. During this approval stage we will liaise with the building control officer or approved inspector to ensure compliance with all the regulations and British Standards that are relevant to your project.

While waiting for approval we will discuss the detailed specification of materials and fittings with you to enable us to compile either an outline specification / schedule of works or a more comprehensive performance specification such as NBS (National Building Specification). Additional schedules will also be prepared such as a window/door schedule. We will liaise with your party wall surveyor if necessary during this stage as the technical detail will be available to start negotiations.

To conclude this stage we will prepare a package of digital documents including drawings, schedules and specifications that are then issued to your contractor of choice to negotiate a tender price or to a minimum of three building contractors to obtain competitive tenders. Following the return of tenders we will analyse the figures and advise accordingly.

The technical design stage usually takes between 1-2 months with a further month for contractors to prepare tenders.

Stage 5: Construction

A period of negotiation and cost saving from the preferred contractor may be required before a choice is made and we will assist with this process and make amendments to the drawings and specification where necessary. Once a building contractor has been appointed and a contract signed, our role within the project changes to that of ‘Contract Administrator’ and the building contractor will take on the role of ‘Project Manager’. It will then be our duty to administer the contract fairly between you and the builder, to visit the building site periodically to check the project is being built in accordance with the drawings and specification, to check the quality of the build and to monitor the progress in relation to the agreed build programme.

We will also provide additional information where necessary and assist with the resolution of any design issues that arise during the construction. As Contract Administrator we will prepare the contract documents for signing, we will check monthly contractor valuations and issue ‘Certificates’ for payment to the contractor minus retention monies and we will issue ‘Architect’s Instructions’ when a variation is required and this will record the financial adjustment to the contract sum.

The construction stage usually takes between 6-12 months depending on whether your project is a domestic scale extension or a new build dwelling.

Stage 6/7: Handover and Use

In this final stage the project is wrapped up and the building handed over to you. We will inspect the building, carry out snagging and issue a ‘Practical Completion Certificate’ when the work is complete. In the following 12 months we will finalise the building contract, complete any necessary certifications and request the builder to make good any latent defects before certifying the release of remaining retention monies. Once you’ve had a chance to settle in we will evaluate the project and your new building and will record any issues that have affected the performance and experience of the building.

We really value your feedback, which will directly feed back into the design and management of our future projects, thus improving the service we deliver to our clients.

See our projects here.

Why choose Koru Architects for your project?

Koru Architects is an award-winning practice with a design-led and client-centred approach. Our director has over 25 years of professional experience and is fully registered with the ARB and the RIBA. We favour creative design solutions and lateral thinking, meaning with us you may have more options than you originally thought. We are also passionate advocates of sustainable design, with a reputation for the creative use of light and space and careful selection of natural materials. If you want to reduce your energy bills while easing your environmental impact, we will add extra value to your project with our sustainable design expertise.

Learn more about our design philosophy here and our certifications here.