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Lingwood Village Hall

Lingwood Village Hall

Lingwood Village Hall & Social Club – Planning Consent received today (09/01/14), how exciting! Congratulations to the Design Team and the Client Team!

birds eye from south west

“I need building plans, but do I need a professional?”

1If you are thinking of a new building project or altering or extending existing, then, most likely you will need building plans. However, the question you may be considering is, should I use an architect, or architectural services, or…..surely my builder will know someone who draws plans?

You may wish to approach your friendly local builder, who may include the cost of plans in his price, but the danger is that the plan drawer would be working for the builder and not you, and then who would you turn to for impartial advice on design and construction options, cost and quality, or if (heaven forbid) a dispute arises?

“A”rchitect comes before “B”uilder in the process and it is important that your brief and budget is fully understood and that plans and specifications are prepared first so that everything is included. Quotations can then be obtained on a ‘like for like’ basis from several builders to ensure that you spend your money wisely – after all, it is the cost of the project, not the fees, which is by far your largest expenditure.

To find out if you can benefit from our professional service we will happily give you an indication over the phone. Then, arrange to meet, obtain recommendations if necessary and if you are obtaining quotes from other architects, ensure they all have all been given the same information so that you can make an informed judgement.

Architects, will have studied for at least seven years, Chartered Architectural Technologists at least five, and bring together, not just thoughtful and creative ideas, but wide ranging practical, technical and specialist knowledge in designing and planning your project. We understand the planning and building control process and can guide you efficiently from start to finish advising on costs, other specialists, construction options and project management – and, to allow you to sleep peacefully, we have full Professional Indemnity Insurance in excess of our services to you.

An architect or CIAT member adds value by helping your project run smoothly, achieve the expected quality, remain on programme and budget – we might even save you money “if you did it this way”.  We will be impartial in dealing with the builder and be able to see things you may have not considered and suggest more appropriate options better suited to your needs.

“Is my architect qualified?”

2Be aware that terms such as “Architectural services”, “Architectural Consultant” and “Architectural Designer” do not necessarily mean that someone is a registered professional. Misuse of the title architect, is widespread, which is simply misleading to an unwary client.

Whilst anyone can offer architectural services, only someone who has been registered with the Architect’s Registration Board (ARB) can describe or promote themselves as, or offer the services of, an architect. This is a statutory requirement under The Architects Registration Act 1994. To be safe, do visit the ARB website, click on check the register and type in their name.

Equally, only members of CIAT (Architectural Technologists who have gained Chartered status) are also recognised to practice in offering professional advice regarding the technical, and detail building design and project delivery to your satisfaction.

So, who should I use?

Well, put simply …. if you were in need of a tooth extraction, would you use a dentist, or a farrier? Or if you needed Legal advice, would you use a solicitor or rely on anecdotal opinion freely given over the pub bar?

Only one has sufficient training and ability to provide you with the correct service, but more importantly, only one of them is a professional, with a governing body, a code of conduct and operate in an ethical manner. In essence you have protection if you use an Architect or CIAT member, but you do not if you use any of the others.

The RSA Practice encapsulates the skills of both Chartered Architect (member of Royal Institute of British Architects, RIBA), and Chartered Architectural Technologist (CIAT), and are bound by a regulatory body’s Code of Conduct in our professional relationship with you. These require that our business is conducted in a proper and ethical way and has disciplinary procedures for infringements of their respective Codes for your protection. If anything goes wrong or you feel you have not had the service you expected, you have a route for redress, but with the others you have nothing.

As part of these Codes we are required to undertake Continuous Professional Development and have adequate professional indemnity insurance (PII) if offering our services to you. Evidence can be provided to clients upon appointment. This insurance is separate to a building warranty, which is the insurance you should check that your contractor has in place to cover building defects.

“Aren’t architect’s fees expensive for small jobs?”

3No – this is a bit of an urban myth, put about by non-professionals and some builders! Anybody offering similar services will have to cover the same ground and procedures, but often with less skill, experience and training than an architect.

However, it is important that if you are getting quotes, you obtain them from qualified design professionals such as architects and Chartered architectural technologists in order to obtain the best return on your investment.

Another myth is that a technologist/technician will be cheaper than an architect. This may be true if the person offering you a ‘cheap’ price doesn’t have insurance, professional affiliations and works off their kitchen table. However, be aware of the risks involved if things go wrong and there is no redress.

Architect’s Fees can be calculated in 3 basic ways and are subject to negotiation:

  • Percentage of construction cost. As an indication, for a complete design and project management service, this can range anywhere between 5% to 15% dependant upon project type, size and complexity.
  • Lump sum Fee. This allows some certainty at the outset and can be quoted separately for each stage.
  • Hourly Rate. This is generally applied when scoping the viability of the project – the hourly rate applied may vary widely dependant upon the practice size and the grade of staff utilized.

Basically, the cost of the full service will take into account the likely construction cost, project complexity and an assessment of the hours required to design, make the statutory Planning and Building Regulations applications, provide construction information and mange the construction process (if indeed these later stages are required).

Using a very simple small domestic extension project as an example:

  • A 20 sq. m ground floor rear extension to a house, in the East of England, using traditional construction on a straightforward site. The average build cost is say £1200 / sq. m (although this could be very much higher dependant on servicing and level of specification) indicating a construction cost of £24,000. Statutory fees to the LA will be Planning (Householder application) £172 and Building Regs. £504.

Calculating a percentage cost fee:

From experience of the project type and complexity, we will know that the fee for a full service, will be mid range:

  • Say, 7.5% of £24,000 is £1800 subdivided into very roughly, one third for planning, one third for building regulations (plus statutory fees £676) and finally one third for managing the construction. It’s also worth remembering as a rule of thumb, as the construction cost goes up, then the percentage fee comes down.

Arriving at a Lump sum fee:

  • For Planning – Assessment of the number of hours required to visit, survey, design, draw up and deposit with planning, multiplied by the hourly rate (within a range £25 – £65 per hour depending upon staff seniority)
  • For Building Regulations – Similarly, assess the hours required to draw up and deposit with local authority.
  • For providing construction information and managing the construction – again, we would assess the number hours required to prepare details, specifications, make site inspections, hold site meetings and administer the contract.

We can of course quote for partial services for preparing a planning and building regulations submission only, leaving you to manage your build.

Finally, ensure that terms of appointment are provided in writing and that you fully understand these, i.e. which services your appointed professional will provide, over what time period, their costs including likely expenses and additional costs such as local authority statutory application fees (above) and whether further specialists are required.

“Do I need Planning Permission?”

5The answer will depend on a number of factors:

  • The type of house you live in (regulations vary depending on whether the house is detached or attached).
  • If the property has been previously altered or extended (you may need permission).
  • If Permitted Development Rights have been removed (meaning that certain works that would otherwise have been permitted no longer are – you will need permission).
  • If the property is Listed or is on designated land (National Parks, the Broads, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, conservation areas,  World Heritage Sites – you will need permission).
  • Relation of the proposal to the highway. (if the proposal extends towards the highway, it is likely that it will need permission).
  • If you live in a flat. (Flats do not have Permitted Development Rights and therefore any extensions would require planning permission).

How do I make a Planning Application and who do I make it to?

This can be a daunting prospect unless you seek professional help and RSA can assist you with this process having prepared your plans. We are Smarter Planning Champions and our applications are made electronically through the Planning Portal, which is both efficient and saves you and the Local Authority time.

If you feel capable of undertaking the submission yourself, you will need to complete the necessary application forms and get together the supporting documents and requisite fee. Please also remember that you may require Building Regulations Approval even if you do not need Planning Permission.

…and if I don’t feel confident in submitting an application?

To save you time and anxiety, it is to your advantage to appoint an agent who has developed a good working relationship with the Local Authority (LA) knowing what they expect. RSA have long standing experience in negotiating the planning process and have a professional relationship with your LA and a thorough understanding of local planning policies.

How long does the Planning Application Process Take?

Once an application has been validated, the LA has 8 weeks to determine your householder planning application, and 13 weeks for anything larger. If the LA is unable to reach a decision within this time, you should receive written confirmation of an intention to extend the period of determination. If they fail to do so, you can appeal on the grounds of non-determination. However, this takes time (normally between 5 and 8 months for written representation appeals) and it may prove advantageous to negotiate an agreement with the LA. However, you should not have got to this position if you had taken sound, professional advice along the way.

“Is Full Plans Approval under the Building Regulations necessary, or can I use a Building Notice?”

6Full Plans or Buildlng Notice? – this is  dependant upon the level of information you need to construct the work at the outset – but you will need to provide all the information to the Local Authority eventually.

The application fee is likely to be the same for either but the full amount is paid up front for a Building Notice whereas a Full Plans application fee is paid in two instalments.

Building Notice is usually only advisable for very small uncomplicated works.

The main differences are:

  • A Full Plans application will be both drawn and described to comply with the Building Regulations. A deposit fee and an inspection fee are required. For smaller, simple domestic projects, this information will outline the scope of the project and is likely be sufficient to obtain competitive prices from builders. An approval will be issued together with a certificate upon satisfactory completion of the work.
  • Although there are no plans prepared, a Building Notice will allow you to commence work. However, the Building Inspector may require further detail and clarification as the work progresses in order to be satisfied that the work will comply on completion.  This would mean the detail being provided as the work progresses and this may require both design and further inspection fees in any case. An approval is not issued but a completion certificate will be issued upon satisfactory completion of the work.

A Full Plans application will have incurred the time and professional fees in preparation, but you are fully aware of the scope of the work and its cost, before construction starts.

With a Building Notice,  you may have saved the cost of a formal submission of plans but the requirement by the Building Inspector for information and evidence of compliance, is not diminished and you carry the added risk of not knowing the likely end cost of your building project from the outset.

Some Building Control bodies now make additional charges for a building notice where the lack of information makes it necessary for them to do more checking for compliance.

“How do I find the right builder for my project?”

4Your building project is a significant investment and as such, there are a number of areas you may need to consider in choosing your builder to ensure that you get value for money and a quality end result that will endure, be finished on time, defect free, within the contracted budget and without any unforeseen or hidden extrasor any dispute to sour the whole experience!

It is unlikely you will repeat the experience, so try and ensure it has been a good one!

Consider the following:

  • How long established?
  • Have they sufficient resource to concentrate on your job from start to finish?
  • Financial standing?
  • Own Craftsmen or Tradesmen?
  • Recommendations?
  • Are they appropriate for the type of work?
  • Are they members of an appropriate trade body whose codes of conduct they are obliged to comply with and by whom they have been vetted eg Federation of Master Builders?
  • Do they have appropriate insurances and are they willing to show you evidence? If they have they won’t mind showing you.
  • Do they offer insurance backed warranties in case something goes wrong?
  • Are they willing to enter into a written contract appropriate to the size of the works?

You may have a builder in mind of course, who you can trust and get along with and you may have already had building work carried out previously which you were entirely satisfied with.

In any other case, our best advice would be to establish some background, prepare a brief and drawn information and obtain competitive quotations based on the same information, from at least three builders of a comparable size.

RSA can do this for you, as part of our extended service. We are familiar with a range of contractors and builders that we have known and worked with for many years and can assist you in putting together an appropriate tender list and prepare tender documents.

Once a builder has been selected after tendering, we can prepare contract documents, provide the construction information and deal with the builder through the construction process and negotiate the final account on your behalf, should you wish.

Sutherlands Care Home

Case study for care home

Sutherlands Care Home – Designed as a 47 bed residential and Nursing Care home for dementia, intermediate and long term care of the elderly and including patients recuperating from orthopaedic and other hospital procedures. Site constraints included size (site originally occupied by one dwelling), fixed central access across a culverted ditch, all of which dictated the physical layout of the building on the site.

The client, East Anglia Care Homes had a precise brief – that the entire facility should be as spacious and communally inclusive as possible, offering independence, comfort and a family atmosphere.

Park Farm Hotel

Park FarmCase study for hotel and leisure development

Park Farm Hotel & Leisure Centre has developed over a thirty year period from a family farm guest house to one of the most significant hotel, leisure and conference facilities in Norfolk.

Michael Spicer, Architect, has been involved in a number of extension, alteration and new build projects during that period – from alterations and conversions of existing farm buildings, extensions to the Grade II Listed farm house to new guest bedroom accommodation wings.

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