Commencing your project to extend or alter your property can be a daunting prospect, especially so if you’ve never done anything like it before. Building work is expensive, so making sure you end up with a well designed, efficient and cost effective scheme is incredibly important.
For the first of our new year blogs, we have prepared a ‘how to’ guide to help homeowners initiate these projects with confidence, and to get the most out of any work.
Our 'Carpenters House' Project in East Lothian - Click on image for the project page
1. Speak to more than one architect
We know this may result in people not using us, but it is more important to that you end up with a home you love than us being selected as your architects.
An architect is likely to be the first professional you speak to when undertaking a project. They are often present all the way through the project from the earliest stages right to the finish, so it is important you choose a firm and an individual) that you like and trust, and whom you feel will deliver what you’re after. Architects are generalists, so while it is of course sensible that you choose someone who has carried out similar work before, this shouldn’t be considered essential - it is more important that you like their style and that they seem genuinely enthused about your project.
2. If you’re interested in achieving really good design as a priority, speak to an architect first and use them to lead the project
When people don’t start by engaging an architect, the other type of organisation who may be contacted are builders (also called contractors).
Of course, as the people responsible for constructing any work, builders do have valuable input. However, if you are wanting a project which is beautiful and well designed, we would recommend that the primary conduit for discussions with your contractor should be with drawings produced by the architect, and not directly and without any drawn information. Drawings are your means of explaining what you want - without them you run the risk of not getting what you want - or paying more than you need to in order to do so.
There is a reason why architects are in training for so long, and bypassing their input will almost invariably result in a loss of either the functionality of a house, or in its beauty.
For many people this is absolutely fine - but understanding your own priorities prior to embarking on a project and making sure your actions reflect those priorities is vital.
Our 'Potters' House project in Lenzie - Click on image for the project page
3. Write down what you want out of the work
It is a near impossible task designing for a couple who haven’t agreed on what they are looking for, at least in the large part; what will inevitably happen is that we will draw a scheme which is perfect for one, but that leaves nagging doubts with the other half of the client group (or that they outright hate!) Putting your brief down on paper is an important first step, both for you, and for your architect. It means you are thrashing out the detail of what you’re looking for prior to asking the architect to begin design work. Thus, the brief has two important functions - for you to articulate what you want to your architect, and as a means of assessing the relative successes of any options as they are produced for your consideration.
Our 'Shieling' Project in Fintry - Click on image for the project page
4. Think holistically
We are often asked to come and talk to clients who want an extension, but they have not thought about the remainder of the house. As building new space is so expensive, prior to considering an extension, first and foremost we have to make sure that your existing home is working as hard as possible for you. More space is not always better - and it will likely be more expensive than reconfiguring the space that you already have, so the solution needs to be to think about the whole house when writing your brief - don’t just focus on the extension - think about what you would ultimately like in the whole completed home, and let the architect work out how these requirements can be efficiently delivered.
An extension in Buchlyvie - due on site in 2019. Watch this space...
5. Understand where your priorities lie in terms of cost, quality and budget
We are sometimes contacted by people who want a beautiful piece of work delivered quickly and on a restricted budget. This is an impossible task! There is a widely accepted theory that you can only ever control two of these three parameters at any time. Understanding which are most important to you is important as it will allow you to become more flexible in working with your architect and builder in delivering the project. For most, cost is important, as is quality, so an acceptance that things might take a bit longer than you hope to achieve an affordable, beautiful alteration will stop this becoming a major issue as work progresses.
An extension project, on site, and due for completion in early 2019. Watch this space for images...
6. Let the early stages run their course
This very much relates to the point 5, above. The beginning of any project is incredibly exciting for everyone, and there is often a desire to lodge planning as soon as possible. In our experience, making sure that the scheme is well designed prior to the planning submission, and that an early cost check has been undertaken, will help smooth the process going forwards, reducing the risk of cost shocks and abortive work after you have committed to a planning approval which may ultimately prove unaffordable.
7. If you don’t understand something on the drawings, don’t be afraid to ask your architect for clarification
This may sound obvious but it avoids something turning up on site which you don’t want or like. An architect should be able to draw or sketch their thinking to relay the idea clearly to you.
A project recently completed in south London....watch this space for more images.
8. Ride the waves, and try and stay calm
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, having an understanding that projects all have exciting times as well as tough ones through their lifespan is a really vital piece of knowledge to carry into any project. Trying to smooth out your emotions so that you react as calmly and sensibly as possible to any set backs is a critical component of producing a good piece of work - and far easier to say than to do. We are there with you for the long haul and will always aim to maximise the joyous moments, minimise the hard ones, and ultimately to leave you with a beautiful home that endures for many years to come.
The Rower's house in Chiswick - recently completed, with images to follow in spring 2019.