Stage 1 Preparation of Brief
Every project starts with an identified need, and this should take the form of a brief which you may or may not have prior to engaging an architect. One of our first exercised we will undertake with you is to sit down and help turn this identified need into a comprehensive brief, which then forms the backbone of the work undertaken by us in collaboration with you.
Writing down what you want out of a project is highly advisable for several factors – it encourages you to think about what you want, it gives us something to design against (even if your wishes transpire to be difficult to achieve) and it gives you a ‘scale’ to measure our success in terms of design against your aspirations.
Architects are duty bound to have a written contract with their clients, and we seek to put this in place at the outset so that it defines several important factors, namely:
The contracting parties
The scope of work
The fee, or method of calculating it
What our roles and responsibilities are, and what yours are as client
Any constraints or limitations on those responsibilities
The provisions for suspension or termination of the agreement,
A statement that architects have the adequate and appropriate insurance
The architect’s complaint handling procedure.
As outlined above, the first steps in establishing a project therefore occur before a line is drawn. Having a comprehensive brief and a formal appointment form the bedstone on which good design is formed.
Stage 2 Concept Design
The second stage takes the brief and begins the process of turning it into a piece of architecture which meets all of those demands and desires you’ve taken the time to think about and write down. We enjoy this stage at LMA because it is our opportunity to start realising the possibilities in any project through the use of careful and clever design.
We typically produce between two and four sketch options at Stage 2, and they generally take a progressively radical approach to tackling the brief. These help you interrogate what you want, and indicate how best we think it may be achieved given the constraints of site, budget and existing building. There is lots of sketching, including 3d views, plans, sections and elevations, massing models, and these will help shape how we imagine the building may look and feel after the works are complete.
These early drawings and the dialogue relating to them between architect and client (and occasionally client and client) are incredibly important so we always encourage people not to rush this stage. It needs plenty of thought and honesty from everyone to truly develop a design which responds positively to the brief. If this stage is undertake correctly, the remaining stages become far more linear.
Stage 3 Developed Design
The developed design emerges from the preferred design option of the previous stage. It takes the sketches and conceptual drawings and turns them into a set of formal architectural drawings. The stage culminates with the submission of a planning application, and as part of this process the specification for the materials forming the outside of the building need to be fully considered.
Once the preferred scheme has reached this level, we would typically expect to have a structural engineer, and on some projects a quantity surveyor, appointed. These professionals are there to help develop the detailed design and ensure it is within budget.
We always encourage our clients to agree to allow us the time to undertake pre-application discussions with the relevant planning departments. In Scotland this service is free, and it engages the planner in the process and smooths the way towards a planning (and listed building) application having a positive outcome. We feel that a couple of weeks doing this pays dividends as it mitigates the risk of a planning refusal and allows work to carry on during the planning determination process – which is typically 8 weeks long.
Stage 4 Technical Design
The stage following planning approval is the technical design – this is the process by which we develop the design towards a building warrant approval and a comprehensive package of drawings from which to engage a builder. At this stage, as a client, the fun of selecting floor finishes, helping refine kitchen layouts and electrical plans, begins. Our approach to tender drawings is that anything you want to control the appearance of should be drawn prior to speaking to a builder.
As with the early stages, we are there to help guide you through this process and to provide our thoughts on what we believe may work well in a particular location.
It is at this point that the Structural engineer becomes very important as they submit a certificate for the structural design as part of the overall warrant application. We (the architects) remain the design team leaders and are responsible for the coordination of all information which forms the technical design.
Again at this stage, we suggest a costing exercise is undertaken to ensure the design as it develops remains on budget. We would also review the project schedule to see that the project timescales still fall within your wishes. This is particularly true in Scotland, when building through the winter provides particular challenges.
Whilst awaiting the determination of a building warrant application we can help you agree how you would like to procure the building. If this is by means of a main contractor, we regularly arrange meetings with suitable firms, in addition to client visits to some of their previous projects.
Stage 5 Construction.
As indicated by the name, this the stage at which the (comprehensive) information developed to date is used to form the building. During this time, we have varying roles in helping deliver the building on site. In a traditional contract, architects would assume the role of contract administrator – i.e. we are responsible for overseeing and ensuring that the terms of the contract (including the delivery of the drawings) are fulfilled. We also help coordinate the input of others including the other consultants (the structural engineer) and any specialist subcontractors (e.g. steelwork suppliers).
During this phase of the project we visit the site at agreed intervals, to inspect the works, and comment on workmanship, progress, and the works are in accordance with the agreed drawings. We also can vary the works (if you wish) and provide regular certificates for each stage of construction.
Collaborative working is critical to this stage and therefore we always try and strike up a positive working relationship with the individuals and organisations involved in delivering the project. Ultimately these relationships and understanding and working through the challenges we all face will positively affect the final quality of the finished building.
Stage 6 Hand over and Close out
This is the point at which you take ownership of your new building. The construction phase can be stressful, but this quickly dissipates once you have the keys to your new premises and you enjoy the fruits of your hard work. As part of a standard building contract, we are responsible for bringing the formation relationship between builder and client to a close, although this is only done once any defects have been identified and the liability period has ended.