Considering a conversion of the loft, an extension off the kitchen, or perhaps a new build on that perfect bit of land you’ve just bought, an architect really could be the most important part of your plans.
There are so many architects out there it is difficult to know where to start. If you're aiming to build a brand new home, you might fancy calling the architect responsible for a building you really like. Or you may like to choose an architect that has been recommended to you by a friend. But both of these suggestions can have their drawbacks. According to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), you will get a much better result from using a more, 'structured' attitude. It is also good to remember that architects in Devon can be a little more laid back and trickier to get hold of so a certain amount of patience is required.
A good place to start is to seek advice from RIBA's Directory of Practices, which can be found at www.ribafind.org. You can search any idea here, whether it's guidance on listed buildings or the construction of a one-off house. You can also search the region you want for a list of RIBA members that fit your requirements. You may also want to consider an architectural designer; you may find one of the above advertised perfect for your needs.
Choosing and Architect in Devon shortlist
Once you have made your shortlist of architects or designers, give them a call and talk through what you want. You may be able to narrow your list down as some practices will see the job as too small or too big. Ask any you like to send through any literature summarising their experience and qualifications, and perhaps if you can visit finished buildings.
Find out about their costs too. Some designers will charge a percentage of the cost of the whole building project, others a lump sum and some a charge based on time spent. How much input you want from the architect over the project is largely up to you, from coming up with a design to seeing the project through to the end.
RIBA says it's important to get to know your designer or architect as your compatibility with them will be just as imperative as their credentials. If you have strong design views, you will need someone who listens. And if you're embarking on a long project, you need someone you can get along with.
When you've finally made your choice and appointed an architect or designer, you will need to put together a contract and develop a clear and understandable brief. You need to make sure your architect is clear about your aims and objectives, your reasons for embarking on the project, your design style, and overall expectations of the project. You need to be clear on who makes the day-to-day decisions on design and costs. If everything goes well, you could end up with the perfect structure you had in mind or in fact something far better.
If things go wrong
However if things do go wrong you need to know where to turn. RIBA says: "Before you do anything, think about the nature of the problem and how you would like it to be resolved." Is the problem with fees, the contract, or perhaps a substandard construction? Has it taken far longer than it should have, or do you have a complaint about negligence, incompetence or professional misconduct?
Once you have defined the problem, you can decide your course of action. According to RIBA, these can include arbitration and adjudication. If you have a contract then this is legally binding and means they must sort out any problems arising over building contracts and contracts of engagement. Both RIBA and the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (020 7837 4483) can give you names of arbitrators, and the RIBA Practice Department (020 7307 3649) will be able to submit an adjudicator.
Complain to the architect registration board
The Architects Registration Board (ARB) is responsible for registering all practising architects in the UK. It has a code of professional conduct and practice that operates disciplinary procedures. An architect can be struck off or suspended from the register if found guilty of serious professional incompetence or misconduct. A RIBA member who is struck off or suspended by the ARB is very likely to be suspended or expelled by the institute itself. The ARB can be contacted on 020 7580 5861.
Take legal action
The Law Society (020 7242 1222) can provide you with names of solicitors anywhere in the country who specialise in relevant subject areas. This is the ultimate means of settling a dispute over fees or claiming damages for negligence. The RIBA Clients' Advisory Service will be able to provide names of architects who can act as expert witnesses.