Mar 28, 2017

Successful Building: Why use an architect?

We are passionate about creating exceptional homes and take pride in delivering great service.  In a series of guides to successful building we share honest advice, based on our experience, and demystify some of the processes and jargon in home building and renovation.  

In this, the first post in the series, we start at the beginning and ask the question ‘do I need an architect?’. 

Where to start?

Often clients approach us when they are in the early stages of considering a project, understanding what to budget is a key question, whilst engaging a reputable contractor feels the natural first stop to gain experienced, practical advice.

Whether you are considering extending your home, creating a basement or reconfiguring the existing layout, we will always suggest that you begin with an architect.

Why?  Primarily, an architect led design will always deliver the most successful outcome for your home.  Secondly, to estimate the cost of materials and labour it’s difficult, arguably misleading, to provide an estimate without a detailed understanding of the project.

Should I choose a one stop shop?

Finding someone who can deliver your project 'end to end' might feel like a perfect solution but this approach can be risky.

In our experience our most successful projects have been designed independently by an architect.  This approach ensures the design is not prejudiced.

Whilst taking account of your budget, an architect will always be entirely focused on your needs, how you live and ultimately how through good design they can add the most value to your home.

5 Reasons to Use an Architect

It is always the cost of using an architect that leads to the question ‘do I really need one?’ Put simply, it is almost certainly a false economy to avoid using one.  

  1. A good architect will increase the value of your home by gaining you more space, making a scheme efficient to build and by designing a superior product.
  2. Your contractor needs clear, workable plans to build efficiently, anything unclear or undecided leads to questions and delays which will likely increase the cost of your build.
  3. An architect is best placed to ensure plans will secure planning permission, meet building regulations and meet any additional conservation area requirements
  4. To provide an accurate price for the work your contractor needs construction drawings – the detail that specifies measurements and materials
  5. Working with an architect reduces risk, setting you on a positive journey to improve your home, often your largest investment.

Choosing an architect

Take your time choosing the right architect or designer to work on your project.  It pays to choose a person you like, trust and importantly that you feel will listen and understand what you want to achieve.

Try to avoid practices that will promote their designs & personal opinions too heavily. Find someone who will bring expertise and advice to add to and shape your ideas, with the ability to take the concept through to completion.  It shouldn’t feel hard to get your brief and ideas across.

Remember, it is not about that person designing their dream house or using ‘cool’ things they have seen that are ‘on trend’.  It is not their house, their money and nor will they be living there.

Ask to see their portfolio of work and speak to previous clients and contractors to understand how they work.  Check the projects they show you have been built and are not simply designs for properties that haven’t been progressed.  Better still go and see one or more of their projects if you can.

Make sure you understand the architect or designer's qualifications and certifications.  Be sure to choose someone who can deliver a full service that includes construction drawings.  Construction drawings ensure that planning consent has been given to a design that is achievable and reduces the risk of re-submission and additional cost.  A full design package will include structural engineers drawings, all of the construction drawings and a specification of the intended works.  Furthermore, a full service will provide a contractor with support on the finer details during the build. 

When you have taken the decision to build, extend or alter your home it's natural to want to move quickly, however you will be dealing with a team for what could be many months, so research and careful consideration on who you choose will pay off.

Teamwork delivers the best results

Choose your contractor early in the journey but after your architect has developed and submitted your plans.  A good contractor will often be planning work with up to a 6 month lead time, so engaging them early on in the project will ensure no delays when you are ready to get started.  Planning permission typically takes 8-12 weeks. 

Our role in design

At Woodmans we bring our build expertise and experience into the team in the form of value engineering.  From the early stages of a project and throughout the build journey we collaborate with both clients and architects on specific design decisions which may help to reduce cost or improve the design.  It's this collaboration that has made so many of our projects so successful.


We are happy to recommend architects that we have worked with, this is based purely on our experience of working with them and the success of projects that we have jointly delivered.  We are not formerly partnered with any architects that we recommend. 

Useful Resources

Houzz is a great resource for planning your project.  You can search and discover design ideas for your project and save interesting photographs into an ideabook that can be shared with others to contribute to.  Houzz also has a number of professionals listed, often with reviews of their work.

ARB is the Architects Registration Board and RIBA is the Royal Institute of British Architects.  Membership of RIBA is optional for architects, although most leading practices will be members.

Many thanks to Granit Architects, three | eleven design and Yelo Architects for their input and use of images in this feature. Additional photo credits to Andrew Beasley and James French.

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