How to Work With the Right Architect 

Architects play a vital role in any property development. Which means finding a good one and building an effective partnership are essential elements in ensuring a project’s success. We reveal what to look for when choosing an architect, the costs involved and how you can put together a top quality brief that builds the foundation for a successful project.

One of the building blocks of property development is working with an architect.

Architects add value to a project by putting your vision down on paper and smoothing the planning and building process.

To build an effective partnership, you need to understand what an architect can bring to your property development.

Brickflow has created this guide to help developers with everything they need to know about working with an architect.

What’s allowed under PDRs?

If you want to elevate the quality of your projects and cement your reputation for outstanding developments, you need a good architect on your team.

Working with a good architect will add gloss to your project – because they look at buildings and design differently than a developer.

An architect will:

  • Look at the best way to manage the space inside and around a property
  • Make the best use of natural light within a building – to fulfil new guidelines all permitted development rights (PDR) projects must include windows in all habitable rooms

Some architects can also project manage the scheme, so they will:

  • Help shoulder the stress of managing a build
  • Ensure the project is completed to a high finish
  • Provide an independent view to make sure the finished project complies with building and planning regulations 

What does an architect do?

An architect can wear several hats during the build, such as completing the initial design and drawings, supervising the build and signing off the finished development on completion.

An architect will discuss the outcome you seek from a project, and style the design to match your budget.

As a developer, cost and profit will be at the forefront of your mind, while an architect should add flair and style within your financial constraints.

A good architect will also have a team of other professionals on hand if you need them – from planning experts to top quality builders and tradesmen.

Typically, an architect will follow a set flow of work, outlining the objectives, identifying core tasks, scheduling the order of work and detailing the expected outcomes at each stage.

Using a systematic and comprehensive approach ensures a high level of control throughout the construction. 

Benefits of working with a good architect 

Architects are paid to keep an eye on the finer details of your project. 

They think about who will live or use the property, how they will want the space configured and how fittings slot together. 

Those finer details should cover the nitty gritty down to the small things, such as which way the doors are hung, where to put a bathroom and how to make the property more energy efficient.

As a developer, you may have a good working knowledge of products and finishes, but the architect is an expert who will tell you what materials to use and where to run the pipes to save spending money unnecessarily on fittings.

Hopefully, your chosen architect should also have a reasonable relationship with the local authority to ease your development through planning without too much fuss.

Choosing an architect 

Any professional trading as an architect must be registered with the Architects Registration Board.

Many architects also belong to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), which is a recognised international professional body. 

Working with a properly registered architect means they are subject to a professional code of conduct and a formal complaints process should your development turn sour.

Many developers choose an architect recommended by a friend or colleague or one they have worked with before. 

However, if you have a development with unique challenges or requirements, you might prefer to work with an architect who has a specific set of skills that will contribute to the success of the build.

Questions to ask your architect

Here are some of the questions you can ask potential architects to establish if they are the right fit for your development:

  • Have they worked on any similar projects?
  • Do they have the availability to work with you to your timescales?
  • What is their track record like, and how experienced are they in managing planning processes with a local authority?
  • Can they provide references and how do their previous clients feel they delivered against their brief?
  • What are their qualifications and experience?
  • Does their portfolio match what you want from your development?

Take time to contact at least three architects to talk about your project so you can compare prices and explore your options before deciding.

How much does an architect cost? 

Architects have varying fee structures depending on their skills, if they work in a practice or alone and the type of development you are undertaking.

Always agree fees in advance so your costs stay on track, but build a figure into your reserve should the unexpected arise – and it usually does.

Most architects offer a free initial consultation to discuss a project.

Some professionals will propose a fee as a percentage of the total project budget, while others will charge on a time basis. You really want to decide on a fixed cost while carefully defining what’s included and what’s not.

The costs will depend on the involvement you want from an architect, the location and size of the development and what complexity the build presents.

Budget for an architect adding between 5 to 12% to the project cost, according to research by building trades website CheckaTrade. 

The website also reckons good architects charge 10% of the project costs for large extensions and an average £1,000 for drafting plans.

You may feel this is an unnecessary cost, but bear in mind a good architect can save you a great deal of money during a build by recommending cost-effective solutions and helping you avoid expensive mistakes.

Putting together a brief for an architect

Having a clear, comprehensive brief to follow is a great foundation for a successful development.

A good brief always starts with your aspirations and then covers how to get there.

When drafting a brief, here are some of the points to include: 

  • The budget
  • Why you have chosen this development
  • What you expect to achieve
  • How you would like the development to look, in line with your end-user profile
  • The style and finish you have in mind
  • The management structure – who will be the primary project decision-maker and how you will control the budget and workflow
  • Division of responsibilities, duties and tasks.
  • Key priorities for the design – such as environmental performance and choice of construction materials. 

Your brief will evolve from this initial discussion, as your architect considers your aims and the best way to achieve them.

Working with an architect

Usually, you will meet with your architect to explain the brief, which should offer a clear explanation of the project’s key points, payment terms, deadlines and critical deliverables.

After instructing the architect, expect a detailed letter of appointment reflecting the brief and your discussions.

The agreement should cover:

  • Costs, fees and expenses
  • Budget forecasts
  • A schedule of works
  • How you will deal with legal and planning issues, like building regulations and the party wall act
  • Insurance cover

Once you are satisfied with the agreement, you will need to sign and return a copy – and you are good to go.

Working with an architect for property developers FAQ

If you are a seasoned developer, you will have a lot of experience of working with an architect, but if you are new to building and project management, you will have lots of questions about working with an architect.

Here are the answers to some of the most asked questions:

How do I manage the quality of a development??

The buck stops with the developer, but you can delegate the responsibility to your architect or another professional.

This includes inspecting the work, managing queries or issues as they arise, deciding what action is needed and ensuring that budgets and payments are under control.

How does an architect deal with planning issues?

An architect should have a workflow to look after planning issues. This starts with your brief and steps through designing the development to ensure the conditions for all permissions and licences are met.

It includes drafting technical drawings, tendering works and supervising construction to the required standard. 

What happens if I fall out with the architect?

Unfortunately, some business relationships do break under the strain of developing property, but as a professional your architect will be registered with the Architects Registration Board, which has a code of conduct and grievance procedure, much like an ombudsman.

Is the developer responsible for site safety?

Yes, the developer has responsibility for health and safety on site but can delegate some to an architect.
The role of managing site health and safety is laid out in The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015, which are available from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Is there a custom contract for architects and developers?

Yes. Your architect should have a template contract from one of the professional bodies that should do the job.


Find Out More

View the Brickflow video Sourcing A Good Architect on YouTube.