What Architectural work goes into a new extension or building project?

Part one of a two part explanation of the key design stages in a construction project.

When I meet a client to discuss a project for the first time, I get asked a lot of questions about the process and the work required, for example, when do I make a planning application?  How do I get prices from builders?  When will work start on site?

It’s quite natural for the building owner, to want to understand how the project develops from their initial ideas and needs, to handing over the keys and popping the champagne cork and it’s part of my job to outline the process at the first meeting so they are aware of the scope of work involved.

The sequence of most building projects can be split into five clear stages so for part one, I have outlined the usual requirements of the first three.  However, some projects need a different or more flexible approach to suit the client and respond to specific challenges in advance of their relevant stage.  For example you may decide to discuss the project with the planning department before completing a design.

Stage one – Brief and Survey

Following an initial meeting, a client’s instruction and appointment, the first thing to do, is to create a starting point.  This involves measuring the building and the site to produce an accurate record of the property including items like room layouts, drains, land levels and boundaries.

The amount and detail of information required will be determined by the client’s brief, which is normally established at the first meeting.  The survey is used to produce a set of existing drawings, which are then used as a template for all the following stages and it is important that they are accurate to help the construction work to proceed without difficulty.

Stage two – Design

The client’s requirements are fully detailed and the brief is expanded to create a design wish list, prior to any drawing being produced.  The success of a design relies in part on the clarity and detail of the information given to the designer, to enable them to produce ideas that address the client’s needs.

In response to the finished brief a set of drawings is produced to show how the building and property might be created to resolve the issues in the best possible way.  The thinking behind the designs is explained and the practicalities of the resulting works can be discussed in detail.  If required changes to the drawings can be made to satisfy the client before moving on to the next stage.

Stage three – Planning and Building Regulations Applications

Depending on the details of the project it may not be necessary to make both applications.  However, if both applications are needed, this stage is usually carried out in sequence by using the approved design to make a Planning Application first and then a Building Regulations Application following Planning Approval.

A Planning Application is made by adding extra information to the drawings to include items like materials, external appearance, location, size and scale and to show how the proposals relate to national and regional planning policies.

A Building Regulations Application is made by adding technical and construction information to the drawings including, drains, foundations, ventilation and energy use, to satisfy the Building Inspector that the works will comply with a set of standard national regulations.

Both applications require a certain amount of paperwork and the council request payment for all but a few special types of submissions.

In my next post I shall outline the last two stages of creating the working drawings and managing the project on site through to completion.