I am often asked why it is important to use an Architect, when sometimes it can be cheaper to use an un-registered plan drawer or architectural designer, what’s the difference?

To call oneself an ‘architectural designer’ you don’t necessarily need any formal qualifications or experience, whereas the title ‘Architect’ is protected by law and can only be used by people registered with the Architects Registration board (ARB), having gone through the relevant training and demonstrated the correct level of experience and competency. Unfortunately, there is nothing stopping someone setting themselves up as an architectural designer with little or no experience.

‘Chartered’ Architects, are also members of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in addition to being registered with ARB. This gives additional peace of mind as RIBA members adhere to a strict code of conduct and are required to carry out continued professional development (CPD) keeping up to date with the latest legislation and technical innovations. RIBA Chartered Architects have undergone at least seven years of training – the longest in the construction industry. RIBA Chartered Architects are not just conceptual designers; they are required to have a high level of technical and legislative knowledge as well. This breath of knowledge and expertise gives Chartered Architects a overview of the entire construction process, from design to completion on site, that means that they are able to give advice at the very earliest stage of a project that can save time and money further down the line.

Of course it is not always necessary to use an Architect to prepare a simple set of planning drawings and there are a lot of good architectural designers who will give you value for money. Although, perhaps they might not provide the same level of design flair, or the same level of expertise, and or knowledge as a Chartered Architect. Just make sure they are registered with an appropriate professional body and are able to provide an adequate level of professional indemnity insurance to ensure you are getting the professional service and protection you expect.

To help make the right decision about which professional to choose to design your building project – and make sure you get value for money and the appropriate level of consumer protection – the top questions you should ask when appointing a construction professional for your building project:

-          Are you registered with the ARB or RIBA and do you have Professional Indemnity Insurance (PI)?

All ARB and RIBA registered professionals must have this is place and it means that if something does go wrong you have peace of mind. Most architectural designers do not hold this insurance which means you will have to foot the bill for any mistakes they make.

-          Can I speak to some of your previous clients?

A good Architect will have a list of happy clients that they will be only too pleased to pass you their details so that you can have a chat about their experience.

-          What do you specialise in?

If a firm mostly designs schools or office buildings they may not be the right practice for your new house or extension (or your project may get passed to an office junior). The best practices for residential projects are practices that have a good track record of this type of project and these are often smaller practices.

-          Are you able to produce building regulation and construction information and over see my project on site?

All RIBA Chartered Architects will be able to do this. However a lot of architectural designers/plan drawers are not able to produce construction information or over see the construction process. Therefore think very carefully before entrusting your financial investment to someone who might design something for you that might not be constructionally possible, practical or cost effective?

If you have a project that you need advice on please contact me for a free initial consultation on 01395 265768 or jb@riba.co

Jonathan Braddick – Chartered Architect & RIBA South West Regional Chair


twitter: @jb_riba