Finding an Architect

Finding and choosing the right architect for your self build can feel like an unnerving task at first. With so many architects with their own unique style out there, how are you to know who is the right one for you?   

We have put together a guide with our top ten tips to help you find the right architect for your build.

Scotland's Self and Custom Build Portal's Guide to Finding an Architect:

Tip 1: Take your time and do your research 

The same as any other stage of your self build, you want to make sure you have done your research and sourced the products and services that are right for your build. To ensure you find an architect that suits your needs you will want to take your time and do extensive research. 

Different methods of research you can do include: 

  • Search online search engines i.e. Google, Bing, Yell for architects near you and check their reviews; 
  • Search on specific architectural sites to identify registered architects or chartered architectural services in your location, such as:
    • Architects Registration Board (ARB)
    • Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland
    • Chartered Institute of Building
  • Go to different architects’ websites and look for case studies, testimonials, past projects, services offered; 
  • Check your local authorities’ planning website to find architects’ previous work and plans in your area; 
  • Attend local and / or national homebuilding tradeshows to speak to architects or get recommendations; 
  • Talk to those who have previously built their own home in your area and ask for recommendations or details of the architect they used.

Tip 2: Find a style that suits yours

Architects can have a unique and specific style and not every style will suit yours. Research and decide on the type of style you want for your build and be clear on this when meeting or discussing with potential architects. This can be a quick and useful method of filtering through potential architects. 

Be mindful of local vernacular, conservation areas or national scenic area designations as they may influence or dictate your ultimate design. Check your local authority’s website for Local Development Plans to get a better idea of the type of plans that are likely to be accepted. 

Tip 3: Acquire testimonials or speak to past clients 

Once you have begun shortlisting architects, you should ask for references or testimonials from past clients. If they do not have testimonials available, do not be hesitant to get in touch with their past clients. This will give you the chance to ask any questions you may have about that architect and give you a better insight in to how they work. 

If the architect will not give you the contact details of past clients, find out the reason for this.

Tip 4: Are they registered with the Architects Registration Board (ARB)? 

The term ‘architect’ is protected by law and can only legally be used in the UK by those who are registered with the Architects Registration Board (ARB). You can search on the Architects Register for architects near you here

It is important to note that only the term ‘architect’ is protected and so it is not uncommon to come across those using the term ‘architectural consultant’ or ‘architectural technologist’ instead. This is not to say those who are not architects are not capable of providing the same service but it means they may work to fewer rules and regulations and are not held to the same standards. 

ARB have written an article explaining the Architects Register and the benefits of using a registered and regulated professional, you can read that here

Tip 5: Can they provide all the services you need?

When in discussion with potential architects, make sure you are clear on the services you require and that they can deliver all those services.

For example, do you require an architect to supervise your build? If so have you checked that lenders will provide finance ifa specific architect is supervising? Some banks may only lend depending on the certificates and qualifications an architect possesses. 

Some architects’ websites may list the services they provide but it is always useful to check this in person before making a final decision. 

Tip 6: Check availability

Architects can be booked up months in advance so be sure to check their availability early on. 

Tip 7: Organise face to face meetings with multiple architects 

Be sure to meet with at least three architects face to face before making a final decision. This is so you can evaluate how well you feel you would work with each architect. Remember this is your build and if any problems arise or you want to make changes you need to feel confident that you can communicate effectively with your architect. 

Tip 8: Be prepared

Be prepared for all your meetings. Make sure you have a design brief organised and you are clear on the type of build and style you are looking for and the amount you are prepared to spend. 

Tip 9: Communication is key 

Make sure you have good communication with your architect from the outset and throughout your time of working with them. Be sure you are clear with your vision and you agree on the process, budget, timescale and responsibilities of the architect before starting the project.

Tip 10: Don’t forget your budget! 

Last but not least, do not forget your budget! It is not uncommon for a self build project to go over budget so it is important to strategically plan your costs before you start your build. Make sure you get clear cost structures from architects before making your final decision. It can be useful to question architects on the possibility of extra costs occurring or ask their past clients about their cost management before choosing.  

You may wish for your architect to obtain a fixed price from your chosen building contractor to reduce the risk of financial overruns and to give you cost certainty.