Choosing Your Architect or Designer

  • Creation Date: Thursday, 09 May 2019

choosing your designer 1 If you are thinking about building or renovating, it is important that you consider who you are going to engage to do the design work for you very carefully. If you were not a financial person yourself, would you ask someone who has dabbled in the stock market to invest, say, R1,000 000 or more for you? I doubt it. Yet, in this industry, so many people entrust that kind of investment to someone who “draws house plans” because they don’t charge too much.

choosing your designer 2Choosing your architect or designer is a very important decision. Their advice and knowledge (or lack thereof) will directly affect your investment and the future value of your property. There is far more to design than simply drawing a plan and getting a builder to build it. Just look around you at the many design disasters in your neighbourhood and you will know what I am talking about.

The point being made is that clever design need not cost any more to build than poor design but the end result can be vastly different. As with many industries, you will always get what you pay for and the building industry is no different. The problem is that when things go wrong in this industry, large sums of money are usually involved. Therefore, choose your architect or designer with care as you are engaging them to invest a lot of money for you.

What should your expectation of your architect be and what should he/she expect of you in return:
The only thing that any architect expects of you is that you treat them fairly and that you stick to the terms of the fee agreement, particularly with regards the payment of professional fees for the stages of work in that agreement. You would be expected to sign that fee agreement before any work on the project starts. There is however much that you as the client would expect from your architect.

The first point is that they should be qualified and permitted in terms of that qualification to do the work that you are engaging them to do. They should also be registered with the South African Council for the Architectural Profession. They should have a valid Professional Indemnity Insurance policy in place which will cover all aspects of their design work for your project. This is as much of a safeguard for you as it is for your architect in the event that things go wrong as a result of design mistakes.

The experience that your architect brings to the table is also an important factor to consider as there is no substitute for that experience. It is, at the end of the day, what you are actually paying for. Your building or alteration is something that you are going to live in and its design needs to be centered around your lifestyle. The vision and experience and the advice from your architect and their ability to be practical will directly impact on whether this will be achieved or not.

Items that any good architect will look at when designing a project will include the following:

The topography of the site, ground conditions, the elements of wind, sun and rain and their relation to the site and to the position of the building;
choosing your designer 3The lifestyle and design taste of the client;

A full specification which will include the drainage and plumbing design, electrical and lighting design, the selection of building materials and the various products and finishes in the marketplace that will most suit your project and your taste.

Energy efficiency is playing an increasingly important role in the construction industry and this too should be considered. The submission to and approval of the drawings by the local authority is also part of your architect’s responsibility.

Your architect will be involved, in varying degrees, with the tender process, the vetting and appointment of the building contractor and with the construction process, all of which are included in the fees they charge. Depending on the size and complexity of the project, architects scale of fees will normally range from between 6% and 12% of the value of the project.

It is to be remembered that they will be involved with you for the full length of the project. Issues around the budget for the project including professional fees will need to be sorted out up front. You expect your accountant to charge you for their work, expect your architect to do the same.

Article was written by:
Les Abbott
Pr Arch
L A Design Studio