Some frequently asked questions that a client may have. On this page we look to answer as many of these questions as possible. In some cases, answers will link to blog posts where we go into much greater detail for those particularly complex topics.
About Fern Architecture
Fern is a small practice of one Architect.
This allows me to run the practice with a passion for design and a commitment to my Clients, rather than focusing on managing large overheads and worrying about paying many wages.
It means that you can be certain that I will be fully engaged with your project and won’t be passing it around the office to others who don’t know your wants and needs.
There is no charge for an initial meeting within 20 miles of the office in Brighouse, HD3.
Beyond this we can have a free meeting over the telephone or a standard visit for a small charge.
Fern are happy to work throughout the country for the right projects.
The main factor affecting this is scale. With a small project, a large portion of the Architect’s fee would be in travel for a more distant project, whereas in a larger project, travel costs are a much smaller percentage, making us more affordable for you
Fern operate standard office hours of 9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday.
I am happy to meet with Client’s outside of these hours as I understand that many people work similar hours so cannot be available midday midweek!
I specialise in residential projects, with new-build one-off houses, small developments and extensions. I have a keen interest in sustainable design and encourage projects with this goal.
I also welcome small commercial projects including shops, offices and restaurants.
The level of service I offer is tailored to your own requirements and budget. Whether just a feasibility study, an outline planning application, or a complete full-build service.
For a full build, I typically offer 3 levels of service:
- Basic level which includes for drawings and applying for permissions
- Standard level which includes for tendering and contract administration during the construction
- Enhanced level which includes a higher level of design and detailing, and can include services such as interior design and/or detailing thermal modelling calculations.
Fern is a focused architecture practice and therefore do not include services such as Structural Engineering or Quantity Surveying. I work regularly with many other consultants and include for advising and co-ordination with them in my own scope of service.
I believe that environmental sustainability should be considered in every project from the earliest possible stage. This should be done in a way which seeks to reduce carbon emissions whilst at the same time remaining within the Client’s budget.
Technologies such as Solar Panels and Heat Pumps are obvious considerations, but I believe that we should first consider the construction first, looking at:
- Levels of insulation
- Performance of windows and doors
- Reducing thermal bridges (breaks in the insulation at junctions).
Getting the building fabric right is the most cost effective approach and vastly improves the performance of these follow-on technologies.
I operate a set of standard details that modify standard construction details to minimise thermal bridges in a way that is cost effective and easy to construction.
I maintain both Professional Indemnity Insurance and Public Liability Insurance. The limits for each of these is project specific and defined in the Appointment documents.
All Architects are required to maintain Professional Indemnity Insurance as a minimum by the ARB and RIBA.
About your Project
A good place to start is talking to an Architect!
If you have never undertaken a building project before then you may need help understanding the processes and terms used in construction. You might not know where to start thinking about budget, timescale or even what is feasible. These are all things that an Architect can help you with.
The main things that you need to start thinking about are your brief (what you are wanting to do)
The first things that an Architect will want to know are your brief, budget and timeframe, so it is important to have at least an idea of these before a first meeting.
The brief defines what the project is (are you wanting an extension to add a new kitchen or do you want a new 3 bedroom house?) and is essential for the Architect to work out their quotation. Knowing the budget and timeframe early on can allow the Architect to assess the feasibility of a project and they can provide guidance on what a project is likely to cost and how long it might take.
A good Architect will aim for quality design that is tailored to your requirements and taste. To help us understand you taste, it’s a good idea to look through websites such as Pinterest or Houzz and create a scrapbook of projects that inspire you.
If you don’t know what you want from a project, don’t worry! An Architect will help you work through your requirements and develop a brief.
This depends on what you want to do!
Many projects where you are adding to or altering an existing property can be done without requiring planning permission through Permitted Development rights. There are too many of these to list but there is a very handy interactive guide on the Planning Portal website.
It should be noted that permitted development rights can be complicated and may not apply in certain situations or may have been removed entirely at some point. An Architect can help you work out if a project will need Planning Permission.
Few projects can avoid needing any kind of approval.
The most common approval required beyond planning permission is building regulations approval. This is an approval of the proposed construction and ensures that your building will be safe to occupy. Only very small projects don’t require this.
Other approvals can include listed building consent (if your property is listed), permission to demolish in a conservation area, party wall agreements, etc. The Planning Portal website lists the most common permissions you may need.
An Architect can help you to determine what permissions you will need for your project.
An Architect can help guide you through the process of a building project and so the earlier you appoint an Architect, the better you can be planned!
As an Architect I follow the RIBA Plan of Works which sets out 7 stages of a project. I will be exploring this in more detail in a blog post so watch this space!
The brief order of a typical project may look like:
- Develop a brief
- Undertake a survey and any feasibility studies
- Develop a design from concept to planning level
- Planning Application and other permissions (this takes a minimum of 8 weeks)
- Develop the technical design
- Building Regulations Application (this takes a minimum of 5-8 weeks for the drawings check)
- Produce tender documents (documents for a builder to price)
- Tendering (requesting and receiving quotations from builders)
- Appointing a builder and signing the Building Contract
- Completion of the construction and the builder handing back over the site
- A defects liability period (typically 6-12 months) where any defects are resolved by the builder
- Closeout where the building contract is completed and the project is finished!
It is easy to underestimate how long a project might take and you should be prepared that you are unlikely to be able to start building within a few weeks of starting with an Architect.
Each stage of a project takes time and the complexity and scale of a building has a direct impact on time.
Approvals usually take a set amount of time. These include Planning Permission which takes 8 weeks for a decision and Building Regulations plans approval which also takes 8 weeks.
As an example a small (not permitted development) extension project may take:
- 6 weeks from appointment to submitting a Planning Permission application;
- 8 weeks for a Planning decision;
- 4 weeks to prepare for Building Regulations application;
- 8 weeks for Building Regulations plans approval;
- 8 weeks to prepare, submit, receive and assess tenders;
- 4 weeks to mobilise (sign contracts, prepare for works to start on site, etc);
- 14 weeks to build.
This is a total of 52 weeks (about 1 year) from appointing an Architect to completing the build.
This timescale assumes that a builder would be ready to begin on site within 4 weeks of tendering which is an optimistic example, particularly if you are looking to start in the summer!