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 Architects practice of one.
This allows me to run the practice with a passion for design and a commitment to my Clients. The small size of practice allows me to take on smaller, less profitable projects and to give them the attention that all projects deserve. It allows me to be fully engaged with your project and you can be guaranteed that the person you speak with is the person designing your home.
There is no charge for an initial meeting within 30 miles of the office in Brighouse, HD3.
Beyond this we can arrange a meeting over Zoom/Teams or the telephone; or a full site visit for a small charge.
Fern are happy to work throughout the country for the right projects, though most projects are typically within 30 miles of Brighouse.
Fern operate flexible office hours, with a 7.5 hour day and core hours of 10am – 3pm, Monday to Friday.
Flexible working allows Fern to accommodate your own availability, as you may work be unavailable during the standard 9-5 workday. I can accommodate the occasional weekend meeting if this is the best time for you.
I specialise in domestic projects, with extensions, retrofits, renovations and new-builds being my core focus.
Fern is happy to consider residential development projects where the core values of sustainable design, quality of space (both inside and out) and consideration for place, are shared bythe developer.
I have a keen interest in sustainable design and will always welcome projects with sustainable aspirations.
Fern typically focus the service on the Pre-Construction design stages of a project, but also like to remain involved during the Construction where costs allow.
- Measured Surveys
- Feasibility Assessments (assessing Planning Policy, cost, general Construction matters, etc)
- Concept Design – sketch layouts, elevations and massing
- Developed Design
- Planning Applications
- Technical Design
- Building Regulations Applications
- Act as Principal Designer
- Advise on appointing a Contractor
- Design changes throughout for variations and value engineering
- Construction advice and dealing with Contractor queries
- Visit site to observe the works and advise on specific matters
Being a small practice, and the associated time demands, Fern cannot offern Contract Administration services.
Fern is a focused Architecture practice and therefore do not include services such as Structural Engineering. I work regularly with many other consultants and I am happy to arrange quotations on your behalf and to co-ordinate the project with those consultants.
Every project is assessed and quoted on its own merits and requirements, so it is impossible to describe a standard fee. A project’s quotation is determined through the initial Client discussions by email, telephone and/or initial site visits.
Fern is a small practice operating from a home office, so my overhead costs are low, allowing me to provide competitive fees.
Quotations are provided as a lump sum fee for the Pre-Construction Work Stages, broken down into stages related to the Work Stages of a project based on the RIBA Plan of Works. Works for the Construction Work Stages are charged at an hourly rate, to allow for a flexibility that is needed during Construction. I can provide an estimate of what the Construction works might cost, and I am happy to agree a Construction works cap, to keep these costs under control.
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 and respecting the other project aspirations.
Fern believes in a fabric-first approach to design, focusing on:
- Levels of insulation;
- Performance of windows and doors;
- Ventilation; and
- Reducing thermal bridges (breaks in the insulation).
Getting the building fabric right is the most cost effective approach and vastly improves the performance of any low-carbon technologies such as solar panels and air source heat pumps.
I maintain a set of standard details for most Construction junctions that are calculated to provide minimal Thermal Bridging.
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.
Before speaking with an Architect, it is good to think about what you want to achieve with your project. This may be a simple desire to create more space, or it may be more detailed, including specific programme and budget targets. These aspirations will eventually develop into what is called the Project Brief.
The Project Brief defines the aims of the project (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 undertake their design. Your initial brief may be very open and undefined, and the Architect can help you to develop and focus it as you progress.
Knowing the budget and timeframe early on can allow the Architect to assess the feasibility of a project, though it isn’t essential to have these factors strictly defined at first meeting. The Architect can help to set targets for these as the Project Brief develops.
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 your brief.
This depends on what you want to do.
An Architect will be able to help you understand what works will require an application for Planning Permission. It should be noted that no Planning Approval can ever be guaranteed due to the subjective nature of most Planning Policies. An Architect will be able to offer guidance based on their experience of what is likely to be feasible and what might prove controversial.
Many projects can be undertaken through Permitted Development rights which allows certain works without needing Planning Permission. 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 they may have been removed entirely. An Architect can help you work out if a project will need Planning Permission. If there is any ambiguity about compliance, it is advisable to apply for
a Lawful Development Certificate.
Few projects can avoid needing any kind of approval.
The most common approval needed beyond Planning is Building Regulations. This is an approval of the Construction and ensures that your building will be safe to occupy. There are very few projects that would be exempt from Building Regulations approval, and this may include very small projects.
Other approvals that may be needed may include Listed Building Consent (if your property is Listed or in the grounds of a Listed Building), permission to demolish in a Conservation Area, Party Wall Agreements, etc. This list isn’t extensive and each project should be assessed for their specific approval requirements. 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 and in many cases will be able to arrange these approvals. Some approvals may require additional specialist Consultants and the Architect would help to advise and arrange these.
An Architect can help guide you through the process of a building project, so the earlier you appoint an Architect the better!
Most Architects will follow the RIBA Plan of Works which sets out 8 stages (0-7) of a project. I will be exploring this in more detail in a blog post so watch this space!
The order of a typical project may look like:
- Develop a Project Brief
- Undertake a Measured Survey and Feasibility Study
- 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 up to 8 weeks for the drawings check)
- Tendering (requesting and receiving quotations from Contractors)
- Appointing a Builder and signing the Building Contract
- Completion of the Construction and the Builder handing back over the site
- A Defects Liability Period (length determined by the Building Contract) where any defects are resolved by the Contractor
- Closeout where the Building Contract is completed and the project is finished!
It is easy to underestimate how long a project might take. There is a lot of work to do between appointing an Architect and the project starting on site, so you should be prepared that you are unlikely to be seeing a Contractor start on site within a few weeks.
Each stage of a project takes time and the complexity and scale of a project has a direct impact on the programme. Given the permanence of the final build, it is sensible to plan enough time to each stage to ensure that the design reflects the quality that you want to achieve.
Approvals usually have defined programme targets, though these can extend for complex or controversial schemes. Common approval targets include Planning Permission which target 8 weeks for a decision and Building Regulations plans approval which target 5-8 weeks.
As an example of a programme for a small (not Permitted Development) extension project:
- 6 weeks from appointment to submitting a Planning Permission application (including the measured survey, feasibility, and design development);
- 8 weeks for a Planning decision;
- 4 weeks to prepare for Building Regulations application;
- 8 weeks for Building Regulations plans approval;
- 4 weeks to send out drawings to, and received quotations from Contractors;
- 8 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 is only an example and an Architect can give you a reasonable estimate of how long your project might take; and can discuss the feasibility and approach towards any programme targets that you may have.