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 without having to focus on managing large overheads and running a larger office.
It allows me to be fully engaged with your project and you can be guaranteed that the person you speak with is the person doing the work.
There is no charge for an initial meeting within 20 miles of the office in Brighouse, HD3.
Beyond this we can arrange a meeting over Zoom/Teams or the telephone; or a standard 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 the office in Brighouse.
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 extensions, retrofits and new-builds being a large portion of my works. I also welcome small commercial projects including shops, offices and restaurants.
I have a keen interest in sustainable design and encourage projects with this goal.
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 Architectural service.
Fern is a focused architecture practice and therefore do not include services such as Structural Engineering. 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 and respecting their other aspirations.
Technologies such as Solar Panels and Heat Pumps are obvious considerations, but I believe in a fabric-first approach, looking at:
- 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.
I maintain a set of standard details that 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 thing that to start thinking about is 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 good to have an idea of these before a first meeting.
The brief defines what the aims of the project are (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 progress, 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 but through their experience, an Architect will be able to offer guidance on 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 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. Only very small projects don’t require this.
Other approvals can 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. 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 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 up to 8 weeks for the drawings check)
- 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 the process.
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 can also take up to 8 weeks.
As an example a small (not Permitted Development) xtension 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.