Fern bases its process on the RIBA Plan of Works. This is a well-established project route defined by the RIBA, with Work Stages numbered from 0 – 7. Work Stages 0 and 7 are reflection stages (WS 0 being the consideration of undertaking of a project by the Client, and WS 7 being the use of the finished project with reflection on the process); Work Stages 1-4 are the Pre-Construction stages (where the design is undertaken, and approvals are received); and Work Stages 5 & 6 are the Construction stages.

An Architect will commonly be appointed at the end of Work Stage 0, so Fern’s Architectural Service is predominantly based in the Pre-Construction Work Stages 1-4, though informal services across the full Plan of Works are offered. These services are explored below:

WS 0 - Strategic Definition

Usually undertaken before an Architect is appointed but will usually conclude with appointment of your Architect.

Fern likes to meet with a Client before offering a quotation so that I can fully understand your project and so that I can see the site first hand. This allows me to tailor the service offered to your specific requirements, and so that we get a chance to meet eye-to-eye. Design is a very personal thing so it’s important to experience the designer, as well as their fees and service, before you make an appointment.

In this meeting we might discuss some of the strategic level considerations of the project, as well as some initial feasibility matters that are initially apparent, so that you can develop your requirements ready for the project to begin in earnest in the next stage.

WS 1 - Setup & Appraisal

After an Architect’s appointment, Work Stage 1 aims to identify the requirements, opportunities, challenges and overall scope of the project. This is done through development of the Project Brief and Feasibility Appraisal.

In these documents we explore in depth the targets of the projects and how they might be achieved. We analyse any restrictions or challenges that may be present and ensure that there is sufficient resource to achieve your goals. The Feasibility Appraisal may bounce some ideas around about alternative approaches, or to explore different options to meet the requirements of the Project Brief.

We define the way forward in this stage and we can consider that the main outcome of Work Stage 1 is a plan of the project.

A Measured Survey would also be undertaken in this work stage, and any existing building drawings are produced. These drawings allow us to understand the site (and any existing buildings) in detail so that we can have a confident understanding in the design stages to follow.

WS 2 - Concept Design

This is the most exciting stage as we look to develop the Project Brief into a tangible design proposal.

Initial designs are often a bit rougher and there is a lot of discussion anticipated at this stage (no one expects perfection on this first go, so all feedback is welcomed!) but through engaging discussions and some back-and-forth with design options, we aim to work together towards a polished design proposal that you are delighted with.

Designs at this stage are explored through 2D layouts, elevations and sections, and some 3D imagery where appropriate. Even at this early stage I am considering as many aspects as possible, including sustainability, materials, planning, budget, health and safety, furniture layouts, interaction with the external spaces, etc.

Work Stage 2 can be the longest design stage (particularly where we are exploring several options), but it is also the most rewarding. I think that this stage is where the benefits of appointing a qualified Architect are most felt.

WS 3 - Coordinated Design

Coordinated Design tests the Concept Design against the constraints of the project, including site restrictions, planning policy, potential construction systems, etc. We are aiming to settle the design, fine tuning it into a more fixed proposal ready for the Planning Application and moving into the Technical Design.

Any required planning level approval applications are typically made at this Work Stage so it is necessary to prepare an application documents package ready for these applications so that we can convince the Planners of the qualities of the design that we have put so much effort into.

This document pack may include the planning level drawings, a planning statement (including a Design and Access statement), and any other documentation that might be needed specific to your project. This might need input from other consultants, such as bat surveys, tree surveys and assessments, etc, and Fern may recommend bringing in a specialist planning consultant where a scheme is more sensitive.

Once the application is ready, Fern looks to handle the submission of the application on your behalf. This includes making the application itself, and working with the Local Planning Authority to pick up any queries or concerns that they might have, with the aim of getting your application over the line. An approval can never be guaranteed, but this is the stage where we hope that all of the experience, consideration and evidence that we have brought pays off with a positive planning decision.

WS 4 - Technical Design

The final design stage takes the (hopefully!) approved Coordinated Design and develops a set of technical documents that can be used for submission of the Building Regulations application, and that can be submitted to builders for them to understand the project sufficient to give you an accurate price.

A Structural Engineer will usually be needed at this stage to design the structural elements of the scheme, and Fern would typically look to arrange this appointment on your behalf. Other consultants may also be needed on larger or more complex projects.

Fern has a strong interest in sustainability and has the inhouse resource to undertake bespoke U-Value calculations, Thermal Bridge Calculations, and even Passivhaus Planning Package calculations so that the specification of your project can be tailored to your personal requirements.

Fern prides itself on the quality of detail produced at the Technical Design stage and aims to provide a thorough body of information so that a builder can price and build your project with minimal risk of unexpected costs, delays or other surprises.

A Building Regulations application is submitted at Work Stage 4, and Fern collates all of the relevant drawings and documents to make this submission on your behalf, and to respond to any queries or requests for additional information that a Building Control inspector may have during the plans check stage.

This Work Stage really evidences the value of a qualified Architect. It requires the full range of an Architect’s training through balancing the practical, technical knowledge and skill to achieve a safe and comfortable building, with the more artistic, design led side to give you an outcome that maintains the qualities of the initial Concept vision.

WS 5-6 - Construction

During the Construction Work Stages, Fern offers more flexible services, including information for variations, guidance on Design queries, and site visits to observe the works as needed. I am always happy to have a chat on the phone or over email to answer any queries that you or your builder might have.

On projects where we are aiming for higher levels of airtightness, or where we are aiming for thermal bridge free construction, Fern can offer site visits to talk through the application on site with your builder to ensure that they understand the details and the qualities needed to meet these higher standards.

I hope that you keep in touch with Fern once your project is completed, and I love to see how projects have turned out. In particular, it is greatly valuable to receive feedback from you on how the building performs and selfishly to hear what you love about it!

Principal Designer

Health and safety for a project is regulated by the Construction Design and Management (CDM) regulations and the Building Safety Act (BSA). Broadly speaking, CDM aims to delivery building projects safely, whilst the BSA aims to deliver a building that is safe. Both regulations legally require the Client to appoint a Principal Designer to lead the design of a project in consideration of these factors.

The Principal Designer should be the project lead designer and we usually assume this to be the Architect. An Architect will consider these matters as a second nature anyway, evaluating health and safety risks in all design, and making sure that everyone is aware of these risks.

As a Principal Designer, Fern works alongside the Client to aid them with their own duties (taking on many of those responsibilities with a domestic Client) and takes the lead on managing the Pre-Construction stage for Health and Safety, providing all of the information that a Principal Contractor needs to safely plan their works.

The above is a brief overview of the Services offered by Fern, and each project has its own variables that I aim to consider to ensure that you receive the best value and service.

For a more detailed breakdown of the specific services that may be offered for your project, please contact me with the Contact Form.

I look forward to hearing from you!