Why do I need an architect?

For private residential work such as house extensions, an architect’s role is multidisciplinary and involves project management.

On residential or smaller commercial projects, an architect might cover all areas of the project, from architecture, landscape and interior design, to briefing, client liaison and inspecting work on site.

For larger projects an architect’s role will be more focussed and more technical, and they will work as part of a larger team involving other qualified professionals.

Like any other qualified professional, for peace of mind and a guarantee of quality. ‘Architectural services’ is a bit of a misnomer, as it doesn’t necessarily mean that an architect is fully chartered.

Chartered architects are obliged to have indemnity insurance should anything go wrong (rather unlikely). We are also experts in design and project management, and offer fantastic service and value for money. 

Our office for consultations is in Birmingham city centre and we have completed dozens of project in the Venice of the North and her lovely suburbs, but we often work n towns and cities across the West Midlands like Solihull and Sutton Coldfield – at the bottom of the page you’ll find a list of our focus towns. 

In addition to our urban work one of our particular specialisations is projects in rural areas in Warwickshire, Staffordshire and the Cotswolds. 

We can do – although it’s not our preferred option. There are companies that offer an entirely remote service, but that means a lot of work for the client and – we think – a lack of service. We also think it’s a bit like eating at a restaurant where you bring the ingredients and the chef doesn’t taste the food.

Visualising a space and getting a ‘feel’ for it is something sharpened by our professional training, and can often resolve issues more efficiently than poring over plans or squinting at a video.

That’s not to say that a lot of the work can’t be done remotely, but nothing can replace the keen skills of a trained architect on site.

Architects are like expert designers and project managers that create buildings that are safe, attractive and as environmentally friendly as possible. They are involved throughout the entire process, from design, planning, tender, construction management to handover.

They are assisted in this process by architectural technologists and technicians:

Architectural Technologists are an essential part of the middle part of the project, ensuring that the technical aspects of a design work and comply with regulations.

They work in a similar role to civil engineers in that way. Architectural technologists may also be hired to oversee a project from start to finish.

Architectural Technicians are another key part of the team, helping them prepare drawings, and also manage documentation and technical information such as surveys. They also assist with proposal and contract management.

The three positions are not interchangeable, but if you already have a very (and we mean very) clear idea of what you want your project to look like, then you can go straight to an architectural technologist. 

Remember that an architect has a broader spectrum of training and experience in design and project management and is likely to be the person you are most in contact with.

Most architecture practices offer some revisions to their plans as part of their service, but it’s worth remembering that these changes take time to incorporate and have a knock-on effect on the rest of the project.

As such, it’s better to tell your architect about all the changes you’d like to make in as few revisions as possible – piecemeal changes are inefficient both in terms of work and cost! So it’s worth condensing all the changes you make into your revisions!

As a rule, solo architects tend to have strengths in one particular area, whereas with a team of qualified architects, technologists and planners, you tend to have the bases covered better. If it’s your first project, we strongly recommend you go with a team that has the knowledge and expertise to cover all the different aspects of a building project.

If there is a serious issue with your project, then you can contact us. Architects work long hours as a rule, so it’s better to stick to business hours or at least arrange to speak to your architect outside those hours. 

Every architect has their niche – and we have several. If you’re paying for our services, then you’re also paying for our knowledge and experience, just like any other professional. 

We don’t cover every type of architecture – we leave that to our expert colleagues – but we do what we do very well. Conservation and heritage projects, private residential and green belt projects are our specialisms, and we’ve worked on hundreds of projects that fall between these three areas.

If your project is a home in a listed building, or is a residential development in a conservation or green belt area, then we’ve got the team you’re looking for.

Not everyone can cover all the bases, and we don’t pretend to – we’re just looking to provide our best designs and service to our clients in the areas that we know best. 

What services do you offer?

We have worked on many retail and commercial projects around the West Midlands, but our main focus is residential architecture. Within that, we have worked on all kinds of projects:

  • Extensions for private homes
  • Contemporary new build houses
  • Replacement dwellings in the green belt
  • Restoring heritage buildings
  • Executive residential developments
  • Period new builds
  • Mixed-use and mid-density schemes
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We are! The team at Lapworth Architects can cover the entire process, from initial consultation, to design and planning, tender and contract management, snagging and handover.

This process is entirely adaptable according to circumstances and preferences – the key point is great communication and even better service.

If you’ve never managed a building project before, then beware. It is a more than full-time job to project manage your own build, and there are many different agents involved and plates to be spun. 

It is possible to do, but is likely to be very stressful if it’s your first time. This is precisely what we are here to do – we have plenty of experience, know what to expect and can deal skilfully and efficiently with any bumps along the way. 

Lapworth Architects are the best bet to help you understand how to project manage your construction project – so you know how to do it for your next project! 

How do we start a project?

Our free consultation is a great place to start – both client and architect can find out about the project to see if they’re a good fit for each other. The client can tell the architect about what they want and the architect can start to get ideas about the feasibility of the project and how things might work. It’s a key part of the process and sets the stage for the future relationship.

The consultation is there for both parties to get to know each other. In this session, you get to talk about your project, what you want to achieve, and we can start to provide you with design ideas and solutions. It’s an important first step towards making your project a reality.

That’s exactly what the consultation is for – it’s a no-commitment meeting where we can help you decide what is feasible and what isn’t. Our knowledge and expertise can help you sort out what is possible from what isn’t, and then we can move on from there. 

You can certainly bring planning or design drawings by other architects to a consultation, but if you need technical drawings, we well may have to conduct another survey to ensure that they are correct.

What about permissions and certificates?

Planning permission involves making submitting information about your proposed build to your local authority to that they can give you permission to start building. Planning permission is there to make sure what you want to build is appropriate to the surroundings, so you’ll need:

  • a quality design that enhances the plot or streetscape;
  • consideration of how the build may affect your neighbours;
  • thorough understanding of any planning policies affecting your area;

That way you can show the planning officer that your proposed build meets their rules, policies and guidelines, they can give you permission and you can start your build.

As a rule, getting planning permission takes around eight weeks from submission to decision, although in some cases up to 13 weeks

There are certain things that the homeowner has to do in terms of paperwork, but we can certainly do the majority of the legwork in the preparation.

No, and no architecture and planning company worth their salt should guarantee planning permission.

Part of the service you are paying for involves experience of the local authority, knowledge of precedents in the area, bespoke designs and technical expertise – all factors that influence in a planning permission decision. 

Now, a good architect will be able to take all of these factors into account and create a design that is very likely to be accepted by the local authority, but there are no guarantees. 

If you want to be certain that the existing use of a building is lawful for planning purposes or that your proposal does not require planning permission, you can apply for a ‘Lawful Development Certificate’ (LDC).

It is not compulsory to have an LDC but there may be times when you need one to confirm that the use, operation or activity named in it is lawful for planning control purposes.

If you have extended your property under Permitted Development Rules, then a Lawful Development Certificate is needed to verify that what you have build meets building standards. It’s also essential for when you come to sell the property at a later date.

If you live in a Conservation Area, it means that the conditions to meet to get planning permission are stricter, as the area you live in has special architectural characteristics that are worth preserving. 

Although conservation areas mean some extra planning controls and considerations, these exist to protect the historic and architectural elements which make the place special. They are most likely to affect owners who want to work on the outside of their building or any trees on their property.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t build, but rather that you have to take into account the special features of your area when you do.

Party Wall Agreements are an important part of planning if your work affects your neighbours. You can find out more about Party Wall Agreements in our extensive article on the topic.

Indemnity insurance is a contractual agreement in which one party guarantees compensation for actual or potential losses or damages sustained by another party. Generally, indemnity insurance is designed to protect professionals and business owners if they are found to be at fault for a specific event such as misjudgment – a technical term that covers small errors. 

Typical examples of indemnity insurance include professional insurance policies like malpractice insurance and errors and omissions insurance, and ensure that both parties are covered if there are any mistakes made in the project. It’s always wise to have this kind of cover on large projects. 

In many cases, extensions fall under the Permitted Development Rights we’ve mentioned before – have a look at our guide for more information. However, larger extensions (for example double-storey ones) generally fall outside the rules for Permitted Development, and you’ll have to submit a full planning application. 

More than difficult, getting planning permission for a listed building is about precision, thoroughness, justification and preservation. 

If changes are to be made to this kind of building, you need to show an understanding of its importance and justification of why the changes should be made, and consideration of how the proposed changes will integrate into the historic fabric of the listed property. 

Again, it’s worth remembering that listed buildings are not to be frozen in time, but planners want to see carefully designed and thought-out proposals that justify the changes – that’s the worth of a good architect experienced in conservation and heritage projects.

Usually a loft conversion falls under Permitted Development, but dimensions here are important, and it’s worth checking out the technical conditions on the Planning Portal website. These Permitted Development Rights only apply to houses.

Any further questions?

If you’ve got any further questions that we’ve not been able to answer here, then by all means get in touch for a free consultation – fill in the form below, or give us a call on the number at the top of the page – let’s talk!