How we Work


This is intended as a friendly guide, and clarification, of the design process.  It is not definitive, and intended for clients that may only commission building work once or twice in a lifetime.  Commercial clients, who regularly commission construction work, will usually be well versed in the design and procurement process.

Information Required From Client

At the start of a project:

  • The client must be able to identify and locate all boundaries pertinent to the location of the works.  This information must be passed on to the architect.  In most cases this is obvious.  However, the position of boundaries in other cases may be less clear.  For the avoidance of doubt, and in order to prevent any kind of boundary dispute, it is the clients’ responsibility to provide accurate information in this regard.  To establish this, discussions and agreement with adjoining owners may be necessary, prior to design work being undertaken.
  • Similarly, information regarding any easements; restrictive or any other covenants; or any other legal constraints are to be supplied.
  • A copy of the Land Registry map, showing the boundaries of the site, will be required in order to make any planning application.
  • A copy of any previous planning consent is also useful.


The Design Process

The Measured Survey

With the exception of new-build works, a measured survey of the existing building will almost certainly be necessary.  In most cases, the local planning authority will require this information, especially if the works involve any kind of alteration to a Listed Building.  The extent of the survey will depend upon the nature and complexity of the work envisaged.  Measured surveys are not structural surveys or any other kind of survey that assesses the condition of the building.  These, typically, are carried out by structural engineers and surveyors respectively.

Initial Sketches

Once the measured survey has been completed, the first step is to produce an initial sketch design.  This may look like a completed design; it is not.  The initial sketch is just that:  a preliminary design that is by no means fixed and, by implication, subject to possible future changes.  At this point in the process it may also be advisable to obtain simple budget costings on the basis of the information available.  This will provide an indication as to whether the initial design falls within the budget, or outside it.  The design and / or budget can then be reviewed.  The purpose of an initial sketch is to establish general parameters in both design and budget.  It is not possible to provide fixed costings at the preliminary stage of a design.

Planning Drawings

Drawings suitable for a planning application will follow on from the initial sketch design.  These will almost certainly have undergone design changes as part of the review process.  It is at this stage that most of the design will have been formulated and agreed.  However, planning drawings carry very little in the way of technical information.

The planning application should be submitted in accordance with the nature, extent and complexity of the works proposed.  For example:

  • Householder applications: for extensions and the like to dwellings
  • Full applications: new dwellings, all commercial works
  • Permitted Development: for minor works to existing dwellings
  • Listed Building Consent: for all Listed Buildings

Planning application fees vary according to the type of application.  These are not included in the architect’s fee.

Planning Consent will be required for most works.  Listed Building Consent will also be necessary for any work to a Listed Building, no matter how minor.  There is no such thing as an ‘internal’ or ‘external’ Listing.  The whole building is listed, even if the inside has no original features whatsoever.  There are three grades of Listing:  Grade I (eg. St. Paul’s Cathedral), Grade II* (eg. Dovecote at Athelhampton, Dorchester), Grade II (eg. rural houses and cottages, principal streets to market towns).  90% of all listed buildings are Grade II.  With listed buildings, both Planning Permission and Listed Building Consent are required in order to carry out the work.

Upon receipt of an application, the local planning authority can, if they wish, ask for virtually any additional information as they see fit.  Typically, this can include the following:

  • Structural engineers report (usually with listed buildings)
  • Tree Survey
  • Ecological Survey (bats, owls)
  • Flood Risk Assessment
  • Contamination Report

Pre-application discussions with a planning officer will usually reveal any additional information that may be required.  An application will only be registered when all the information has been provided.

The granting of Planning Permission and Listed Building Consent is beyond the architect’s control.  These decisions are made by planning committees on the basis of the case officer’s report and recommendations.  Occasionally, applications do not go to committee (where the works are of a minor nature or no relevant objections have been received) and will therefore be dealt with direct by the case officer.  In all cases, planning applications take a minimum of eight weeks to process.

Building Regulations

Once planning consent is granted, the next step is to produce the building regulations drawings.  These contain the technical information to construct the building and show floor plans, sections etc.  In most cases these will not show radiator positions, electrical sockets / lighting points, wall and floor finishes, tiling and so on.  These are included in the specification notes.  Virtually all projects will require building regulations approval.  From the time of application, this will take between five and eight weeks to process.

Building Regulations fees comprise two parts: the ‘plan fee’ and the ‘inspection fee’.  The plan fee has to be provided at the time of application; the inspection fee will be levied direct to the applicant when works commence on site.  Occasionally, building control will accept a Building Notice.  In this case both the plan fee and the inspection fee must accompany the application.  Building Notices are intended for works of a minor nature.  Building regulations fees are not included in the architect’s fee.

Specification Notes

The final stage, prior to the construction phase, is to provide a detailed written specification that includes all areas of work to be completed.  It is this document that builders price, in conjunction with the drawings, when providing a tender.  This final stage may also include large scale details of particular elements within the construction.


This involves contacting various builders, collating all the information and providing a tender ‘package’ for each builder.  The tendering period is typically one month and tenders are usually returned to the architect.

Contract Administration & Site Inspections

During the construction phase some clients prefer the architect to carry out contract administration and site inspections.  This will include dealing with site queries, issuing (monetary) certificates, carrying out site inspections and carrying out post-contract procedures (snagging etc., typically six months after Practical Completion).

This is important: site inspections are not ‘supervision’.  The day to day running of the site is carried out by the (main) contractor.  The architect carries out site inspection to ensure that the works are being carried out in general accordance with the drawings and specification.  The number and frequency of inspections will vary according to the size, nature and complexity of the works.


The nature of design in an iterative process and takes time.  It starts with a ‘broad brush’ approach and becomes more detailed as the design evolves.  The budget and costings associated with the design should be seen as following a similar process, where general budgetary constraints are established at the beginning, becoming a ‘fixed price’ at the end.

A Last Word On Fees

The level of fee will depend on the degree of input required, with invoices usually submitted on a monthly basis.  It is quite usual to have a ‘partial’ service (eg. survey and sketch design) where the nature of the project is not fully fixed.  Other variations are also possible: ‘up to planning’ or ‘up to building regulations’ or up to tender’.  Of course, a service from commencement to completion can be provided.

Happy building!

Contact us now for your initial consultation.