The client architect relationship is complex and will vary depending on the nature of the project in hand. On smaller projects (less than £1M construction value) track record or constructional expertise is unlikely to be a key determinant so the main determinant is likely to be sympathetic results delivered in the past and chemical alignment.
In the residential sector we create designs for replacement houses (often replacing poor quality 1930s or 1970s houses with larger houses built to a high standard with state of the art energy efficient / green installations); we refurbish older or listed properties, again often upgrading heating systems or improving thermal performance and refitting bathrooms and kitchens; we remodel older properties creating larger open plan living spaces in place of smaller cellular rooms typical of – say – a Victorian layout; and we design extensions to create more and often lighter airy space where older properties may be lacking in good natural light or stuffy.
We maintain a constant focus on sustainability and green issues. This is partly implicit in ensuring compliance with modern building regulations which require high efficiency heating and water use systems and partly because we genuinely want the buildings we design to work as efficiently and intelligently as possible. We often design installations which go well beyond the basic regulatory standards and wherever possible factor in orientation to take advantage of passive solar gain, for instance. Another key consideration is sourcing materials and tradesmen available locally to the site rather than shipping in materials or products from overseas. We are continually researching new techniques in manufacturing – most recently northern swedish steel products made from steel manufactured using hydrogen and powered by hydroelectricity.
At the outset we will give you a fee proposal that will give you a fixed base cost to take you through briefing, concept design and planning application where appropriate; we will also give you indicative costs for post planning services. Once we are through the planning process we will review and either confirm or adjust our previous fee rates for post planning services – a lot can change and evolve in the course of the journey from concept design through to planning consent. It is up to the client whether to continue with us post planning. Some clients have a trusted builder they have worked with before and only need a planning consent, others want a coordinated structural scheme and building regulations conditional approval, while others want a full design service and onsite contract administration and project management. It is a matter of what suits the specific needs and circumstances of the client and and the project.
There is no standard charging rate, although we do work out our time input based on standard time rates. Many factors will influence the right fee for the job; for instance refurbishment takes more time than new build as we have to spend time working out how to fit in with what is already existing. Working on listed buildings can take even longer as we have to work hard to find solutions which do not disturb historic building fabric. In a larger scale project there are economies of scale, whereas a smaller project may require a lot of time to be spent on getting a small detail right.
Another question that is difficult to answer until the design is fairly well advanced. At an early stage we will look at floor area building rates and give a general idea for a cost plan based on say two or three recently completed projects of similar size and complexity. But in the course of early design development the clients thinking may evolve and the scope and ambition of the project may increase (or, very occasionally, decrease); in addition unknown factors may emerge such as difficult ground conditions which may require complex groundworks or foundations. But usually by the time we have frozen a scheme at planning stage we will have a fairly robust idea of likely project cost. We can always recommend a quantity surveyor who can draw up a detailed cost plan at an early stage if the client wants to be sure that a project will stack up financially
Difficult to answer for similar reasons to those set out above, but typically we find it takes about four to six months to work out and agree a design to planning application stage, another two to three months to negotiate and agree planning permission, two or three months to develop the structural design, produce the construction documentation and agree the price with a contractor. Once on site even a simple residential refurbishment project is unlikely to take less than four months, whereas a complex listed building refurbishment with an extension may take 10 to 12 months on site.
We do not have one particular style in which we work, although there are certain themes that recur often in the work we do, such as axial design, balanced composition, and considered textural use of materials. We are very happy to work with traditional craftsmen on the restoration of a listed oak framed structure, the replacement of leadwork on a medieval roof or the restoration of an elaborate fibrous plaster cornice or timber panelling. But we are just as comfortable working in a cutting edge contemporary style using glass and steel to make breath taking, sharp modern designs that explore the limits of the physical properties of modern materials. The right style for the job is to be found in an assessment of the clients ambition, the context in which we are working, and constraints of budget and conservation.
From our base in West Sussex we work throughout the South Downs National Park, in Hampshire, East Sussex and Surrey and coastal South East UK.