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Do I Need a Chartered Architect? A Step by Step Guide

Most of us have seen Grand Designs on channel 4 where an Architect is rarely seen or heard and commonly the project goes into freefall with costs and timescales spiralling out of control.

Well, there is a good reason for this. Self-builders who are on a tight budget often think that using an Architect is an expensive exercise and question “Why do I need an Architect, I’m sure that I could design and project manage the project myself, how hard can it be?”

Well, the answer is that it is much harder than you think and there is very good reason why a Chartered Architect takes a minimum of 7 years to qualify, involving two degrees, 2 years professional experience and the completion of a programme of rigorous exams, accredited by the Royal Institute of British Architects. Anyone calling themselves an Architectural Consultant or Architectural designer is unlikely to be an Architect and will not have the comparable skills and knowledge.

Architects are highly skilled and dedicated professionals who will guide you through the design, planning and construction process whether you are constructing a new building or adapting an old one.

Architects don’t just produce drawings but bring their knowledge and experience to every aspect of the process. Good Architecture is not just about making something look good. A truly good design by a Chartered Architect means that spaces fit their intended uses perfectly, the detail of construction has been worked out and the project is broadly on budget.

What are the key benefits of using a Chartered Architect?

A client-orientated service

Architects don’t just produce drawings, they are adept at listening to clients, identifying their aspirational and practical needs and then using their expert knowledge and experience to create spaces and details which you had not thought possible.

Value for money

Architects not only bring value for money to a project but their professional attention to detail will achieve best value in efficient use of space, materials and finishes and a whole series of environmentally sensitive details and specifications which will bring long term environmental benefits as well as saving on running costs.

Project Management

Chartered Architects are also trained project managers. They will guide you through all aspects of the building process from getting Planning Permission, Building Regulation approval, to organising Contractors prices and overseeing construction on site, providing all the necessary inspections to ensure that the building work is carried out correctly, to a budget and to a programme.

Peace of mind

A Chartered Architect will look after everything for you and will guide you through the complex process of designing, approving and constructing your project.

If you don’t know where to start, don’t worry, a Chartered Architect can help you formulate a brief, put together an accommodation schedule, help you to choose other Consultants that may be needed and help you choose the right builder.

As the design and construction of buildings is so complex, Chartered Architects have to carry Indemnity Insurance and work to a strict Code of Conduct giving you all the peace of mind you need.


A lot of people don’t realise that an Architect carefully designs, draws and specifies everything that you see and touch on a building. From the skirting boards to the light fittings from the windows to the bathroom tiles, this attention to detail makes sure that you know what you are getting, and the builder knows what he’s pricing give you design and cost certainty.

Most Architects have a unique way of combining details and materials which becomes their signature. This makes every project distinctive and bespoke, giving the client many years of pleasure and satisfaction from knowing that they own a piece of Architecture not just a building.

Design flair and Imagination

Chartered Architects uniqueness lies in their ability to lift a project above the ordinary. Whether you are looking at a new build or renovation project, an Architect will satisfy your practical brief in a considered and intelligent way, using their flair, sensitivity and imagination to create something special.

When not to use an Architect

Part of an Architect’s job is to question assumptions made by their clients and come up with solutions that their clients have not considered. This does not mean that they are dismissing your opinions – many superb designs are the result of the designer generating new ideas that had not been considered before or identifying unforeseen problems.

If you don’t want or need to go through this process, and just want a simple draughting service, when you talk to potential architects and designers make this clear. In this case, it may be cheaper to pay an unqualified draughtsman to produce the basic drawings and information that you need, sufficient to obtain Local Authority approvals. In this case you will then have to either negotiate with a builder yourself or prepare your own list of specifications.

If you are not sure whether an Architect will be right for your project, it is still worth speaking to one or two of them. As a breed, Architects are inherently helpful and will always be honest about the best fit of service for your particular project.

There are also several books and magazines that give a useful guide to the first time self-builder, about the whys and wherefores of using an Architect so check these out, they will if nothing else, get you started.