Architect or Architectural Technologist? Who should you hire? Expert renovator Michael Holmes looks at what they can offer.
Several different professions offer architectural design services for homeowner projects such as extensions and conversions. However, to undertake the process of design and to produce planning and construction drawings, most people choose either an architect or an architectural technologist.
The term ‘architect’ is protected by law, which means that only professionals who have successfully completed seven years of training and are registered with the Architects Registration Board (ARB, arb.org.uk) can legally call themselves an architect.
Architects are trained in creative design as well as the practical aspects of construction, so they are able to offer their clients a complete service, from design concept right through to the supervision of the construction process.
Most architects become a Chartered Member of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA, architecture.com).
The Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT, ciat.org.uk) describes its members as ‘specialists in the science of architecture, building design and construction’.
Technologists bridge the gap between the creative side of building design (often undertaken by architects) and construction design, providing the detail required to turn creative ideas into buildings.
To become a member of CIAT, technologists need to have either an accredited degree, Higher National Diploma (with specific and additional units) or the S/NVQ4 in Architectural Technology.
Who should you choose?
Architects and technologists offer different and complementary skills, so in many practices an architect handles the creative design and planning process, while technologists produce construction drawings and the specification; structural design is usually done by an engineer.
If you have firm design ideas, or are undertaking a garage, loft or cellar conversion or a simple extension, a technologist may be a good choice. If you want an innovative extension, an architect may be your first choice.
What to consider
Experience is the most important qualification to look for in a designer. Choose someone who specialises in the project you are undertaking and who can work to your scale, style and budget.
Meet a few designers and their previous clients before deciding who to hire. Get a feel for what they will be like to work with and whether they will listen to you, or impose their ideas. Ask when they can start and how much they will charge, including all disbursements, for the services you need.
It can be useful to choose an architect with a good track record with the local planning authority, as reputation can carry some weight in planning decisions.
Expect the first meeting with whoever you choose to be free, then agree the terms and fee structure in writing, and ensure they have sufficient professional indemnity insurance.