At the beginning of each project, its purpose and intentions, together with its schedule of accommodation, site and budget are formed into what is known as a brief. If you do not have a pre-formed brief, your chartered architect will develop it with you. It should be as thorough as possible to avoid problems later.
Initial decisions in the design stage will include formalising which rooms need to be adjacent, where stairs and fire escapes are needed, which floors need carpets, what the outlook will be from different rooms, how deliveries are to arrive ... the list can seem endless!
During the design process your chartered architect will keep you updated with plans for discussion, revision and approval. Use may be made of drawings, perspectives, models, written descriptions, computer drawings or simulations to explain the scheme.
Care and working closely with your chartered architect in the early stages will pay dividends. Alterations later on become progressively more expensive. Once building work has begun, changes can be problematic and expensive.
The Design Team
For complex projects the design team will include a number of professional disciplines - the architect, quantity surveyor, structural, electrical and mechanical engineers are the most usual contributors.
All design team fees are normally paid for separately in addition to the architect's fee. If your practice is appointed as lead consultant, he/she will co-ordinate all the information provided by the rest of the team and incorporate that into the design and production drawings.
Finding a Contractor
At the end of the design process, a number of contractors usually receive a 'bill of quantities', together with a set of drawings with which to produce a cost for the project. The bill lists all the items and activities required to build the project as shown on the drawings (e.g., lay 100 bricks here, build in 50 windows there) and the number of items listed depends on the scale of project.
Each contractor puts his price against each item on the bill, which is based upon an estimate of how long it will take to carry out each item and the cost of materials required, together with added sums for overheads and a percentage for profit. The level of profit will be influenced by how each contractor expects his competitors to price and thus there is no 'proper price' for a building: only what a given contractor decides at one particular time.
To estimate how much a building will cost at an early stage in the design requires skill, experience and knowledge of the market. Absolute precision is impossible - the less information on which a cost is based, the less precise the costing will be.
For small domestic projects and alterations, a bill of quantities may not be necessary, and tender pricing can be based on drawings and specification only. Your chartered architect will advise on the level of additional professional advice (if any) that may be appropriate. Structural alterations, however minor, may require a consulting engineer's certificate to be submitted with the building warrant, and you will be advised accordingly.