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Choosing a suitable consultant

 

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From dream to reality Hidden/ Unknown factors
Selecting a Consultant Things to consider
What a Consultant does Consultant's proximity
How long will the design process take? Individual homes
Computer Aided Design/ CAD? Design Fees & Construction Costs
The Design team Efficient Homes
Where to begin? Considerations and Questions to ask?
Older homes What are you paying for?

From dream to reality
The consultant can be used by you as a means of interpreting your requirements from an idea to a reality. The consultant with his imagination, design skill and technical ability will make the most out of the space provided using practical, economic materials and ideas to create a building which will satisfy your requirements and long term needs.

We will develop any project to make the most of the site constraints within your budget. We will develop solutions within your budget which are stimulating and practical and we will be able to search for the right builder thereby ensuring the work is undertaken to a high standard by competent, professional tradesmen.

We will help you to formulate your brief and guide you through the complex procedures of gaining planning recommendations and building regulation approval. Throughout the building project the consultant will monitor the programme, forecast the expenditure and implement the necessary liaison with the contractor to ensure the smoothest running of the project. There may be problems but we arethere to resolve these on your behalf, quickly and with minimal fuss.

Through attention to detail we will try to save you money by making your building efficient to construct, maintain and run. In many instances, especially with alterations and extensions to existing buildings we can often save you the equivalent of their professional fees by means of good design and their knowledge of construction costs. (Back to top)

Selecting a Consultant:
Selecting a consultant is an important task for anyone considering an alteration, extension or bespoke home design. Part of the costs for your project will be the design fees and therefore you should be confident about who you team up with. It is important that you talk to the consultants you are hoping to use as this enables you to discuss your needs and desires for your project. It helps usunderstand where you are coming from and to respond accordingly. (Back to top)

What a Consultant does:
We try to understand your needs and by working with you create a design or vision of your project. We have the ability to help you see things about a home or your way of living that you may never have considered before. To do this, we need to co-ordinate the services of different professionals such as planners, engineers, occupational therapists and a host of others to ensure that the design works, is buildable and the end result suitable for its purpose. We prepare a comprehensive set of design/ construction documents and supplement it with well written specifications, help you find the right contractor, act as your agent during construction to maintain the design and quality of your project and be your advocate throughout the entire process. Our professional team will control the management of your building project finances by means of a building contract. We shall ensure that valuations will always allow you the client to retain a retention fund against non diligent performance and defects, in the unlikely event this should become necessary. (Back to top)

How long will the design process take?
This depends on the project's complexity. Our consultants can prepare a project schedule that shows a timeline for submittals throughout the design process. It also depends on your schedule and the response time of other external agencies (planning/ building control, occupational therapists etc). Remember that you play a large part in the design process. The client has to review the drawings at the end of each phase and make timely decisions (approve the design or make changes) so that the consultant can keep progressing on the design otherwise they have to wait before moving forward.
Sometimes there will be situations where a client has a set schedule by which to complete a project. In situations like these, the consultant will attempt to do so unless in their opinion it isn't possible or would result in substandard performance. (Back to top)

Computer Aided Design/ CAD?
Another common and widely held misconception is that all the work is done by computers. Computers cannot design for the consultant. They are just a tool we use to convey our ideas to yourselves and others. Once completed the schemes and schedules are sent electronically to yourselves and the appropriate professionals as an "Adobe" or "Word" file. This speeds the approval process and with the minimum of fuss. (Back to top)

The Design team:
What is the design team? Depending on the complexity of your project, it could require the services of other design professionals like planning consultants, electrical engineers, structural engineers, surveyors, and a whole host more. (Back to top)

Where to begin?
The first thing is to find a consultant ot team that you can work with. If you have a project program and or budget, that would be a bonus but your consultant can help you program your work and or come up with a reasonable budget.
The project needs to be properly designed prior to construction. It should be site specific, which is designed to fit the site it sits on, and should suit the needs and desires of the owner. The design process takes everything into account before construction. It's not about trying to figure things out after you build it. Trying to save on design fees normally ends up costing the owner more during construction. It's best to do it right the first time around.

Below are just some items you may want to keep in mind when renovating/ extending a home. In extensions or renovations of an existing structure, be it a house or a commercial building , you should always anticipate problems.

Stop a moment and think about it. Do you know how your home was built or what is exactly in the walls or under your floors? Can you see what's beneath all that wallboard or carpet? Are the foundations of standard construction, rafted, piled etc. (Back to top)

Older homes:
In older homes, you may have more surprises. If planning on a remodel, you need to have a contingency plan. Basically you need to budget for problems occurring and not just the construction of the intended design. Your design professional can research or do some exploratory research during the course of design but unless they are actually ripping entire walls, etc. out, there really is no way to see what potential problems are hidden within your house.
Older homes tend to be more problematic. Newer appliances sometimes require that existing electrical wiring be brought up to date. Occasionally you get the house that has no foundations and new foundations have to be designed and placed. Since you can't see your foundations under interior walls or floors, this problem may not become apparent unless you were replacing a slab/ floor. In older and more recent homes, there potentially could be the problem of discovering asbestos or below par workmanship etc.
An experienced design professional can help guide you through the process but unless they have x-ray vision there's no way anyone can anticipate every single problem that could occur. (Back to top)

Hidden/ Unknown factors:
There is usually a solution for problems that crop up during construction and your design professional should be able to provide a design solution. It's important to maintain good working relationships between the contractor, consultant and structural engineer or any other consultant required for a project. By working with you, the client, a good design solution can be achieved through a collective effort. Another way of looking at an unknown/ hidden situation that becomes a problem during the course of construction is that by fixing it, you now have a safer and better home. This in turn provides you with a sense of security and peace of mind. Not to mention a better return on your investment. Note that many people are surprised by the costs of construction or the design fees for a home addition or renovation. As stated before, remodels carry a lot of risks and unknown factors that can drive costs up. In some cases, home additions are so ambitious (i.e. lofts, additional floors, etc.) that they actually become more complex than building a new home.

When designing a new home, we havethe advantage of starting with a clean slate. We can use the site to design a home that will fit well in it's environment. A remodel or addition on the other hand will always be constrained by the existing property. Our fees reflect the amount of work, risks and difficulty within the scope of the project. (Back to top)

Things to consider:
If you have drawings of the existing building, it could potentially help keep design costs down, if you provide them to us. We need to be able to properly document the existing space to be remodeled. This means we have to generate drawings of the existing space. If there are no drawings in existence they will, as part of their process, have to measure the spaces and then draw it up. These services are considered part of the basic design services normally provided. Buildings are complicated structures and sometimes this means multiple visits to verify what has been drawn is reasonably accurate. In older homes, this process can be compounded by walls that are not straight or plumb. Sometimes through the course of documenting the building, interesting aspects of how the building was originally designed and built may reveal themselves through the measurements (i.e hidden chases, spaces, walls not lining up etc.).
This process technically generates a set of drawings that could be called "existing" drawings. Both the local authority and the contractor will need them to better understand what is there prior to demolition and construction.

If you do have existing drawings, it may help shorten the process of documenting the existing structure. We will still need to verify the accuracy of the drawings and convert it to a CAD or digital drawing (if not already a CAD file). Again be aware that a remodel is not like new construction where you start with a clean slate. There may be surprises along the way but the more information you have and can provide to your consultant, the better able they will be to deal with any issues that occur. Besides some "problems" could actually be turned into design assets in the hands of the right consultant. (Back to top)

Consultant's proximity:
Some clients prefer selecting consultants who tend to be within close proximity to them or the project site. Others select consultants from the nearest city or by “word of mouth” from others. Having one in close proximity or from a certain region may have its advantages but in no way has any bearing on the firm's abilities or talents. With today’s rapidly evolving technologies, many good consultants (even small firms) have the ability to work on projects throughout the UK. The advent of the internet, collaboration technology etc. has provided tools that enable consultants to work on projects both in their own communities and at a distance. We can generate designs and have them reviewed by our clients from plans and schedules sent by email. It's part of our desire to have an open dialogue and to have effective collaboration with our clients and consultants. We use PDFs which are easy to access and read with Adobe Acrobat reader. We can e-mail, fax, or post our drawings in many different but easily accessible formats for your benefit. (Back to top)

Individual homes:
An individually designed home is a new residence designed and built according to your needs and desires. It isn't the same as a spec built home that is already designed, and which you get to "customise" by picking your upgrades, tile finishes etc. While great marketing for a developer or spec house, there's really nothing custom about that type of home except for a few finishes or cosmetic touches.
We work with you and your family to understand your needs, program and budget to design a home that works for you. If you don't have a program that outlines the type of spaces you would like to have in the home, we will work with you to develop one. Your day to day schedules and activities, your habits and how you would like to live your daily lives, all of this is brought together to develop a program and a concept design. (Back to top)

Design Fees & Construction Costs:
As we have noted in our previous pages, many people at the start of their project, do not have a firm grasp of all the issues and costs associated with their residential project. Be it a new home, extension or renovation.

This does not take into account that homes designed by good consultants tend to have added value. The appraised value of the home tends to be much higher than it's construction costs, bringing in a decent profit to the home owner should they ever sell. If the building is well documented, competitive quotes can significantly lower the cost spread of the design fees. The term "You get what you pay for", has more meaning when you consider these factors. Construction costs are where most of your up front expenditure resides. A good consultant can help design an efficient home, that functions well, is aesthetically pleasing to the eye, environmentally friendly, saves on energy costs and is site responsive. They can help control construction costs and obtain good competitive quotes. These are values not easily perceived when just looking at fee structures.
Other factors we have not considered that can add to the cost of owning the home are maintenance like landscaping/ gardening, operational costs, future extensions, etc. All these may significantly lower the first time costs of a consultants fees. Yet if designed and built right, his services can result in significant savings over the life of the building. In some cases, profit from the sale of a well designed home, can be comparatively generous. The return on investment for the use of a consultant's design services is more than made up for during the life of the building. (Back to top)

Efficient Homes:
It always comes down to money and the costs of a new home. The bigger the home and the more lavish the fittings, the higher the costs. Remember that the consultant doesn't design these buildings without the input of the client. A large home comes about because a client desires to have a large home. It still takes skill and talent to make these spaces work well together and to design a home whose proportions work well and is attractive.
While we can design large homes, sometimes the greater challenge is to work on smaller plots with tight space constraints. We can produce exciting and sustainable designs that are functional, innovative and good looking , sometimes with limited construction budgets. There is a big difference between a spec built home and one designed by a consultant. There are good residential designers, builders and consultants out there. Choose your designer well and understand the cost implications.
Remember that a good, efficient design can save you money and provide a better home. We strive to design homes that are better, not just bigger. Practical homes that are personal, functional, and attractive. (Back to top)

Things to consider and Questions to ask?

  • Get a site survey done!

  • Will I need the services of a structural or civil engineer?

  • Will I need a geotechnical report?

  • What utilities are on site or available? I.e. drainage, gas, electric, water, telephone.

  • Is my site in a conservation or other area which requires special consideration?

  • Are there any streams, watercourses or trees on or near the property?

  • Does my consultant provide a complete set of specifications as part of the drawings?

  • Are there difficult design requirements or planning issues?

  • Do you already have a contractor or will your design professional find one?

  • Who will oversee the work during construction ?

  • How are fees and payments structured ?

  • How much does a consultant cost, and what do you get for your money? These questions may seem simple, but they have many answers--depending on the nature and circumstances of your project. (Back to top)

 

What are you paying for?

A good consultant brings both imagination and expertise to the task at hand, and can provide for both short- and long-range objectives. He or she can offer approaches or solutions you might never think of on your own. In addition to supplying the design, your consultant can also give you professional guidance through the construction phase of your project.

We provide a service, not a product. Thinking of consultants plans as a commodity is a common misconception. As the client, you do receive copies of drawings and plans, but the consultant holds a copyright on the originals.

You are paying for the time that the consultant must take to analyse your requirements, define what you need and want, develop and revise the design, coordinate the approval process, and ascertain that the project is built according to the plans and specifications. You are also paying for something less quantifiable: the skill to create functional but unique living spaces that are responsive to you, the client; to the site; and to the climate in which the project is built.

From the outset, it's important to ask about fees and have some sense of price range. It's equally important to feel that you and your consultant can establish good communication and a sense of trust and mutual respect; this part of your hiring decision is personal and subjective.

House design is also an exceptionally detail-oriented process, with great potential for getting bogged down in the myriad decisions that must be made. It is very tempting to focus on tangible elements such as paint color or appliance choices, but you shouldn't lose sight of the original reasons for undertaking the project or of the concept you and your consultant have agreed upon.

Remember that although we are trained to be able to translate your hopes and dreams into built form, we can do so only if you have taken the time to analyse what it is you really need or want. (Back to top)

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