How do I use an architect?

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions when appointing or working with an architect.



 Do you really need an architect? 

Generally architects begin to offer a full service for projects with a budget of £30,000 or more, but for a smaller fee an architect can help you figure out how to get the best out of your project, regardless of size and whether they are needed later on. 

Most architects offer one-off consultations and these can be incredibly useful. They will give you guidance on all aspects of your project from design and cost through to planning and construction. In a short space of time you can gain an enormous amount of valuable information which will help you realise your project. 

If you need planning permission it is likely that you will need an architect. 

What is an RIBA Chartered Practice?  

Only architectural practices that meet a strict eligibility criteria can register as an RIBA Chartered Practice.

All Chartered Practices:

  • employ a required number of individual RIBA Chartered Architects
  • have appropriate Professional Indemnity Insurance
  • have an effective Quality Management system
  • have comprehensive Health and Safety and Environmental policies in place

They are committed to excellence in design and customer service and that's why we only suggest RIBA Chartered Practices. 

How much does it cost? 

Architects’ fees will vary depending on the location and complexity of the project and level of service expected from them. Some architects will charge you on the basis of a total project cost, others on a fixed price lump sum or on a time charge basis.

How much or how little you commission an architect is up to you -from an initial design discussion through to the final delivery of the project on site.

How do I select the right architect? 

Clients often appoint an architect who is known to them or who has been recommended, or whose work they admire. This can be a sound initial response, but a more structured process of selection is desirable where matching requirements with the range of skills and services available has to be more precise.

Call each firm on your shortlist, describe your project and ask if they are available to accommodate it. If so, request literature that outlines the firm's qualifications and experience. Ask to see a portfolio of work, or to visit finished buildings, and visit their websites. Above all, talk to your intended architect. It is important to ensure that you are compatible. Your architects must convince you both of their creativity and their ability to get things done. 

If you need help, contact us on 020 7307 3700 or email

How do I write the brief?

The ultimate success of your project depends on the quality of your brief, i.e. your ability to describe to your architect clearly the requirements and functions of your building, and proposed methods of operation and management. It is wise to ask your architect to assist you in preparing a final brief. Your architect will need to know:

  • Your aims
  • Your budget
  • Your design style: are you looking for a design in keeping with the existing building? Do you want a contemporary or high-tech design? Are you concerned about having a sustainable or ecological design?
  • Your reasons for embarking on this building project: what activities are intended for it?
  • Your authority: who will be making the decisions about the designs, costs and day-to-day matters when the project is underway?
  • Your overall expectations: what do you hope to achieve by this project - a more comfortable place for you to live in?

At the initial meetings, your architect will listen carefully to your intentions and create a brief, addressing not only design aesthetics, but also the function of the building. Timings and budgets for your project will be defined at an early stage and only after you have approved initial sketches will the ideas be developed further.

How do I appoint an architect?

A good working relationship between architect and client is crucial to the success of any project. You and your architect should discuss and agree on the scope and cost of architectural services before the project begins and ensure that the agreement is in writing. 

To help clients who are embarking on smaller building projects, the RIBA publishes two forms of agreement:

  • Domestic Project Agreement - suitable for use where the client requires work to his or her home
  • Concise Agreement - suitable for a professional commission or construction project with simple contract terms where the client is acting for business or commercial purposes

For clients who are looking at larger building projects, the RIBA publishes the:

  • Standard Agreement - suitable for any professional commission or project where detailed contract terms are necessary. It can apply to most procurement methods, including design and build.

 All the agreements can be obtained from RIBA Bookshops

Will I need planning permission?  

If you need planning permission then it is likely you will need an architect.

Your architect will help you with the approvals required before your project can go ahead, including preparation of applications to the local authority for planning consent (where needed) and for Building Regulations approval. 

Building Regulations cover the functional requirements of buildings to safeguard the health and safety of people using them, energy efficiency and equality access. 

Your architect will advise you on all approvals needed, but if you would like to find out more please visit the Government’s Planning Portal website

Will I need a RIBA Client Adviser?

On complex projects there are often a number of people who need to be involved in decision making. Many organisations find it helpful to establish a committee to include all the people who need to be involved. However you structure your decision-making process, make sure that one person is designated as the point of contact between your organisation and the architect. If you are thinking about appointing an RIBA Client Adviser, who can perform this role, contact us on 
020 7307 3700 or email

What form of building contract will I need? 

With planning approval in place, your architect can recommend an appropriate form of building contract and will prepare drawings with technical specifications that describe your agreed proposals, for selected builders to cost.

Access the RIBA's building contracts - suitable for domestic and commercial projects - at

How do I track work in progress?  

Your architect can, if you require, monitor the builder's work in terms of meeting the standards required, finishing on time and not exceeding the contract figure.

What are CDM regulations? 

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations (CDM 2015) are the regulations for managing the health, safety and welfare of construction projects. The regulations changed in April 2015 and apply to both domestic and commercial clients. 

How do I find out about competitive selection processes?  

The RIBA has a dedicated team that specialises in managing competitive selection processes. Competitions are a highly successful procurement model; they help prioritise good design and bring the highest quality of thinking to a client’s project. A guidance document containing detailed information can be found here 

For more information visit or contact RIBA Competitions on +44(0113) 203 1490 or email

What is the Plan of Work? 

The RIBA's Plan of Work 2013 sets out the key stages of a construction project from conception to completion. 

You can commission an architect for any of the stages you need for your project. Your architect may also claculate their fees in relation to the Plan of Work.

For more information visit 

 What do I do if I am in a dispute? 

It is an unfortunate fact that in a small number of construction contracts, disputes arise. See further information on our guidance and resolution services

What if I need more information?  

The Client Services team is here to help you with your project.

We can offer you advice and guidance about working with an architect through to drawing up shortlists and running competitive selection processes on your behalf.

If you have any questions please contact us on 020 7307 3700 or email