What are the key stages of a typical project?

Survey kit

Okay, so the first meeting went well and Matt Lowther at Workshop76 has been appointed as your architect. What next? Here’s a summary of the key stages for a residential extension project:

Measured survey

The first task is to measure up the existing building and immediate surroundings so that the relevant existing and proposed drawings can be prepared. Sometimes a specialist surveyor is needed, but generally for smaller projects your architect should be able to take the necessary measurements.

Design development

Now for the exciting part. The next stage is to develop the design and prepare a set of drawings that we can discuss. Usually this will consist of floor plans to explain the internal changes and extension, along with a sketch 3D computer model or images to describe the external appearance.

Outline cost review

When you are happy with the proposed design, it may be sensible to approach a local builder or quantity surveyor to get a rough idea of cost. The aim here is to give you some confidence that the design that you prepare for planning and building regulations is feasible and affordable.

Planning application

There are lots of factors that can influence the planning process including conservation areas, listed building consent, tree protection, planning restrictions, permitted development, and more. If planning permission is needed, sometimes it’s best to request pre-application advice from the council to establish whether or not the proposals are likely to be supported.

For more straightforward proposals a householder application can be made without first consulting the council. The drawings and other documents are submitted on your behalf, online via the Planning Portal.

Building regulations application

The building regulations drawings are like a blueprint explaining how the proposed extension and alterations will be built and are much more detailed than the planning drawings.

Building regs drawings will usually show dimensions and setting out notes as well as construction information to confirm how the floors, walls and roof are to be built. Key materials are specified, along with notes on fire safety, thermal performance, ventilation, and more.

At this stage of the project, if not before, you will need a structural engineer to provide information regarding foundations, steelwork (if needed), structural calculations and – sometimes – below ground drainage design.

The drawings are then checked by building control and an approval notice will be issued.

Contractor pricing

Try to establish a fixed price before works commence. Even if you have a preferred builder in mind, it’s usually worth going through a competitive tender process. 3-4 suitable contractors will provide prices for you to consider, enabling you to make an informed decision.


Prior to starting work on site it is important that you have a contract in place so that all parties are protected. As the client, you need to know that the work will be completed to a certain agreed budget, within an agreed timeframe, and to a particular design & specification.


Once on site, and with a contract in place, your architect can be available for regular site visits to answer any technical questions, discuss any unforeseen issues arising, and to monitor the construction work.

What happens at the first meeting?

First meeting questions

Once we’ve spoken on the phone or exchanged emails to agree the broad context of your project it’s time for the first meeting. This usually takes half an hour to an hour depending on the size and complexity of the work involved.

I can’t speak for all architects or designers, but personally I don’t charge anything for the first meeting or the advice that comes with it. This is your opportunity to meet me in person (and for me to meet you), ask as many questions as you like, and talk about your aims for the project.

You may have a specific list and well-defined brief, or you may just need more space but can’t decide how to achieve it. This is just the first step, so don’t panic.

During the first meeting I can explain the overall process in more detail, from survey and initial drawings through to completion on site, help you to understand who else may need to be involved and why, confirm approximately how long everything may take, discuss your budget and how feasible the project is, and note down your requirements so that I can write up a fee proposal for you to consider. And if you forget to ask something or change your mind about some aspect of the project after the meeting, don’t worry – just send me an email or give me a call. You are not obliged to appoint me as your architect or pay any fees until you’ve formally instructed the work and confirmed that you would like me to go ahead. There are no upfront fees or deposits. Nobody – especially architects – should be asking you for payment in advance and you should never feel pressured into appointing a particular person.

What does an architect do?

Professional registration

…and do I need one?

You’ve worked hard and saved money, spoken to your friends and family, and watched many an episode of Grand Designs. It’s time to take the next step. You’ve heard about architects, but what exactly do they do, and do you need one for your project?

Architects plan, design and oversee the construction of buildings.

The aim of the architect is to help you transform your list of goals for your project and turn them into a building or extension that gives you what you want (and perhaps a little bit more).

To do this, architects produce a combination of floor plans, technical drawings, models, 3D images and specifications to illustrate what your project looks like, and how it will be built. They coordinate and work with other consultants to guide you through the planning and building regulations stages, and provide builders with a complete set of instructions to work from.

But beyond the drawing work, architects can also help you get your project competitively priced, assist you when selecting a builder, explain the benefits of a building contract and monitor the project on site, making the process simpler for you, and less stressful.

To be called an architect in the UK you must be registered with the ARB (Architects Registration Board). Many architects are also members of the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects).

These organisations promote a strict code of professional conduct which all architects must follow, giving the profession a reassuring level of accountability. For example, all architects must hold relevant qualifications, they must be covered by appropriate insurance, and they must be competent and act with integrity.

Other designers may be able to assist with many of the projects for which an architect would traditionally be appointed. For example, architectural designers are perfectly capable of preparing planning and building regulations drawings. However, unlike architects they are not regulated and there is no particular qualification that a person needs to become an architectural designer.

If your building project is very simple, relatively low cost and you have a trusted builder who can assist, then you may not need an architect (or any designated designer). However, it doesn’t hurt to have a conversation and ask for advice before you start, even if it’s just for some reassurance that you are doing the right thing.

It’s worth bearing in mind that even on a small project an architect may be able to add value, perhaps see things that others have missed, and will be happy to consider ways of making the project more efficient to save you money. Most architects will gladly talk through your project over the phone or meet to discuss things in more detail. At Workshop76 the initial consultation is free of charge.