Providing advice to these potential clients
is always a dilemma. On the one hand you want to be helpful and prove your
metal in order to gain their trust but on the other hand you are also giving
away the family silver without any prior commitment from them that they will
actually be engaging your services. Ideas and suggestions on how to
achieve a clients building objective is often all we have to offer. Sure
there is the technical and craftsmanship element of your service but that's
often taken for granted. The creative element is often the bit that actually
makes a good development work.
Fortunately, residential development isn't
exactly within the realms of Richard Rogers stature especially when developing
an existing dwelling with well needed extensions.
So, where does the ordinary householder obtain
good independent advice when they are considering an extension to their home?
And, is this advice worthy when offered for free? Finally, who do they select
as their final design Agent if they lack the necessary skills in producing
the design onto paper?
Firstly, There are loads of ways to obtain
design free advice. The first step is to consider worked examples already
constructed within your street or local area. Be critical and analytical.
Decide what works and is pleasing on the eye and what doesn't. Decide
what details can you transfer over to your own scheme.
Secondly, go to your council or research
a few other councils web sites and download their readily available design
guides especially if your property is within a conservation or sensitive
rural area. Most councils now have quite good design guides amongst their
simplistic do's and don't's pamphlets. Read these design guides and do take
on board their messages.
Thirdly (and after completing steps 1 and
2 above) invite a few professionals to come and take a look at your property
with a view to perhaps engaging one of them.
These 'professionals' range in terms from
Chartered Architects, Architectural Technicians, Surveyors and other Designers
of various stature and background. I wont promote any one over another but
a lot will depend upon what type of overall service you may be looking for
and how much of your potential build budget you are happy to hive off in
However, as a guide, the one to stay well away
from is your 'kitchen table top' designer - you know the sort, pencil tracings
at the weekends while he works for the Gas Board during the day. Bargain
basement prices they may be but they will have little interest in ensuring
a pleasing design is accomplished at the end.
Most professional building designers still
don't charge for their time at the initial site visit which is a shame in
my view as this tends to instantly sort out the serious from the tire kickers.
Invite 2 or 3 round for their opinions and gauge their reactions and comments.
You will be amazed at the varying attitudes you will encounter. Hopefully
all of your invited professionals will have been sourced from recommendations.
If not then you have a little research to do.
In order to get the best advice out of these
people it is important that you are clear on your objectives.
It has been my experience that most homeowners do actually know what
they want from their homes. Temper that with a degree of flexibility and
an enquiring mind that will allow the building designer to input some of
his/her own thoughts from their initial first impressions of what they see.
As with everything else in life, there are always options to be explored
- the obvious well trodden path through a wood main not be the
Now test the designers metal by throwing
in an obvious 'no-no'. For example....talk about your idea for an extensive
flat roof or an obvious overlooking side window. If he/she simply panders
to your thoughts on these points then you know the advice is dubious. Conversely,
if the Building Designer is not listening to your principal requirements
and shooting off all manner of other design concepts or projects then you
also know that you wont end up with a building that satisfies your main needs
Somewhere between the two is what you are
seeking. Someone who can clearly latch on to achieving your space requirements
but who is not afraid to question or challenge your preferred siting,
materials or layout in order to gain a better overall external appearance
and internal design solution.
You will probably discover that you will actually
need a building designer to carefully present your scheme through Planning
and for the detailed design and specification build up later on so the exercise
was worthwhile. For those with rudimentary drawing skills and a passion for
'doing it themselves' they will also find the exercise worth while.
No matter which route you take, time invested
in these three simple but often time consuming steps stated above is usually
an invaluable part of obtaining a well considered final design for your
residential development. Those that 'crash in' without seeking prior advice
or without completing a little research will often have regrets either
in an awkward looking development that they are having trouble selling or
incurring abortive fees from having the scheme refused at Planning.
Our 'Maximum Build
Planning Guide' explains further the issues involved when
developing a property.