What do architects do?

It wasn’t until I started offering my time in support of Shelter through ‘Architect In The House’, that I realised many people are not fully aware of what an architect actually does.

Some see us simply as ‘people who draw plans’ and others see us as ‘people who only design big buildings’ but rarely are we seen as the holistic problem solvers and creative professionals that we have trained to be.

A recent survey commissioned by InBuilding.org demonstrated that 72 per cent of respondents to the survey were unaware that architects apply for planning permission, less than a fifth knew that architects prepare construction drawings and only nine percent understood that architects control site budgets. In response to the survey, one architect suggested that the wider public think of architects in the same vein as the person who would tile their bathroom.

These statistics are worrying but a core element of our role in todays fast changing business landscape is to help clients fully understand what we can do. So, let me set-out here the key components of an architects role.

1. We are trained to listen and understand the wider context of a clients brief.

2. We can often look beyond immediate requirements and suggest solutions that are flexible and able to accommodate a clients changing needs.

3. By listening and, in particular, being given the opportunity to listen to our clients at the earliest stage in a project, we can bring to bear our creativity on a broader understanding of our clients requirements and can often suggest ways to save money or add value.

4. We can manage our clients projects from site selection to site completion.

5. We are trained to coordinate teams of consultants such as quantity surveyors, structural engineers, services engineers, landscape architects, interior designers, contractors and sub-contractors in such a way that the early vision or concept is continued through each and every stage of a project and can advise our clients on the need for particular consultants.

6. We can save our clients time and money, often allowing our clients to focus on their business activities.

7. We can create coordinated internal and external environments which are pleasing as well as functional.

8. We can help our clients maximise their investment by approaching a project from a number of different angles to demonstrate ways to add value.

One of our projects, the conversion of a pair of Georgian town houses to ten apartments, had already been looked at by a ‘design consultant’ and our client was unhappy with the level of accommodation that was being proposed. We were invited to provide a fresh view and just by listening and suggesting a couple of bold moves, we demonstrated how our client could obtain a significant increase in the accommodation. We then went on to oversee the project through the planning and site operation stages and, at completion, the level of added financial value ran into the hundreds of thousands of pounds.

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