Architects Services

by | Advice, Featured | 0 comments


Written by Taylan Tahir

Working with an architect you are employing someone who should be able to balance both aesthetic and design requirements with complex technical, legislative and cost constraints throughout all stages of a construction project. The value an architect brings to a project is grounded in years of formal training together with their unique experience gained over years of practice and continued professional learning and development. So, every architecture practice will bring a unique set of skills, experience and worldview to bear on a given project.

Architects services can vary considerably both in their scope and quality. Below, we set out what you can expect the process to look like when you engage MATA Architects on a private residential project. The process is broken down according to the RIBA Plan of Work:

Develop the Initial Project Brief (around a day, often spread out over a number of conversations and one central workshop)

This stage begins with our first email correspondence and conversations with you, often before formal appointment. We’ll ask guiding questions to find out about your goals for the project, aspirations around quality, sustainability, design, budget and timing.

We’ll continue this conversation with you in a briefing workshop on site, at our office or via zoom, probing and interrogating your initial brief in depth. We’ll want to understand the incentives and drivers for the project, what does success look like? What are your priorities?

Initial Feasibility Studies & Site Appraisal (around 2 weeks)

Following our initial briefing workshop with you we’ll carry out a detailed appraisal of your site. We’ll review all planning history associated with the site. We’ll look at planning precedent; approvals and refusals in the surrounding area. We’ll review all relevant local authority policy and design guides together with conservation area audits where applicable. All of this helps to build up a picture of what can be done and what might be risky from a planning point of view. We also have a network of experienced planning & heritage consultants across the country we regularly collaborate with, who’s informal advice we can rely on in instances where particular expertise or insight may be required.

Having built up a picture of the planning landscape, with it’s constraints and opportunities, we’ll begin sketching ideas in response to your brief. Once we’ve exhausted all of the options, we’ll invite you to a first ‘work in progress’ meeting (WIP) to review and discuss these. This often forces more questions about priorities and the brief can be refined further. Ultimately, at the end of the feasibility stage we’ll settle with you on a layout that best suits your needs. This forms the basis of design work going forward.

At the conclusion of Stage 0-1 we’ll revisit questions around project programme and construction budget to ensure we’re adhering to your brief. We’ll advise on planning and procurement strategies and any additional consultants that may be required to support the successful delivery of your project (from structural engineers to rights to light specialists).

At the conclusion of Stage 0-1 we’ll revisit questions around project programme and construction budget to ensure we’re adhering to your brief. We’ll advise on planning and procurement strategies and any additional consultants that may be required to support the successful delivery of your project (from structural engineers to rights to light specialists).

Stage 2 – Concept Design

During this stage the design comes to life, communicated to you through hand sketches, 2D drawings, 3D visuals, physical models and VR. We’ll meet with you fortnightly to review work in progress and you’ll see the plans from feasibility stage come to life through the application of materials, glazing (we’ll be looking at provision of natural daylight and views/ aspect) and key details. Learn more about how we visualise our projects here.

We’ll issue a ‘work in progress’ report at each of our meetings, summarizing the evolving design at that point and invite you to comment and provide feedback.

This work stage is probably the hardest one to define a timeframe for. There will be a number of variables affecting timeframe, including:

Project size & scope – for instance a rear extension versus a new build house. We tend to conclude concept design for house extensions in 2-4 weeks (post feasibility) whereas new build houses will take longer.

Client alignment – sometimes this is instant, when we get you and you get us and we can hit the ground running together. Other times, we may take a little longer to find that sweet spot that resonates with you. It’s all part of the process and we often find that the best results come from a dialogue where both parties challenge one another to look and see things from a new perspective.

At the conclusion of this work stage we’ll have a good idea as to external and internal appearances, material finishes, key details and construction type. All this will be captured in a Concept Design report to you for sign off before progressing to the next stage.

Additional Consultants

We’ll often bring on additional consultants at this point with whom to develop the design. At the very least this tends to include a structural engineer.

Once we have a schematic structural design we will often advise on the involvement of a quantity surveyor in the role of cost consultant too, if only to prepare an Elemental Cost Model that looks in detail at where money is forecast to be spent. This is often invaluable in identifying opportunities for savings early on and helps guide the design in the right direction, focusing on what’s important and avoiding the pitfalls of designs that stray from budget. Read our tips for staying on budget with your project here.

Depending on project budget and complexity, the QS involvement can be limited to a single cost model, providing a one-time sense check. Alternatively, they may be retained going forward, updating the cost model as the design evolves and becomes more detailed.

Pre application advice from the local authority

Depending on the project’s complexity and planning risk profile we may seek pre application advice from the local authority before going on to apply for planning permission. We’d normally do this at the conclusion of the concept design stage.

We’ll often engage the planners through the pre app process where the evolving design doesn’t fit neatly and entirely within the boundaries of local authority guidance. Done properly, this should be an opportunity to have an intelligent conversation about the merits of the design, giving the planners an opportunity to provide constructive feedback that can be taken on board and influence direction in the next design stage, with the aim of smoothing the way for a successful planning application.

Stage 3 – Design Development

This is the stage where ideas are transformed into workable schemes. In order to do that we’ll continue to coordinate the work of specialists; structural engineers, mechanical & electrical consultants so that structure and services are carefully integrated with all architectural and fit out elements.

We’ll carry on meeting with you fortnightly and issuing WIP reports capturing progress. These will become more detailed as the design evolves.

At the conclusion of this work stage we’ll have decided on all the external materials, fixtures & fittings and, if we haven’t yet decided on interior finishes, we’ll have narrowed them down to a small handful of options.

Once you’re happy with the design we’ll make an application for planning consent (& listed building consent if relevant). We’ll continue to liaise with the planners until the application’s determination, negotiating and making amendments to the design if necessary to win approval – all the time reporting back to you.

If the scheme qualifies for permitted development and doesn’t require planning consent we’d prepare and submit the relevant documentation for a certificate of lawful development (under permitted development). Learn more about if your project qualifies for permitted development here.

Stage 4 – Technical Design

During this stage we’ll continue to coordinate and integrate structural proposals with services and architectural and fit out elements as all of these become more detailed and sufficiently defined for construction.

Building Regulations Approval

We’ll involve an Approved Inspector for building control at this stage (or, if there are particular complex issues, at earlier stages) and submit full plans to them for approval prior to works commencing on site.

Party Wall Notices

We’ll advise on the appointment of Party Wall surveyors when and where relevant and liaise with them to ensure that appropriate notices and awards are in place before works commence.

We’ll often engage the planners through the pre app process where the evolving design doesn’t fit neatly and entirely within the boundaries of local authority guidance. Done properly, this should be an opportunity to have an intelligent conversation about the merits of the design, giving the planners an opportunity to provide constructive feedback that can be taken on board and influence direction in the next design stage, with the aim of smoothing the way for a successful planning application.

Freeholder / Landlords consent / license to alter

Where applicable, at this stage, we’d prepare information required for a license to alter / freeholder’s consent. Following the application we’ll continue to liaise with the landlord or their representative, answering questions and providing additional information as required. 

Advise on building contract

We’ll advise on the different types of building contract and the most appropriate one for your project, highlighting your duties under the contract and those of the appointed contractor.

Identifying suitable contractors

Every project is unique and, whilst we have a number of contractors we’re familiar with, we take every project as an opportunity to research, widen our net and find new potential partners for construction that are suited to your project.

During this stage (often starting before) we’ll research comparable projects completed successfully, compiling a longlist of contractors that delivered those projects. We’ll contact them to check their resources and availability to tender and carry the works. Before adding them to the shortlist for tender we’ll carry out due diligence, checking their financial health (3 years of previous accounts) and following up on references from other architects they’ve worked with. Finally, we may go and visit some of their completed projects together with you.

Competitive tender

At the conclusion of this stage we’ll issue a detailed set of drawings together with a schedule of works and specifications for all products to be used. The structural and services information, which, as lead consultant we’ll coordinate, will be similarly detailed in nature. This combined pack of information forms the basis of the tender documents that the invited contractors will use to price the works.

Tender analysis, negotiation and identification of cost saving measures

We allow 4 weeks for contractors to price the works, using our schedule of works as the pricing document (example here). Following the tender returns we carry out an analysis comparing the bids and identifying one or two contractors for further discussion. We’ll listen to contractor’s proposals for cost savings, which we’ll evaluate together with you.

Stage 5-6 – Construction/Handover and Close Out

At the conclusion of stage 4 we will have selected a contractor for the works. We’ll then prepare the building contract for signature by you and the contractor. The contract is made up of standard terms and conditions with all of the drawings and specifications (that the contractor priced) appended and which the contractor is legally bound to deliver. At that point we become Contract Administrator and our role is to oversee the administration of the contract; essentially that the works are carried out in accordance with the drawings and that the contractor is paid for the work carried out.

In essence there are 2 key aspects to the role of architect as Contract Administrator:

Quality Assurance role

We’ll visit site regularly to carry out inspections of the works and check that these are being carried out in accordance with our detailed drawings and specifications. We’ll have regular site visits and meetings, announced and unannounced. We’ll always be on hand to provide the contractor with additional information in response to any questions that come up. This is particularly relevant when working with existing buildings that, once you start stripping out/ demolishing, have a tendency to reveal surprising and unforeseen things that weren’t anticipated or planned for. When that happens, as the designer, we are best placed to work out solutions together with the contractor.

Fiduciary role

We’ll be taking care of your money, making sure you only pay for work carried out (which we’ve signed off with the contractor) and for materials, fixtures and fittings that we’ve seen delivered to site.

The contractor will raise monthly requests for valuation of work carried out and, as contract administrator, we’ll issue monthly certificates that correlate to the value of work we have signed off. Then the contractor can raise an invoice for the corresponding sum. This contractual mechanism ensures that you are only ever paying for work that has been carried out satisfactorily.

Collector’s Flat, 2019. Before, during and after.

Frequently Asked Questions

What services does an architect offer?

Architects offer a range of services that include design, management and technical services. See more of our services here. These can be tailored to accommodate specific requirements and include:

Initial Stages:

  • Brief development
  • Feasibility studies
  • Floor plans and sketches
  • Project programme.
  • Guidance on project budgets and construction costs.
  • Guidance on additional consultants and required approvals.

Concept and Developed Design:

  • Appoint and manage consultants.
  • 3D visualisations and design workshops.
  • Submit and manage planning application/listed buidling consent.
  • Interior design.

Detailed Design:

  • Specify materials, finishes, fixtures and fittings.
  • Technical design, detailed drawings and specification suitable for tender.
  • Shortlist and invite contractors to tender.
  • Building regulations approvals.
  • Manage party wall awards.


  • Appoint contractor and manage contract documents.
  • Quality control and certification of completed work.
  • Issue construction drawings.
  • Administer the building contract.
  • Manage variations or extensions of time.
  • Manage monthly valuations and the final account.
What does an architect do?

An architect skillset spans design and the navigation of statutory frameworks and processes (planning and building control) through project management, budgeting, vetting and selection of suitable contractors and finally, administration of the building contract.

In designing, architects move seamlessly back and forth between the big picture and the small detail, between inside and out, between practicality and poetry. All the while, taking into consideration particular site constraints and opportunities (logistical; like access for construction / climate; sun path, prevailing winds etc / desirable views vs exposure to overlooking), planning and local design guidelines and building regulations (amongst others). Whilst keeping an eye on budget in specifying appropriate materials, finishes, fixtures and fittings.

Read more about what an architect does and understand if you need an architect for your project here.

How much do architect's services cost?

Costs vary depending on the size, complexity and location of the project. This question is answered in detail in our article about Architects Fees.

What is the RIBA Plan of Work 2020?

The RIBA Plan of Work is a framework published by the Royal Institute of British Architects that simplifies a construction project into a number of key stages. The plan begins at the inception of a project and runs all the way through design, construction and ultimately handover of the building. You can download a full version of the plan here.

Ultimately the Plan of Work acts as a guide for a typical route through a project. For clarity with their clients, most architects use these work stages to describe the process and to package phases of their work alongside key milestones.

The updated 2020 version of the Plan of Work reflects the RIBA and wider industry’s sustainability commitments to transition to ‘Net-Zero Carbon’ by 2030. A discussion around sustainability outcomes and strategy should now be included at Stage 1.

How to use the RIBA Plan of Work?

Construction projects are all slightly different and have their own quirks. The RIBA Plan of Work should be used as a guide for the deliverables you can expect at each stage of the design and construction of the project. An architect will ultimately adapt this framework to suit the needs of the client and the project.

What are the RIBA design stages?

The design stages included in the RIBA Plan of work run between stage 0-4. As the project progresses during these design stages the level of design and detail advances accordingly. You can expect to see a design evolve from 2D sketches and monochrome plans to 3D visualisations with light, colour and materiality.

The transition between stage 4 and 5 marks the end of the design phases and the beginning of construction phase of the project.

Stay Two Steps Ahead

Sign up for news, views and insights.
One email, twice a year.

You May Also Like…

Let's Create Your Home's Next Chapter

Wondering what comes next?

Fill in the form below with your project details and we'll respond in 1-2 days.

3 + 8 =

Book a 45 minute video call or face to face meeting

View and book here