How to Write a Design Brief for Your Architect

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Written by Taylan Tahir

Written by Taylan Tahir

No one sets out to make a film without a script, a budget and a program. This might sound obvious but building is no different, though we so often see people making it up as they go. It’s a recipe for disaster, or, at the very least for things not turning out the way you imagined.

This article answers the questions, ‘what is an architectural project brief?’; why you need one for your project and what you should include in it.

What is an architectural project brief for a house extension?

A thorough design brief ensures that all important issues are considered from the outset of a project, before design work even begins. In its basic form, a written design brief is a list of desired outcomes and deliverables that forms an essential point reference and communication for both Architect and Client. It will cover some basic fundamentals such as budget, time frames etc as well as bigger ideas about your future lifestyle and how you will live in your new home.

Firstly, we would recommend everyone planning a house extension or renovation project prepares a design brief before approaching an architect. It really helps to frame the conversation going forward and ensures you get the most out of those early conversations.

It can be daunting, especially for domestic clients with little experience of construction or working with an architect, to compile a residential design brief. If you are unsure of where to begin or what you should include in your own, we have prepared a template brief to use as a starting point. This simple, two-page document helps establish priorities, define what is important to you and what you ultimately want to achieve with your project. We ask all of our clients to fill this out before our first meeting.

This is by no means an exhaustive list and there may be areas you have further questions about (particularly where budgets and costs are involved). This is part of the process and your architect will be able to guide and develop the brief with you. Read our tips on choosing the right architect here.

Why is writing a design brief important?

Home extension and renovation projects are complex and require a large time and financial commitment. For most people, they are a once in a lifetime undertaking. Done well, a home extension can be truly transformative. A well-designed and constructed extension can improve your wellbeing and lift your everyday. The opposite can cause stress and financial difficulty.

For these reasons it is imperative you take the time to properly plan your project. Really understand what your end goals are in order to get the most out of the process and maximise your investment.

How to write the perfect design brief for an architect? Or How to brief an architect?

We don’t often get a written brief from residential clients. However, on that rare occasion that we do, it helps us hit the ground running. In this instance the client has already framed the conversation, highlighted their aspirations, high level goals, constraints and budget and anything else that is important to them; inspirations, aesthetic preferences etc. All of these, if set out from the go, give us a great head start.

The more detailed the brief is, the clearer the direction of the project will be. However, it is important not to be too prescriptive. Allow the designer to respond to your initial ideas with creative solutions that can often present new, unexpected opportunities.

Consider what type of spaces are important to your lifestyle and the way you’d like to live in the future. Do you want a better connection with your garden? Where does the family spend most of their time? Do you need a quiet, private space to work from home?

A brief doesn’t only have to be written. It can also be useful to share images of other projects you find inspiring or materials you love. It’s worth starting a Pinterest page to collate some of your ideas and sharing this with your designer.

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