Strictly speaking, anyone can submit a planning application. There is no qualification required in order to prepare and submit a planning application.
In fact, in my capacity as a member of the Marylebone Association Planning Sub Committee, I review an average of 10 planning applications a month and many of these are not by architects. Often these applications will be by building surveyors or planning consultants. Sometimes they will be submitted directly by the applicant. This often shows!
So, whilst in theory anyone can submit a planning application, we would argue that there are a number of key areas where an architect can add value.
This post identifies 3 key areas where an architect can add value in the work stages leading up to and including submission of a planning application. These are:
1. Experience in Interpreting Planning/ Design Guidelines and Identifying Opportunities
Check what planning experience your architect has. Does their knowledge of planning and design guidelines equip them to identify opportunities that do not conform to rigid guidance.
For example, design guidelines for rear extensions to terraced houses state that extensions should generally project no more than 3 metres from the rear building line.
With this project in Cricklewood we identified an opportunity to gain an extra 60cm across the full width (resulting in an additional 4sq.m) by relying on the line of an existing projection that was 3.6m beyond the rear building line.
We argued successfully that, whilst this was a departure from design guidelines, the impact on neighbours amenity would be negligible due to the building’s aspect. We produced sun path diagrams to prove that there would be no overshadowing and hence no impact to neighbours daylight and sunlight amenity.
The existing out house to be demolished projects 3.6m from the rear building line
You may have a very clear idea in your mind about the extension you are setting out to achieve but lack the ability to visualize it. A good architect will be able to add value here.
Ensure that preparing and delivering 3D information is an integral part of your architect’s work flow.
We always start by modelling in 3D in Rhino (software). This allows us to produce 3D sketches very quickly in order to assess proposals. This is particularly helpful where there are multiple levels/ heights (often the case in existing central London houses) and where proposals are inherently three dimensional – for instance double height spaces.
You can do this crudely too with Google Sketchup, a 3D modelling software that’s easy to learn and free to use. You can download the program and learn more about it here.
Sketches produced as part of first 'work in progress' meeting with client to help visualise the rear extension in Cricklewood, London.
3. Critical Assessment
It’s always good to start with an idea to test. However, you want to ensure that your architect produces a number of iterations and communicates these to you, together with an assessment of the merits of each one.
We always critique and interrogate our own ideas and will produce a number of iterations/ proposals to evaluate the merits of each one. Ensure that your architect is able
For example, the images below are from a series of studies for the same rear extension in Cricklewood. They assess the extension with different structural solutions:
1. Steel beam concealed in ceiling void and supported midway by steel post (allowing for a more slender beam).
2. Steel beam concealed in ceiling void without support and spanning full extension width (necessitating a deeper beam and creating deeper and stepped ceiling).
3. Exposed timber structure; Glulam primary beams with exposed rafters.
Sketches are updated with more detail as the design evolves.
We begin to focus on our preferred solution; exposed timber structure:
Rendered images presented to the client illustrate the 'feeling' of the space
It is important to have a good idea of the preferred structural solution prior to submission of a detailed planning application as this will have an affect on the overall roof buildup and hence the height of the extension.
This scheme will be developed in greater detail beyond planning but having developed it, together with a structural engineer, there will be no surprises later on down the line that could necessitate amendments to, or worse, a revised planning application.