Design Process

At Carter Designs we provide architectural services in kent, London, and Harrogate.  We prioritise clear and concise communication to ensure a smooth and hassle-free process for you. Our team of experienced and professional experts is well-equipped to handle the complexities involved in delivering a project from concept to completion. By entrusting us with your project (stages 0-7), you can relax knowing that we will efficiently manage budgets, surpass your design expectations, and oversee the entire process on-site.

Our services are organized into stages, following a similar structure to the RIBA Plan of Work

While you have the option to handle some of these tasks on your own.  We highly recommend appointing a professional if you lack construction experience. This ensures the best outcome for your project.

Architectural services in harrogate & london

Stage 0 – Initial Site meeting and Establish Design brief

We understand the importance of gathering comprehensive information during our site visit and meeting with you. This initial meeting serves as a crucial step in establishing the design brief.  The more details you provide us at this stage, the more time and money we can potentially save throughout the project.

Here are some considerations when selecting an architect or designer for architectural services:

  1. Project Goals: Clearly define what you aim to achieve, such as a house extension, loft conversion, change of use, refurbishment, or new build house.
  2. Style and Appearance: While we will provide design ideas and concepts, it is helpful to have a general idea of your preferences. You can explore platforms like Pinterest, Houzz, or Dezeen for inspiration. Collaborating on mood boards through Pinterest is also an option.
  3. Timeframes: Specify when you would like the work to commence or be completed.
  4. Visualization: If visualizing your project is challenging, we can assist by providing 3D visuals that showcase how your project will look. These visuals can aid in refining the design, identifying potential build clashes, assessing daylight and shadow, and ensuring alignment with your vision for the project.
  5. Budget: While discussing the budget may be sensitive, rest assured that any cost-related discussions will remain confidential. Understanding your budget is crucial to manage expectations and determine what is realistically achievable. Mismatched design expectations and budget limitations can lead to frustration, wasted time, and unnecessary expenses.

Based on our assessment of the site, our discussions, and your requirements, we will prepare a detailed quotation for your consideration. This quote will include a comprehensive description of the proposed works, the services required, and a breakdown of costs for each stage. Additionally, we will conduct initial research to determine the feasibility of your proposals.  Considering factors like cost, timeframe, and the likelihood of obtaining planning permission. We will also identify the need for other professional consultants and provide appropriate recommendations. Once our appointment is confirmed, we will establish a project start date and provide guidance accordingly.

Stage 1 – Measured Survey and Production of Existing Drawings

Once we confirm our appointment for architectural services, the next step involves arranging access to the property or site for an architectural measured survey. Depending on the complexity of the site or building, we may conduct the survey ourselves or coordinate with an architectural survey company on your behalf. At Stage 0, we will assess and advise on the appropriate level of architectural survey required.

The architectural measured survey plays a crucial role as it provides detailed information about the site, buildings, architectural features, levels, drainage, and other relevant architectural aspects. This information enables us to create accurate existing architectural floor plans, elevations, architectural sections (if necessary), and architectural site plans. Additionally, for certain architectural projects, we may need to obtain information from utility companies to determine the location of architectural services on or near the site.

For most domestic architectural properties, we typically use existing architectural drawings as a basis for developing the concept design. However, in the case of commercial architectural developments, we may collaborate with other professional architectural consultants, such as structural engineers or mechanical engineers, to ensure the architectural viability of the site and establish architectural design parameters.

By diligently compiling all the architectural survey information and collaborating with relevant architectural experts, we ensure a comprehensive understanding of the project’s physical context, which serves as the basis for further architectural design development. This architectural context encompasses architectural constraints, opportunities, site analysis, site planning, site evaluation, and site assessment.

Architectural services - Alwoodley house extension

Stage 2 – Concept Design

After conducting a thorough assessment of the existing building(s) or site and considering our initial conversation and mood images provided, we can begin the architectural design process. Our initial approach involves creating a diagrammatic hand sketch, taking various factors into account, such as the sun path, views, potential overlooking or loss of privacy, circulation, flow, spatial arrangement, organization, and hierarchy. By aligning with the requirements outlined in the brief, we quickly establish the project’s priorities, shaping sketch layouts, design concepts, architectural programming, and schematics.

At this stage, we typically recommend a design meeting to discuss the proposals. Our presentations usually include hand-drawn or basic CAD plans, mood images, basic 3D visuals, architectural renderings, or architectural models if requested. During this meeting, we address any potential issues that have emerged, analyze architectural precedents, conduct studies, and, most importantly, listen to your feedback. Assuming all goes well, the concept can progress to the developed design stage. However, in some cases, further development may be necessary to explore additional design options and ideas.

By adopting this comprehensive architectural approach and actively involving you in the design process, we ensure that the concept aligns with your vision, design intent, aesthetic preferences, and functional requirements. We incorporate sustainable design principles, architectural detailing, building materials selection, structural considerations, building codes compliance, accessibility standards, and environmental impact assessment to create a holistic architectural solution.

Architectural services - Marble Living room

Stage 3 – Developed Design

The architectural concept can now be developed into proposed floor plans, elevations, sections, and if required fully rendered 3D visuals. In some instances, these 3D visuals can enhance the likelihood of obtaining planning permission by providing a visual representation of the proposed design. Planning drawings, which are outline drawings of the building, are prepared at this stage. While they do not contain detailed construction information.  They describe the proposed materials, and overall dimensions, and highlight the differences between the existing and proposed structures.

Prior to submission to the council, all design information will be issued to the client for final approval. At this point, we would invoice for stages 1-3 and include any expenses incurred to date, along with the appropriate planning and administrative processing fees. Once we have received the correct fee, we will complete the necessary planning application forms and submit them together with the planning drawings and any other required information.

The council will confirm receipt of the application and proceed to assess all the submitted documents in order to validate the application. This validation process typically takes between 5-10 days. Once the application is validated, the council has a statutory period of 8 weeks to determine the application. However, more complex schemes or major planning applications may take 13 weeks. For the majority of domestic applications, the determination period remains at 8 weeks.

While the planning application is being processed, many clients choose to use this time to obtain prices from potential builders/contractors for the proposed works. However, we do not recommend asking builders for prices at this stage due to various reasons, which we will elaborate on. It is important to wait until the planning application has been approved before seeking detailed pricing from builders.

Bespoke stairs - house refurbishment and extension - Architecture and Design

Stage 4 – Technical Design

Once you obtain planning permission, please note that the council may impose planning conditions alongside the consent. These conditions will require you to submit further information to the council for their approval. The same statutory periods of 5-10 days for validation and 8 weeks for determination apply to these condition submissions as well.

After the planning application receives approval, we can proceed to the Technical Design phase. The Building Regulations require most projects to be designed and constructed in compliance with them. Non-compliance not only poses safety risks but can also result in the absence of necessary certificates for property sales. You can find more detailed guidelines on the Government’s website.

We offer two types of technical packages: Building Control and Detailed. Our Building Control package provides basic information aligned with The Building Regulations. Typically, we further develop the planning drawings to include essential building information such as the thermal performance of walls, windows, floors, roofs, basic setting out dimensions, and coordination with a Structural Engineer for steelwork. We recommend this package for builders, clients with considerable building experience, or developers working on smaller projects. It is a cost-effective option, but it does not provide the detailed information required for builders to accurately construct or price the project. These drawings can be submitted to building control for a plan check.

With our architectural services, we strongly believe in providing more information to the main contractor, which relates back to our previous point about clients seeking price estimates from builders while the planning application is still in progress.

Firstly, planning approval is not guaranteed, and if a builder is asked to provide a price and planning is refused, the builder may lose interest or provide rough estimates that could significantly change once on-site. Secondly, as the drawings are only outline or basic plans, they do not offer sufficient information for the builder to provide an accurate price. This could lead to unforeseen costs during construction and leave the client with an incomplete project. Thirdly, the more information provided to the builder or main contractor, the stronger legal protection the client has. A building contract always references the information provided to the builder. If a builder quotes for one type of wall finish or window but fails to meet the client’s expectations on-site, they would need to provide an alternative quote. However, at that point, there is no incentive for them to be competitive since they already have the project.

It’s important to note that not all builders or contractors seek to take advantage of clients, but if they haven’t been provided clear instructions, they cannot be blamed if the cost of the build increases post-quoting.

Our Detailed technical package of architectural services aims to eliminate these uncertainties. We can provide electrical layouts, detailed joinery drawings, designs for bathrooms and kitchens, construction details for walls, roofs, floors, and other elements, as well as finishes, fixtures, and fittings. With this level of detail, all these items can be used to obtain fixed prices. Additionally, this level of detail assists the contractor in coordinating essential items on-site.

While we understand clients’ desire to save money, trying to cut costs during the design stage can ultimately result in substantial expenses and delays once the project is underway. It may also compromise the desired design aspirations. We can customize our detailed package to suit your specific requirements and recommend this level of service for clients with limited or no previous project experience and more complex design projects.

Stage 5 – Tender

Instead of randomly approaching contractors, we recommend finding a builder through recommendations or a more formal pre-qualification tender process.  Especially for larger-scale projects where a Quantity Surveyor (QS) may be involved.

After ensuring the suitability of the builder for your project, we will compile the planning consent, technical design, and any other relevant building information into an invitation to tender. The builder will be asked to provide a detailed itemized quotation, an estimated program for the works, and their anticipated start date. Depending on the project’s complexity, the builder may require additional time to assess the project and obtain prices for specialized items. The tender process typically takes 2-3 weeks to complete, but for more complex projects, more time may be necessary to allow the builder to accurately price the project and for the design team to address any queries.

Once the builders have submitted their pricing, as part of our architectural services we will assess the tender returns and provide appropriate advice. It’s important to note that appointing the cheapest builder may result in the project being completed within their quoted price, but it could lead to delays and increased stress throughout the process. Similarly, choosing the most expensive builder does not guarantee a superior finish. By conducting due diligence checks on the preferred contractor, establishing an appropriate building contract, and supplying a detailed tender package, we can help mitigate some of the risks that may arise once construction begins on-site.

architect blogs - house extension - Architecture and Design

Stage 6 – Construction

Once the preferred contractor has been selected and the price has been agreed upon, we will proceed to set up an appropriate Joint Contracts Tribunal (JCT) contract. The JCT contract is a legally verified document that is impartial and offers protection to both parties involved. If the builder proposes their own contract, I strongly advise against signing it.   This may not be a legally binding document and may lack the necessary provisions to protect your interests. If the builder is unwilling to use a JCT homeowner contract and insists on their own contract, I recommend having the contract reviewed by a qualified solicitor specializing in Building Law. It’s important to note that the cost of having a solicitor review a contract will likely exceed the cost of a JCT contract, which starts at £30.00 excluding VAT.

Once the contract is signed and the builder begins work on-site, we will monitor the progress, recommend payments based on completed works, and be available to address any issues or difficulties that may arise. During the valuation process, you will only be paying for the completed works, rather than making advance payments. Overpaying the builder can lead to a lack of incentive for them to return and complete the remaining works, potentially causing delays or leaving the project unfinished.

Stage 7 – Handover

Practical completion is a significant milestone in the construction process, indicating that the building or project is substantially complete and ready for use. At this stage, the structure has reached a functional state and can be occupied or utilized as intended.

During practical completion, thorough checks are conducted to ensure that all essential systems and components are in place and operational. Any remaining minor defects or incomplete items are addressed, as long as they don’t affect the building’s intended use or compromise safety.

Upon achieving practical completion, an official practical completion certificate is typically issued by the architect or contract administrator. This certificate serves as formal recognition that the construction work has reached the practical completion stage.

It’s important to understand that practical completion doesn’t imply that every aspect of the project is fully finished or that there are no remaining tasks or defects to address. After practical completion, there may still be minor outstanding works or defects that need to be rectified during the defects liability period. This period, usually specified in the contract, holds the contractor responsible for addressing any defects or issues that arise post-completion.

Practical completion is a significant milestone that signifies the transition from the construction phase to the final stages of the project. These final stages involve activities such as commissioning, testing, and eventual handover to the client.

Following completion of the building works, we conduct a site visit to compile a defects list, commonly referred to as snagging. We verify with the builder if gas and electrical certificates have been issued and whether the final inspection by Building Control has taken place. If Building Control is satisfied, they will issue a completion certificate, confirming that the works comply with the applicable building regulations.

Once the builder has addressed the items on the snagging list, we consult with the client to ensure that all warranties and user manuals have been handed over. Subsequently, we issue a Completion Certificate, and at this stage, the final retention money can be released. It’s important to note that any defects resulting from the builder’s work (excluding wear and tear) are covered under the JCT contract. The JCT homeowner contract provides protection to the client for a period of 6 years from the completion date.