Working with an Architect

Projects can vary in size, from small repairs and alterations to large scale interventions, but in either case commissioning an architect is something the most people are unlikely to do more than once or twice in a life-time.

Before speaking to an architect to about your project, it is worth looking at their website to see what type of work they do and whether they are a good fit for your type of project. Are you looking for a contemporary villa or are you looking to restore an old cottage. Once you have picked out a couple that may be suitable, you will have a few questions, such as how does the process of architecture work.? and how will be my involvement in the process.? You are paying a lot of money so naturally you will want to know what service you are going to get.


working with an architect


On one hand the project may appear quite simple, “I just want someone to prepare some drawings for my project.” However, architectural works involves a lot of regulation and many different people, all of whom need to be very clear in what is being proposed otherwise disagreements will inevitably emerge, on the quality of design and/or what the cost will be and how long the work will take.

The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) produce a very good and clear set of documents that sets out the nature of the service, but to those unfamiliar with the process sometimes the simple issues remain unanswered.

I recently received some very good questions from a prospective client which I will share, along with my response, which you may find helpful.

  1. Do you provide CAD and 3D drawings of the design proposals?

We develop our designs on CAD and will provide copies of drawings and 3d images of the design in PDF format.

Please note that some of our processing will run data through a number of different software packages, to produce 3D visualisations that are used for both sketch design and detailed assembly drawings. We can provide PDF Copies of the outputs but are unable to release raw data files.


  1. How many drafts are included in the design stage of the process?

Our process is based on a methodical approach where we work through the design in stages.

Step 1 - Following our initial discussion we will develop outline proposals that will identify the organising principles of the design and accommodation. We will discuss this with you and work out any adjustments or alternative options that may need to be investigated. When we have arrived at a strategy that you are happy with we will move to the next step.

Step 2- We will develop sketch layouts from the strategy agreed in step 1, which we will again discuss with you to ensure that they meet your requirements. This will include strategy for materials and style to capture the feel of the spaces that you want to create. Please note that we would not expect it to be necessary to go back and revisit step 1.

 Step 3 - When you are happy with the sketch layouts, we will develop the design in more detail, with a focus on delivering the scheme agreed at the end of step 2, taking into account issues to do with regulatory compliance and construction requirements. Please note that we would not expect it to be necessary to go back and revisit step 2.

By following this approach, we would anticipate a greater amount of uncertainty and adjustment at step 1, as we review your requirement, but as we progress to step 2 this will decrease significantly and by the time we are ready to start step 3 we should have a solution that you are happy with and further adjustment should be unnecessary.

We also need to be aware of the scale of the project, the structure of the existing building and the budget and this may constrain the options available. Therefore, the strategy discussion at Step 1 will be critical.


  1. How many meetings are usually included to discuss the fee proposal?

Hopefully my explanation above will have clarified this. As long as we have regard to the process outlined, I don’t think there is a need to set a fixed number of meetings.

I should make clear that for this type of project, my approach would not be as formal as it might be for a commercial project. I will be quite open and share draft information and ideas for discussion via email prior to preparing final drawings, I think we can achieve more, quicker in this way, rather than sticking to formal meetings where I turn up with finished set of drawings that you haven’t seen before.

It will become clear during step 2 if you are happy with suggestions and proposals I am putting forward. If we are not meeting your expectations regarding the design or the service then we can draw a line under the service there.


  1. Is the resolution of any queries raised by the council during the planning and/or warrant application stages covered in the fee already quoted?

In regard to architectural work, Yes. However if the council require additional reports to be commissioned such those relating to ecology (Bat surveys), contaminated land, etc then you would need to engage suitable consultants and pay for their fees. This is as noted in our initial fee proposal.


  1. If any alterations or revisions to the design are required by the council in order to gain consent, during either the planning and/or warrant application stages, would this work also be covered within the fee already quoted? 

In most circumstances, yes. We would recommend obtaining planning consent before applying for building warrant in most circumstances. Securing planning consent will significantly reduce the risk that and alterations to the design would be introduced after the building warrant drawings have been prepared and submitted.

Unless the council comes forward with something completely unexpected that requires a significant reworking for the scheme then any technical adjustments to demonstrate that the design complies with regulations would be included in the fee.

(I am not sure under what circumstance this could happen, but just in case, I had better include this caveat.)

There are a couple of important points to note. Every project is unique and will have its own particular challenges, It isn't helpful to be too prescriptive and try and set out exactly what is going to happen in black and white from the outset. Trying to predict what is going to happen before the project has started is, in my experience, particularly with historic buildings, nigh on impossible. So we always allow room for a bit of flexibility and adjustment, provided the general principles of the process are followed. 

That this is the approach developed by MAAC Studio Ltd to project delivery, other architects may have a similar approach, others may do things entirely differently. It is definitely worthwhile asking the question.



MAAC studio are accredited conservation architects and principal designers working with traditional buildings throughout Scotland. 

If you need independent advice give us a call ?