Work with an Architect: Your Home

Whether you are planning to construct your dream home or extending and renovating your existing house, a RIAI Registered Architect has the qualifications, vision, and experience to take you expertly through your building project. 

Where can I find an Architect?

The RIAI Practice Directory enables you to find a registered architect in your area. You can search the directory by practice name (if you have already identified a practice), by skill, or by location. 

Where do I Start?

A good way to start is by downloading our guide, Working with an Architect.

How does the Process Work?

  • Step 1 - brief development

    At the start of your project, you and your Architect will meet to discuss in detail your requirements and aspirations. It is important that you advise your Architect of your budget, time frame, and any other parameters, as these will impact on the design. The information you provide for your Architect is called a ‘brief’. Time spent at this initial stage is invaluable as much of the resulting design is will be dependent on the information included in the brief. A good place to start is by going through your existing home and making a list of what works for you and what doesn’t. It can also be useful to put together a ‘mood board’ of examples of design that you have seen online or in books and magazines to indicate your initial thoughts and preferences.

  • Step 2 - initial design and detailed design

    When you have finalised the brief, your Architect will carry out a survey of your site (new builds) or your home (extensions, renovations). They will develop an initial design in the form of outline sketch designs to be discussed with you as the client. At this stage, you and your Architect will also agree a project time frame, discuss the budget, clarify roles and communications, and confirm the services you require. (For example you may want your Architect to also provide interior design). Your Architect will advise you on the need for specialist consultants or services and on planning requirements, building regulations, and health and safety regulations. The design will continue to change at this stage and your Architect may also provide a number of alternative proposals to consider. Your feedback on the initial design will become part of the developed design. Following this process, your Architect will present you with a detailed design for your approval.  

    Your Architect will provide you with drawings – including floor plans, elevations, and sections. Other presentation methods include models and 3D walk-throughs. Drawings can sometimes be difficult to understand but this is an important stage in the design development. Design is an iterative, two-way process in which your Architect will do their best to interpret and respond to your requirements. Client feedback is therefore an essential part of this procedure. Other design considerations may comprise decisions regarding renewable energy sources, the future use and occupation of the building, and if you wish to exceed minimum regulatory requirements.

  • Step 3 - planning permission and construction drawings

    If planning permission is required, your Architect will prepare the drawings and make an application on your behalf. Following confirmation of planning permission, and once you have instructed your Architect to proceed with the developed design, they will produce a full set of construction drawings, specifying performance and construction standards. These drawings and associated documents are to ensure that the project requirements are clearly formulated for the contractor. The detailed design will have to incorporate any changes, as required, as a condition of planning permission.

    Your Architect will also liaise closely with specialist consultants, such as the structural engineer, to incorporate their recommendations and input. As the design is now confirmed, a cross-check in relation building regulation compliance should be carried out at this stage and any necessary modifications incorporated.

  • Step 4 - the tender process

    Your Architect will prepare Forms of Tender for main and specialist contractors. It is advisable to have at least three contractors submit costings (tenders) for a project. As each contractor will base their costing on the same information, tenders can be compared and analysed and the best price obtained. You and your architect should be satisfied, however, that each of the contractors is competent to carry out the work. For example, you should ask a contractor to see samples of previous work and speak to previous clients.

    A successful tender may not necessarily be the lowest one. If a tender is very low, it may be because the contractor has missed something. In some cases, an architect and client may agree to negotiate a tender price with just one contractor. Your Architect, and your quantity surveyor (if applicable), will use their expertise to help you evaluate the tenders received.

    Your Architect will also advise on the most appropriate RIAI Form of Building Contract for your project, as well as on insurance during construction.

  • Step 5 - building works

    During construction, your Architect will act on your behalf as an independent advisor, inspecting the building work at intervals to ensure that it is being carried out in accordance with the contract documents. If your project falls within the remit of the Building Control (Amendment) Regulations, otherwise known as BC(A)R, your Architect may act as the Assigned Certifier. For more details, read: RIAI Client Guidance Note on Building Control (Amendment) Regulations (April 2016)

  • Step 6 - project completion¬†

    Prior to the completion of a building and before you take ownership, your Architect will compile a detailed snag list (a complilation of outstanding building defects) for the contractor to complete within an agreed period of time. Typical building defects may include poor workmanship and finishes, faulty plumbing such as leaking cisterns and WCs, or poorly connected pipes.

  • Building Control (Amendment) Regulations

    The Building Control (Amendment) Regulations 2014 (S.I. 9) set out procedures for the control of building activity. Under these regulations, the building owner is responsible for ensuring compliance with building regulations and must appoint a competent designer, builder, and Assigned Certifier. 

    In 2015, an ‘opt out’ from BC(A)R was introduced for one-off houses and domestic extensions (S.I. 365). There are implications regarding this ‘opt-out’ option and the RIAI would advise that clients and building owners read the article ‘Is the Opt Out for domestic projects really good news?’, in addition to discussing with their Architect, in order to better understand the significance of these regulations in relation to their building project.