How to Brief your Architect

Once you have found the right architect, take some time to prepare a clear brief.

The Brief

Know how much you intend to spend.

Your architect will be able to give you budget costs, as a cost per square metre (or foot) for the proposed works. So you can either tell him how much in terms of new accommodation you need (called a scope of works) or what your overall budget is. The architect can work back from a budget to a buildable area, or up from a buildable are to a budget.

If you do not know either, then you will have to give the architect a description of all the individual requirements you have, and they will do some work fleshing that out into a schedule of areas with an associated cost.

It is more than likely that your aspirational scope will surpass your aspirational budget, so you need to anticipate an initial stage of design development where the architect will listen to your priorities and distill an optimum solution to the competing forces of budget and brief.

Know what you like and what you don’t..

Some architects may hate it when a client shows up with a scrapbook of magazine cuttings, but think this is great. They say a picture can tell a thousand words. Architects are particularly sensitive to imagery – it is our bread and butter, so if you put together ten images of stuff you like, and maybe five of stuff you don’t like, an architect will immediately know where you are coming from and where you want to go. Even better, if you are a couple-client, both partners should do this process. And don’t worry if you both have seemingly divergent tastes. A good architect will be able to distill the ESSENCE of what you both like and combine the two to create something that is your perfect solution. I had this recently with a couple who thought they liked the opposite, one had images of modernist purity and the other rustic charm. It was not too difficult to find them images of simple clear design but using a warm palette of dark rough timbers that had both partners realising they were not so different after all!

You can do this through magazine cutouts, or use something like Pinterest to do this on your IPad. This will help you to convey your sense of style and taste in an easy way.

Existing buildings

If you are refurbishing or extending an existing building, tell your architect what issues you have already identified -don’t wait to see if they will pick up on these. We all live in and use buildings in a different way, so one building might be perfect for my needs and totally unsuited to yours. Tell the architect what doesn’t work for you and what you want to fix.

Bring as much information as possible

Photos of the site, drawings from previous planning applications, site surveys, lease maps, legal documents on rights of way etc, aerial photographs, print outs from Google Earth or Street View, all will help inform that initial discussion. The architect will as a matter of course research all these things in due course, but if you have them to hand, produce them.