28.08.15 by Nick Sayes

Ask An Architect: Using an Architect for a Small House Alteration

Q: Should I use an architect even for a small alteration to my house?

A: There is sometimes a perception that engaging an architect is a very costly exercise. However, a registered architect can bring a broad range of skills to any project and can potentially save you money and time in the long run by helping to avoid your project becoming another ‘horror story’.

We all know that an architect designs buildings, sometimes beautiful buildings, but what is less known is that an architect can guide you through what can be a very complicated planning process; they can arrange procuring discounted materials and fittings, such as tiles, lighting and bathroom fittings for your dream alteration, and most importantly, they can advise on the form of contract that you have with your builder to make sure that you are getting the best possible protection.

If you engage an architect to be involved during the construction phase of a building project, they can mediate between you and the builder, they can ensure that the standard of the work is as specified and they will make sure you do not pay for anything before you get it. This can be very helpful if a builder suddenly approaches you with dreaded variations to the agreed price. You will have the support of a professional that is trained to assess what is reasonable in terms of the original contract documentation.

Although a more established architecture practice may not wish to be involved in a smaller project, it is worth looking at the style of an architecture practice that you like the work of and getting in contact with them. They may be able to put you in contact with some talented young architects that are just starting their practice and would be full of boundless enthusiasm for your dream alteration.

As an anecdote for this, many years ago when I came back from overseas to start my own practice, Nicolas Stevens from Stevens Lawson Architects put me in touch with some wonderful people in Grey Lynn to look at a bathroom alteration. Although the project was very small on a very tight budget, I put all my energy into the project, we used cheap materials such as concrete and plywood in interesting ways and we sourced second hand baths and other bits and pieces. The resulting bathroom was unique and subsequently won the bathroom of the year. I really appreciated the opportunity and they in turn received a very high level of service. Some years later, and after a few more alterations to the kitchen and living areas, when the clients sold the house it was at the time one of the highest selling villas in the area.

There are a number of talented young architects starting their offices in the Ponsonby area, and they would love the opportunity to work on your dream project. Just ask around, look in magazines and online for something that suits your style. An architect can design solutions that exceed your expectations, and they can help advise on the construction and planning process to make sure that those dreams don’t turn into nightmares.

Daniel Marshall
Published in Ponsonby News, November 2014

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