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Selecting a Residential Architect

This is a quick Blog/Check List on Selecting your Architect for your project. Please feel free to contact us to obtain a copy of: How to Choose your Architect which goes into the below in finer detail.


Does the architect have experience in land analysis and site selection in your market?

Does the architect have a mortgage expert and/or estate agent they can recommend?

Do you like the architect’s work?

Does it show high-level creativity and problem solving?

Does the architect have a range of work, or a singular style? Do you feel that you can communicate openly and effectively with the architect?

Do you feel that the architect is listening to your needs?

Is your potential architect registered with the Architects Registration Board (ARB), and are they a member firm of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)?

Many offering architectural services are not licensed architects and have not gone through the rigorous schooling, internship and testing (which can take up to 12 years).

Is your architect familiar with any particular rules or regulations that impact the design of your new home?

Do they have at least 10 years of professional experience?

Has your architect won any awards or been featured in any publications?

Does your architect understand sustainable architecture including rainwater collection, geothermal, solar and zero net energy homes?

Does your architect have personal experience as a builder or developer, so that they intimately understand the construction process?

Is your architect committed to life-long learning? Do they attend seminars and industry conventions?

Does your architect sit down and provide you with a roadmap of your entire project prior to being hired, or do they just give you a proposal for their services?

Design Approach

Does your architect clearly articulate what the design process is going to look like, how long it is going to take and what deliverables you will receive?

Does your architect provide you with 3D models and visualisation from the start of the design process, or does that come later on in the project?

Does your architect provide photo-realistic renders or just screen shots of the model?

Architecture is an art and a science. Does your architect seem to have an artistic flair and also a certain level of precision?

Their artistic side might be revealed by how they dress and their precision might be evidenced by the questions that they ask or their level of knowledge of specific minutiae, such as building science.

Does your architect understand how a building can impact the health of its’ occupants and how to build a “healing building”?

Personal Attitude

Does your architect talk to you as a peer or do they “talk down to you”?

Does your architect dictate “this is the way it is” or do they take the time to explain their reasoning?

Is your architect someone you’d want to grab a beer with? Is this going to be pleasant and fun?

Are you Ready to Start a Conversation about Your Dream Project?

We’re ready to help make your vision a reality. To get started, give us a call at 01322 837810 or an email at info@thearchitectsatelier.com today!


Party wall notices and agreements

Architects Atelier gets asked allot about Party Wall Notices and Agreements. Here’s a basic summary of what you need to know about Party Walls – what they are, what the paperwork is all about, and when it’s needed.

Should I bother ?

Yes! The party wall process places a statutory obligation on a person doing building work to notify their neighbour if it affects a party wall. If so, they must enter into a party wall agreement. It is as important as planning consent or building regulation approval. If you don’t do it, your neighbour could get an injunction stopping you.

What is a party wall?

In simple terms, a ‘party wall’, is a wall which divides two properties; a party structure could be a ceiling/floor which divides properties such as flats; and a party fence wall is a boundary wall astride the line of junction. If you want to carry out building work which affects any of these, then you may need to give your neighbour a Party Wall Notice.

However, notice is sometimes needed where there is no direct contact and where structures are completely in your land. If you are carrying out any excavations, for example, forming foundations, reducing ground levels, or constructing a basement, you need to check if your neighbour’s property is within three metres of your work. If it is, you probably need to serve a notice.

Take a look at this flowchart to work out if you should have/need to serve a notice.


What type of work requires a Party Wall Agreement?

Any work that can impact the above. Loft conversions and extensions, basements, rebuilding or repairing a boundary wall; excavation within three metres of your neighbour’s property, which could include new drainage (even if you are not attached to them); building on, or up to the boundary between neighbours.

How do I issue a Party Wall Notice?

You can issue your own notices and the Party Wall Act is specific about the information they must contain. Get it wrong, and the notices will not be valid. Although you can send a letter, standard forms are usually used. These are available on our website. Make sure you get the information on the notice correct. You may also need to serve different notices for different sections of the Party Wall Act.

Remember to serve a notice to all neighbours with an interest of longer than 12 months. If you have a block of flats next door, this may mean each flat and the freeholder. Check you are giving the required (in most cases) two months’ notice before you start work.

For more help, you could engage an experienced RIBA Architects like us.  Remember if the notices are wrong, or do not contain the right information they will not be valid. If you have to start again, the two month notice period also starts again. If your neighbour dissents from your notice you will have to appoint a party wall surveyor. The Act says you cannot act as your own party wall surveyor. If you do not appoint a surveyor then your neighbour can do this for you.

What do party wall surveyors do?

The surveyor will look over your plans, check the notices are OK and may ask for more details or clarifications to make sure that the work is unlikely to cause damage to your neighbour’s buildings. The surveyor will visit your neighbour’s property and agree a record of its condition before your work starts. They will come to agreement and serve what is known as a Party Wall Award. This will set out the works that are authorised and what happens if something were to go wrong. It is a binding, legally enforceable agreement.

The Award may also include direction as to how the work is undertaken, access to your neighbour, the need for financial security, what will happen if damage is caused and will deal with any costs, including surveyors fees. In most cases you will be responsible for your neighbour’s costs.

If the surveyors cannot agree, then they will refer the matter to a ‘Third Surveyor’ for arbitration. The third surveyor will prepare and serve a binding award.

I have received a party wall notice, what do I do?

Don’t ignore it! The party wall notices will tell you that your neighbour is planning to carry out some building works that may affect your property or boundary walls.

Within 14 days, you must reply in writing to confirm whether you agree to the work stated in the notice, or dissent from the notice. If you don’t, you will automatically have dissented and within a further 10 days you must appoint a surveyor. If you do not, then your neighbour will appoint one for you. You may be able to agree with your neighbour to use just one surveyor to act for you both.

Can I stop the works or appeal a party wall award?

The Party Wall Act grants statutory rights to work on a party wall or near to your property, so providing these are adhered to, you cannot use the Party Wall Act to stop any works. Instead you will need to object on planning permission grounds. You can appeal the Party Wall Award in the County Court within 14 days of it being served.

Can I get compensation?

Not usually, but if your neighbour uses a part of a party wall that was built by you, he may have to compensate you for the cost of building it.

What happens if damage is caused to my property?

The Party Wall Award will detail how any damage is to be made good. The surveyors will agree the work and liability and your neighbour can do the repair works. Alternatively, you can ask for a payment in lieu so that you can carry out the repair works.

Any more questions?

Do you have questions about party walls that haven’t been answered here? Comment and let us know.

You can also get in touch via the contact form on this website or call us on 01322 837 810.




Implementing Eco-Friendly Systems

Homebuyers and businesses looking for commercial premises are increasingly interested in curbing the impact the building has on the environment.

Implementing eco-friendly systems, therefore, can potentially improve the commercial return of your development, in addition to increasing the positive impact on the environment.

However, what’s involved in implementing eco-friendly systems?

Using energy from renewable sources, and implementing products, techniques, or technologies that reduce the amount of energy needed to heat the property, can all reduce a building’s negative impact on the environment.

In some situations, it’s possible to reduce the need for a heating or cooling system to almost zero.

The Passivhaus Standard

One way to make the building as eco-friendly as possible is to design and build it according to the Passivhaus standard. This involves building the property in a way that maximises its airtightness. There’s also, usually, mechanical ventilation included in the design.

Of course, this is not an entirely energy-neutral solution. Energy is required to produce the materials needed to build the airtight structure. It is a solution, however, that’s far more eco-friendly than a structure built according to minimum environmental standards and a great selling point.

Renewable Energy

Installing a heating system using a renewable energy source is another way of making the property more eco-friendly. Burning fossil fuels like coal or gas to generate energy is very damaging to the environment. The process releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which contributes to the greenhouse effect and global warming. Renewable energy sources such as those listed below, don’t exacerbate global warming. Also, unlike coal and gas which are finite resources and will eventually run out, renewable energy sources will always be available.

Options include the following:

  • Solar energy
  • Heat pumps
  • Wind turbines
  • Biomass
  • Hydro power

For example, fitting solar panels to roofs and heat pumps that heat radiators and water, will greatly reduce the energy required to heat and power a home or other premises. Similarly, fitting a wind turbine to power a commercial building greatly reduces energy bills and environmental impact.

Other Ways to Improve the Energy Efficiency of a Property

There are a number of other ways to make a property more energy efficient. This includes options for existing properties that can be applied during renovation or refurbishment work.

  • Insulation

Fitting insulation in lofts and wall cavities is a must for all modern buildings. Insulation should be added to older buildings to improve their energy efficiency. This is a more expensive energy reducing strategy, but is highly effective and of huge benefit to the environment.

  • Using Recycled Materials

Manufacturing building materials from scratch uses huge amounts of energy. One of the ways you can reduce this impact on your next development, redevelopment, or refurbishment project is to use recycled materials.

Recycled materials are often cheaper to buy and the impact of their production on the environment is far reduced, because it takes less energy to refabricate them from already existing materials.

Reusing materials in this way means that fewer materials need to be manufactured from scratch. A double positive for the environment and a plus for your pocket too!

  • Leaving Outside areas as Natural as Possible

Creating driveways and paved areas are not particularly environmentally friendly practises. The processes and materials involved in creating hard surfaces for walking or driving, use massive amounts of energy, plus their manufacture disturbs the natural habitat of insects, birds, and other animals.

Meadow gardens and areas with lots of plants, including wild flowers, are much better for the environment and the ecosystems it supports.

However, if you prefer to install a driveway, or paved areas in your development, but you’re concerned about the environmental impact, or you’d like to create a build that lessens the environmental impact, then you could go down the recycled materials route outlined above.

  • Installing LED lighting

LED lighting has a lower impact on the environment. It uses less energy and lasts longer than conventional lighting.

  • Double glazing

Installing double glazed windows, or secondary double glazing, is energy efficient as it prevents warm air escaping and cooler air getting in. This is good for the environment and reduces heating bills.

Taking as many of these steps as possible or focusing entirely on implementing eco-friendly systems will help you achieve your commercial and environmental goals.