The professionals that you need in a project
Whether starting out on a project or being already a developer. You might not be aware of the professionals that you need to help you out with your project. I hope this list helps you to find out the right one. I haven’t organised them in any particular order so you can go directly to anyone.
The title of Architect is protected in England, so only qualified Architects registered with the Architects Registration Board (ARB) can call themselves Architect. Usually, clients like to work with RIBA registered Architects, but RIBA is optional. The mandatory registration for Architects is the ARB.
An Architect has the technical and design knowledge to guide you through the whole process with your project. They can prepare for your project design and technical drawings and specifications. Architects will help you to identify potential issues, recommend other professionals, inform you about required surveys, submit applications on your behalf, and even Project Manage. They have an understanding of a building as a whole. Therefore, working with an Architect through the whole process gives results that work together well from the inside out. Their “generalist” knowledge makes them good to inform you about the things that you might be missing out as well as providing a big range of services.
When designated as Principal Designers by the client, they are the pre-construction Project Manager and they are responsible to design with Health and Safety in mind (CDM regulations). I like to think that an Architect is like the conductor of an orchestra because usually the information provided by other consultants is based on the drawings of an Architect. At the same time, they coordinate consultants to make sure everything works together and is on track.
There are many occasions when an Architect is not the professional that you need. For example, if you are making only internal alterations or if you have someone that can make you some layouts like a Structural Engineer, an Architectural Technologist, or an Interior Designer.
A Chartered Architectural Technologist needs to be registered with the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT). They can lead all the technical side of a project and be good Project Managers as well. If you need Building Control drawings or Construction details, they will be an excellent help.
You will find Architects working often with Architectural Technologists and big offices usually have both of them. The main difference between them is that the first one has a more humanistic and design background whilst the second has a deeper technical knowledge.
A Project Manager related to construction projects is the professional that manages the contract administration and the trades on-site during construction.
In bigger projects, a Project Manager might get involved at an earlier stage. They usually get involved at the same time as the Main Contractor. I would generally look for a Project Manager at the same time as the Main contractor. It is then when you have the technical information and specification ready to be shared with them.
Something that usually confuses clients is that the Main Contractor would have already a Project Manager so they don´t see why they need another one. To put it simply, the Project Manager from the Main contractor works for the Construction company, not for you. Although he would cover the management of the builders and trades, it is important to have someone client-sided looking for the contract administration. When the bills get paid, how often, how to deal with conflicts, when and how to buy materials, etc.
You can also Project Manage your own projects, but this is not something that you should take lightly. A Project Manager has training and experience that is very important. There are many risks on-site regarding the health and safety of the workers and unforeseen construction issues. A Project Manager needs to be quick to assess and solve issues and is responsible, as you would be if anything happens.
An Interior Architect is not a Qualified Architect if is not registered with the ARB. This professional is something in between an Architect and an Interior Designer. They have a deeper building knowledge. Therefore they can suggest making some changes to the architecture of the building. For example, to create an arch or to add a simple partition here and there.
An Interior Architect creates interiors and does space planning. The focus is not only on the surfaces and decorations, as an Interior Designer does. Architects, Interior Architects, Interior Designers, and Home stylists are all professions related to each other. Their technical knowledge of a building usually decreases from the first to the latest one. That said, there are many stylists and Interior Designers with good technical knowledge acquired by experience. There are also many Architects with a great design eye as well.
An Interior Designer creates concepts for interiors based on surface treatments, furniture layouts, and accessories. They are able to completely change the look of a room applying different colours, materials, and a selection of furniture. Updated with current trends in decorations and interiors, they can help you to find and choose beautiful pieces for your home.
Interior Designers are sometimes involved from the beginning in projects led by design. They can work closely with the Architect to make sure certain things can be done and will work well with the technology of the building. Sometimes Architects can also do the Interior Design of a project since they have a mixed knowledge of design and building technology. Architect´s interiors tend to be different from Interior Designer´s interiors. They conceive interiors as part of the Architecture of the building. There are other Architects that have been trained as Interior Designers and vice versa providing both ways of approaching interiors.
Ideally, you will want to bring the Interior Designer to your project at the same time as an Architect. If you bring the Interior designer at a later stage, they will be limited by the construction of the building.
A home stylist is the professional that you need when you want to give an update to your home playing with decorations and accessories. We tend to have paintings, jars, cushions, and books all around without a specific order. A home stylist knows how to place them in specific places following harmonic proportions to create beautiful compositions that just work.
Interior Designers can also be fantastic stylists and you would normally work with them at the very end of a project. Just after furnishing, a home stylist will add that hint of life to the space with accessories and decorations. Styling a home will make the space look much better and full of life. They are a great professional to consider for home styling before selling or renting a high-end property.
A Structural Engineer is the professional that you need when there are parts of the project needing structural support. Their calculations and reports are generally more expensive than architectural ones. That is why I would suggest working with your Architect and Structural Engineer at the same time. The engineer can then work over the architectural plans instead of creating ones by himself. Moreover, the exchange of information between both parts turns out more successful. This is because they can discuss options together that would work best from the structural support and from the design perspective.
A clear example of this is when the building needs a column. The Structural Engineer might specify a squared profile whilst introducing a slightly bigger circular column might just go better with the design of the house.
Structural Engineers can also analyse cracks and structural movements and advice on the best solutions. After all, the most important part of a building is its structure. That is why Structural Engineers have a great level of responsibility over their shoulders too.
There are many occasions in which you will need the help of a Building Surveyor. A Chartered Building Surveyor is registered with the RICS. They have a broad knowledge of building construction and building defects. Building surveyors can inspect properties to analyse how they were built and identify potential issues. They can also do valuations and act as an expert during legal procedures.
Their subject is so broad that they are usually specialised in a couple of matters. You will need to find the right one to work on your project.
A building surveyor generally comes to a project before altering an existing building, before buying it, or after some works have already been done and there are claims or disputes in need of an external eye to give an opinion.
Mechanical Engineers are specialist professionals that you need in bigger projects. They design and specify the main service systems of buildings like electricity, plumbing, drainage, and heating.
You wouldn’t usually need them in individual family homes or apartments unless you are looking for a very specialised system.
On bigger buildings, they are usually involved from the technical stage. When the full design has already been signed off by the client. Ideally, all consultants should be part of a big project from the Design Stage because there would be fewer design changes later on at Technical Stage. However, the truth is that developers would want to save that money on fees and just get everything to work together at Technical Stage.
When questions arise at Planning stage about the mechanical systems that will be used in a building, you will need also to bring a ME on board at that stage.
Party Wall Surveyor
Party Wall surveyors are one specialisation of Building Surveyors. Since Building Surveyors can cover quite a big range of services, they are generally specialised in providing one service more than the others.
You need a Party Wall surveyor when you have a shared boundary, wall, or floor with a neighbour. It is a legal requirement to inform your neighbours about the works that you intend to do on the shared structure and is the role of the Party Wall surveyor to mediate between the parts. This is particularly important in old buildings where any small work could destabilise the structure and affect the neibhbours property.
A Party Wall surveyor would keep a record of the before and after situation to both sides of the structure to make sure claims aren’t based on existing issues.
It might seem that Civil Engineers only take part in big complex buildings, bridges, and roads. However, a Civil Engineer is sometimes the professional that you need when a transport assessment needs to be provided for a Planning Application.
In many developments, parking requirements, road access during construction, and street diversions need to be considered from the beginning. If you need to provide some kind of report or assessment to support your Planning Application, you will find specialised Civil Engineers that will be able to help you out with this at that stage. It is also fairly common to have conditions set up by the planners regarding this matter. You might need to use the services of these professionals before and after Planning.
A Quantity Surveyor is a professional able to quantify building materials at different stages of a project.
It is not a professional that you definitely need, but one that you might want to work with. They will help you to keep track of your budget.
Generally, Quantity Surveyors or QS get involved in a project during technical design. It is at this stage that they will have enough information to provide an up-to-date market price for every material. Projects also can take months to go through planning and they can have many changes during the technical stage. It makes sense then to bring a QS on board when things are much clearer and signed off by a client.
However, in small projects like individual homes or extensions, it is beneficial to work with a QS at Design Stage. They can help you decide between a couple of options if you are concerned about the budget. It is a smart thing to do because nobody wants to go through the whole Planning process just to discover at the end that they can’t afford the project they got approval for, right?
This is one of the consultants that not many developers think they would need. However, I’ve worked on many projects where different surveys had to be done by Acoustic consultants.
Buildings with at least a few units or plots with several houses could be surrounded by or be located next to a road. Again during planning, there is a big chance that a noise survey is requested by the planners.
They will want to check different things like the level of noise that will get into the flats or houses or the level of noise that neighbours will need to stand during the construction.
It’s always interesting to see the level of detail that sometimes needs to be provided during planning regarding specific machinery to be used, systems, and specification.
From Roman remains still being found in central London to ancient burial fields in empty suburban areas.
It is very important to inspect the ground and research the history of the place to prevent destroying any discovery. This is something that you will discuss with the planners for new buildings. They might ask you to get a report from an archaeologist.
Sometimes it might be a heritage report and some other times you might need to fully uncover the ground to gather and analyse samples before you can finalise the Planning Application.
A geologist is an important professional that you need on many occasions. Many houses are currently built over contaminated land. It is very common to be asked for a ground investigation when there are records that anticipate this on the area.
As with Civil Engineers, you might need to keep working with a geologist after getting planning approval because there might be remediation works that need to be done before construction starts.
Sustainability is really important for City Councils and everybody in construction is aware of the impact we make on the land.
For new builds or bigger projects, an environmentalist might be the professional that you need. They analyse the impact of your construction project on the land and its inhabitants. This is something that would be requested by the council to be submitted with a Planning Application. Depending on the location, the Council will provide the information that needs to be submitted.
As you can see, there are plenty of professionals that can get involved in a project. Being aware of who they are and what they do is essential to be ready when it’s required.
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