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8 Reasons why you can no longer build a house without professional services.

A new client recently asked if it was possible just to hire an architect for design and planning permission stages, and then to self- build with no further professional services. We thought it was worth posting our response to this very common question.  

In short, the answer is technically yes, there’s nothing legally stopping you, but in practice it no longer works. There are just too many other parties in the process who will require you to have an architect. Not having an architect when you need one could (indirectly) prevent your build being: properly financed, legally certified, or even being added to the register of compliant buildings.

Tradition of Casual Self- Building

It used to be quite common to get planning permission using an architect or other professional, and then self- build with no further professional services. However, since the financial crisis, Priory Hall and the Pyrite scandal, the government and banks have become more conservative and now demand information, work and legal undertakings from self- builders that only an architect can provide. 
Aside from the administrative and commercial check- points listed below; professional services for technical design and construction make every stage of the process easier, less risky and improve the building at every juncture. Omitting these services is simply a false economy. 

8 Checkpoints Which Make this Practically Impossible

You can technically attempt the construction phase without an architect, but in the past, clients have found themselves coming back to us when certain paperwork was requested:
  1. If you need any bank finance, particularly a mortgage which will be secured on the property, they will effectively insist on an architect- administered contract. This is because they want signed undertakings from an insured professional to the effect that the money is being spent properly on the building. We cannot responsibly sign such an undertaking without being the administrators of the building contract, and we cannot do this without construction drawings, and the other materials created in fee stage 3.  
  2. Stage 3 is about technical design, and getting the price right.  Please follow the link for a complete description of what we do to bring designs from planning stage to construction stage. It’s very hard to coordinate input from suppliers without a set of architect’s construction drawings, for example. 
  3. If you want to involve a Quantity Surveyor, which is very important when the budget is tight, you will need a set of drawings which show your various design decisions in detail. Planning stage drawings are not really detailed enough for this.   
  4. The Building Control System was expanded in 2014 to include one off houses, and unless you opt out completely, a new house project will require complete documentation on  the BCMS System. “Opt out” buildings, in my opinion, will be more difficult to sell in the future because there will be less recourse for building defects. In practice, you probably need an architect for the role of Assigned Certifier  but you do not legally have to hire a registered professional for this. If you have plenty of time on your hands to get up to speed, and if you fully understand construction you can download a handbook and do it yourself.  I would advise clients to avoid buying “opt out” buildings unless they had architects opinions on compliance, effectively certification under the system which existed before 2014. These result from a full architectural service.  
  5. If you decide to pursue certification under the Building Control legislation you have to create an inspection and certification plan for the building, procure proper construction drawings and collect certificates from the various parties involved in the building work. Effectively, you need an architect or an extremely experienced technologist to create these materials. The legal term for the person in charge of Building Control is “Assigned Certifier“. This work is normally done by architects or other registered professionals. 
  6. Unless you opt out of building control completely, the submissions will be checked by the local Building Control Authority who may reject it. You cannot live in the house or insure it without the final submission being accepted, so a DIY assigned certifier is probably a false economy.
  7. Also, inspections of the building work by the Building Control Authority are rare but possible. They are targeted to higher risk projects, so inspections of your building site by Local Authority officials are probably more likely when registered professionals are not employed on the project.   
  8. You have certain responsibilities under Health and Safety legislation when you undertake building work, and most people take care of these by appointing a competent person for the design process and the construction processes. Usually the builder and the architect assume responsibility for Health and Safety. Please follow this link to my website for a complete description. 
We have agreed packages of services on this kind of reduced service basis over the last couple of years, and it never really works out. There are just too many other parties in the process who will require you to have an architect.
My clear advice would be not to attempt a large construction process without an architect. It can often be impossible for architects to join a project once construction has started, for a variety of complex professional reasons, making this a bad and largely irreversible decision. 
Not having an architect when you need one could prevent your build being: properly financed, legally certified, or even being added to the register of compliant buildings.
These are very real risks.  

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