What do we do?
I came to architecture a novice. I had always had an admiration for the profession, coming from a design background, but had no in depth industry knowledge. 13 years ago, just a couple of weeks into a new role as practice manager for a firm of architects in west London, I was taken aside by a lovely Scottish architect. I was quickly given a masterclass on the various stages of the architectural process. It was a baptism of fire for which I am forever grateful.
When I chat with new or potential clients that moment often comes to mind and I think how can I impart all that we do as a full-service firm without them running for the hills?
The common stereotype is that architects ‘draw pretty pictures’ of buildings. In part that’s true. Near realistic visualisations and the presentation of information is very important to us, but it only scratches the surface of our role as architects and lead consultant. Our output includes both drawn and written information. Concept drawings eventually evolve into complex CAD diagrams setting out what is to be built; the culmination of a many layered process of decision making.
This journey starts with an assessment of your site, its opportunities and constraints. We then move on to gather information from you on your lifestyle, aspirations and budgetary considerations. As these matters become clearer, your project architect will begin assembling our in-house team. They will gather the external specialists required, prior to and after planning, from arboriculturists to energy assessors, building control inspectors to party wall surveyors. This team will be led and coordinated by your T-Space architect over the life of the project.
This growing body of knowledge and expertise begins to provide the context for the design, allowing initial concept drawings to commence. The first draft of designs are circulated by the architect to you and the design team to test and refine the ideas. This process often includes several options over several iterations, evolving in response to feedback. It is an essential part of the design process and underpins any successful project.
We consist of a talented group, no one individual can do it all. While the project architect is considering preliminary ideas, others in the design team will be reviewing associated planning risks and the potential cost vs budget. As the design is resolved, the drawings become firmer and ready for statutory scrutiny, usually starting with a pre application for advice on the proposals and subsequent submission to the same local authority for consideration at planning.
The planning process is a complex and haphazard game. There may be more than one cycle of both stages required to achieve consent, especially if the project is pushing the boundaries. The architect will lead this process, negotiating with the local planning authority and advising on the best approach to take.
Once clear of planning, the remaining statutory matters are generally resolvable, with the appropriate technical solution. This is an aspect of our service few clients have knowledge of, however it is where I believe we truly differentiate ourselves as a full service practice.
Following planning the level of drawn information steps up a gear as does the project management. The architect will start to layer further information on to the drawings first submitted to secure planning consent. This will include detailed Building Regulation information from fire safety to energy consumption together with construction details, schedules and specifications. In parallel our project manager will work to ensure nothing is forgotten or left unresolved. We also employ an in-house structural engineer. This allows us to collaborate as a team on the structural solution while staying true to the original concept you first fell in love with. This vital package of construction information is then used to tender to prospective contractors.
The more gaps in this information and supporting written documentation the more gaps in the contractor’s quote and potential issues or queries on site.
T-Space can coordinate the tender process on your behalf; we maintain a shortlist of contractors whom we know to be capable and competent. The appointment of the contractor is an agreement between you and the contractor, but can be orchestrated by your T-Space architect and project manager.
Most building contracts will name a Contract Administrator whose role is to certify the various contractual stages and valuations. This role can also be fulfilled by us.
Every project is different, and we can adapt our bespoke service to suit your circumstances. So if you’re in need of some inspiration and don’t have time to learn what we all know then consider contacting T-Space and ask for the ‘full service’.
Michelle Gibbons is Managing Director of T-Space.