Architects do not only design new buildings – many also have considerable experience in managing tenement repairs. They will also carry out building condition surveys and prepare maintenance plans.

How to find an architect

If none of your friends and neighbours can recommend an architect to you, look at the Royal Incorporation of Architects (RIAS) website to find their register. The register has an A-Z index that can be filtered by location and speciality (refurbishment, house extension/renovations or conservation.) 

Not all architects are members of the RIAS.  You can find registered architects (those who have completed their professional course and passed their Professional Practice Exam) on the Architects Registration Board list.

Once you have identified a number of suitable firms, check out their websites, ring them up to see if they have experience in tenement repairs and finally choose two or three to interview. At this point you should check how the architect plans to supervise work, what other members of the design team will be required and how fees will be calculated.

Architects and surveyors carry out similar roles in the building repair process.

Fee levels

Fees are normally based on a percentage of the work costs however the higher the total value of the work, the lower the percentage the architect will normally charge.

For example, on works costing about £50,000, you might typically pay 17 - 20% and for work costing £150,000 you might pay 12%. (These fee levels will include the cost of using a quantity surveyor for costings if required.)

Some architects may charge a fixed fee or work on a time charged basis.

The Architect's Contract

You should use the RIAS form of appointment as the contract between you and your architect. This will set out what the architect plans to do, a fee breakdown and a timetable. This contract will need to be signed by one owner or the property manager.  The individual who signs will need to take responsibility for all payments and recover costs from other owners. So get advance payments into your common maintenance account from other owners before you go ahead.  

If you have an owners association / development management association which is a corporate body then the Owners Association representative can sign and it is the Owners Association that is responsible for all payments.

What your architect will do.

1. Survey

Your architect will first carry out a survey of your building. The initial survey will be carried out from the ground and include loft inspections.  The architect will also want to look inside flats to help identify common repair problems.  Such a survey will not be able to give a full picture of stone condition or exactly what is happening at roof level so your architect may propose extending the survey by hiring a cherry picker.

The architect will then report back to you, advising you what repairs your building needs. You may at this point be advised to get further reports from a structural engineer or a stone specialist.

2. Specification

Once you have agreed a programme of repairs, your architect (or quantity surveyor QS) will make an estimate of costs. If owners find they can't afford the full costs (after investigating all the alternatives for raising funding) the architect can be asked to phase the work over 2-3 years.

The architect and QS then draw up a specification and invite a number of builders to submit tenders for the work. The tenders will be checked and if costs are too high, the specification may be cutback and a revised tender requested.

You will probably make stage payments to the builder as the work progresses so, at this point, you need to make sure all owners have paid funds into the maintenance account.

A formal contract between you and the builder will then be signed.

3. On site

On larger jobs, such as a full tenement rehabilitation, the architect may suggest you appoint a clerk of works to help to inspect the quality of the work and that the specification and drawings are being followed.  A Clerk of Works can spend more time on site than the architect but the architect will still visit the site at critical stages and hold regular progress meetings with the builder. Remember that it is the Builders duty to supervise the work on site and the Architects duty to inspect the works.

4. Principal Designer - Health and Safety Co-ordinator

You will probably also need to appoint your architect as the 'Principal Designer' to co-ordinate health and safety requirements under the Construction Design & Management (CDM) Regulations 2015.  This requires a separate agreement.  This needs to done early in the process as safety plans, risk assessments and notifications to the Health and Safety Executive must be made. Once the work starts on site, then the contractor takes on the role as 'Principal Contractor' and becomes responsible for site safety matters. The 'Principal Designer' will also explain your own role as the client in maintaining health and safety.

Next Steps

Royal Incorporation of Architects List of Members

Architects Registration Board List