Sample Project

Sample of a project

To show the stages of a full architectural service, ‘The Tardis’, a recently completed project, is used. There are typically seven stages.

1. Feasibility

Having bought a small house close to the river and city centre, our clients John and Ann asked us to look at the potential of the project. John was keen to build to passive standard, which is an aim of the practice. The early 20th century house they were living in had wonderful brickwork and internal details, but was freezing in winter, so comfort was high on their agenda. We gathered the information we needed: orientation, proximity of neighbouring buildings, survey information on the site and boundaries. We discussed their brief, which included an area for a baby grand piano, sheltered outside living space, and a place for their two dogs.

2. Sketch Design

This is the stage where we teased out the requirements of the brief. The site’s constraints sparked the idea to curve the single storey house around a courtyard. We looked at the organisation of the spaces, taking into consideration light, views, and the restricted width of the site at the front. Proposed wall thicknesses were greater than standard due to increased insulation, which had an impact on our room sizes. With rough layouts and thoughts about materials to be used, we did an approximate calculation of the building cost. Having a quantity surveyor to help with costings is recommended, and you should also allow for some input from a structural engineer.

3. Detail Design

The house began to come alive for John and Ann as we discussed the volume of the living spaces and high level windows, bringing in light from different aspects throughout the day. Comfort was a priority, so we proposed underfloor heating with a ventilation system that delivers fresh, warmed air. Together with the client, we considered the various materials to be used. One was the polished concrete floor, where we played around with different combinations of coloured stone and glass. This would be a strong design statement, which would help us make decisions on other elements such as sanitary ware, door and kitchen finishes.

4. Planning

The local council approved the project in principal at a pre-planning meeting, giving the clients confidence to proceed. We tied down the design, ensured that all regulations and standards were met, prepared the planning documentation, then made the application. John and Ann had shown the proposal to their neighbours, as a courtesy and an opportunity to explain their idea and how it might impact on the neighbourhood. We had been careful to design a street front that was similar in scale and proportion to adjoining houses.

Sometimes the council attaches conditions to a grant of permission. In this case, they asked that the floor of the house be raised in case of flooding by the river.

5. Documentation

Working drawings show how every part of the house is built, including all services. Timber frame was chosen for the structure, made off site in the workshop, which is better than on a wet, windy site. To ensure that everything fitted when it arrived on site, we checked and rechecked the manufacturer’s drawings before fabrication.

Specifications of materials to be used were prepared, along with schedules for windows, doors, sanitary ware and ironmongery. Calculations were done to determine optimum insulation thicknesses, and we noted that the house remained cool during a heat wave while the building was in progress.

6. Contractor Selection

In this case, the client acted as the main contractor, as he had a background in construction, and really wanted to be involved throughout. More usually, there are two routes: sending out a tender package to a number of contractors, then selecting one, or negotiating a price with a single preferred contractor.

Over the years, we have built relationships with the best builders, carpenters, electricians, tilers etc. We enjoy working with someone who takes pride in what they do, and respect their opinions as to how they can improve the project. We advise on the selection of contractor, and then you will sign a contract that shows the cost, scope and timeframe for your project.

In this project, the client signed a contract with the timber frame manufacturer.

7. Construction

The clients were decisive early on, which helped prevent costly changes on site. We made regular site inspections and discussed any queries that arose as building progressed. At times, a better solution would evolve. For instance, the underside of the deep overhang to the curved courtyard was originally zinc, but we felt that more warmth and interest was needed. Oak battens were chosen, and the joiner enlisted the help of his experienced father, as the precise placement of timbers on a curve was challenging.

As the end approached, we oversaw snagging to ensure that everything was complete and functioning as it should.

Finally, the family moved in. They were delighted with the comfort, light pouring in from different angles, the warmth underfoot. And the dogs have the best shed in the world!


From the first ideas doodled on a site plan to tidying up loose ends, the phases above describe the course of a project. Although ‘typical’ would describe the sequence, each project is different and may require less stages, or an added stage such as interior design.

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