A to Z for Domestic Residential Work

Key to success - OC Architects in Wiltshire & Swindon

Key to success

The key to success is to hire a qualified architect, and to have a written contract in place. Most non-architects who misuse the term 'architect' may not be insured, nor are they regulated. If they make a mistake, trying to recover any costs from them may be limited. By law architects must have professional indemnity cover, and may be struck off the register if they don't. Once appointed, an architect will help you develop your ideas. They will give you an indication of what is and is not achievable. Draw upon their in-depth knowledge as well as analytical and design skills, the design process should be the start of a very rewarding relationship. If it is not, change your architect.

Architects should not ever put their design interests above their clients.

Drawings - OC Architects in Wiltshire & Swindon


Accurate drawings and understanding of design constraints are crucial to the success of a project. Making plans of the existing building or site can be a time-consuming exercise. About 98% of all buildings we survey are not square! Construction drawings are not estate agent drawings. Failure to record accurately dimensions can mean that a staircase will not fit. To produce accurate drawings we use a in-house 3D laser scanner to accurately measure the building, click here for a demo. Some contractors provide a design and build service. With this set up you lose quality control of the work, which explains why in the commercial world, these types of contracts are falling out of favor.

Paperwork - OC Architects in Wiltshire & Swindon


Statutory regulations come in two flavors, Planning and Building regulations. Planning is the least understood. Understanding how planners work enable you to engage with them and increase your chances of obtaining consent. Planner are asset keepers. Who owns the assets is of little interest to them, how estate 'England' functions is their prime objective.

Building control is also important. Checking regulations compliance is critical to the success of the project. We use local authorities for building control works. Why? Local authorities are not partisan. For more information on Local Authority Building Control click here.

Design and detail - OC Architects in Wiltshire & Swindon

Design and detail

Architects say that the devil is in the detail. Planning drawings are a representation of a building, they do not show how it is put together. However, a good architect, at the planning stage, will have a view to its construction. Failure to do so, may mean that the project is doomed to go over budget or worse, it could transpire to be undeliverable. Drawings contain information, which has a cost. An unassuming large technical drawing can cost thousand of pounds to produce. Poor drawing information leaves a myriad of unresolved issues on site that could cost be expensive to resolve. Once you have a good set of drawings the work is defined. However you may still need to ensure that items like Party Wall Agreements and public Build Over Notices are resolved before you sign any building contract. Having a court injunction slapped on to you because you failed to secure these agreements is a real show stopper.

Protect yourself - OC Architects in Wiltshire & Swindon

Protect yourself

It still pains us as to how many domestic clients spend large sums of monies without having signed a contract, or having signed one that is biased to the contractor. An architect will guide you through the various types of off-the-shelf contracts. Standard contracts cover a lot of eventualities that occur during a project, such as the case when a builder not completing on time etc. Standard tribunal contracts, are seen by the courts to be balanced and chances of redress will increase. Standard contracts require the works to be well defined, with a good set of drawings and specifications against which the builder will be judged upon for any shortcomings. Building contracts have a reputation for being very complicated and difficult to set up and administer. Standard domestic building contracts are simple contracts and rely on implied terms. A knowledge of case law is needed to make them work. For more information please click here.

Picking the right contractor - OC Architects in Wiltshire & Swindon

Picking the right contractor

A contractor's reputation is as important as the structure of his business: Local authorities should have a good feel for differentiating the good from the bad. 'One man band' contractors can provide an excellent service and are relatively competitive. However recourse is their Achilles heal. Medium size contractors have the resource but the quality of service varies greatly depending on the site foreman. They also tend to be more expensive.

All contractors should carry "All Risk Insurance." Their insurance details need to be checked before signing a contract. In the eyes of the law, contractors are the client's employees and the client is responsible for any harm to the public or neighbors they may cause.

The law and Health and Safety - OC Architects in Wiltshire & Swindon

The law and Health and Safety

At Safety Executive meeting (HSE) we attended the inspector reported that the saddest part of his job was to visit contractors' wives to tell them that they were now widows. Since 2018 the Health and Safety law has changed and domestic clients now need to make sure that they have the right people in place to look after health and safety on-site (Principle Designer and Contractor). In case of an accident, the person responsible is the person who commissioned the works, the client.

Once employed, an Architect should be able to take on the HSE role of Principle Designer. For more information click here to access the HSE's website

A Victim of rogue builders - OC Architects in Wiltshire & Swindon

A victim of rogue builders

How do you protect yourself from rogue builders? Ideally the person who designed the extension should be the one who checks the on-site work. Most 'architectural designers' do not provide this service. Building Control have only a limited remit with regards to on-site checking and cannot be relied upon in law to protect you (Murphy vs Brentwood). For small domestic extensions, we provide an on-site hourly rate service where we visit the site, unannounced, during the critical construction phase, to ensure the work is carried out in accordance with our design.

Remember, that it is easier to resolve an issue on site than it is in a Court of Law. Click here to see the Citizens advice bureau on how to spot "cowboy builders."

Paying the builder - OC Architects in Wiltshire & Swindon

Paying the builder

How much do I pay the builder and what if he also wants a deposit? The banks are asking for a certified Certificate of Payment. What do I do? Clients should only pay a builder for the work he has done and never put down a deposit. Most builders "front end a contract", i.e. they overcharge the client so that they can buy future material without borrowing from the bank. Also never pay for material held off site. If the client overpays the builder and they go into liquidation or will not return to site, recovery of the monies could be difficult. The concept of retention is standard within the industry. Clients should retain some of the monies to be paid to the contractor, then pay back a proportion at the end of the project, and the remaining at the end of the defect liability period. This keeps the contactor's interest in finishing all those jobs that do not make him money. For more information on certificate click here