Getting the right architect on board from the start is crucial to the smooth running of your self build project.

self build guide finding the right architect

Image: Giles Pike Architects 0207 924 6257;


It pays to employ a professional with the know-how to make your budget stretch further and add value to your home. And getting the right architect on board from the start is crucial to the smooth running of your self build project. However, before you embark on finding your ideal architect or designer, your first step should be to collate your ideas – make a mood board from magazine images, scour websites such as Houzz and Pinterest, and establish a realistic budget and timescale. ‘This is your wish list for the project and should focus on what you want to achieve,’ says Rob Earl, RIBA’s client services manager (020 7580 5533; Next, draw up a brief and try to be as accurate as possible, as your architect will need clear direction. Imagine how you will use the space now, but also think about your future needs. ‘A good architect will develop your requirements into a design that reflects your aspirations, and will provide you with a home that suits your lifestyle and improves your quality of life,’ says Earl.

An architect’s fee may seem expensive, but more often than not the expertise will outweigh the expense. A decent practitioner’s remit can range from sharing ideas at the outset and drawing pictures to expediting all regulatory requirements and project managing the construction phase. Your best bet is to work out how you can make the most efficient use of an architect’s help; bear in mind that going solo can often be a false economy. If you need to raise funds for your self build, talk to your mortgage lender or secure a loan as early as possible, but always take advice when borrowing large sums – you can find a financial advisor at

Hiring a professional with the best skills for the job is key, as expertise in self-build projects and renovations will vary hugely from firm to firm. Talk to friends and neighbours about work they’ve had done, get recommendations and visit as many of the prospective architect’s projects as possible. Ask lots of questions, request client references and don’t be afraid to be a little pushy. Your dream house is a large investment, so you want to get it right from the start. If you’re not sure where to begin, kick off your search with one of the UK’s leading professional bodies.


Useful professional bodies

British Institute of Interior Design has a useful directory of interior designers, as well as suppliers (020 7628 0255;

Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists offers advice on the science of architecture, design and construction (020 7278 2206;

Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) will help you search for architects and suppliers, and hunt for members with eco accreditation (0131 229 7545;

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) champions better buildings and lists more than 3,000 chartered architects, searchable by location and specialism (020 7580 5533;

Royal Town Planning Institute offers advice to homeowners and architects on navigating the planning process (020 3122 0138;


Words: Amanda Cochrane; Jo Messenger

Kevins Column

Top self build highlights at Grand Designs Live 2019 hosted by Kevin McCloud

Find top experts, specialist exhibitors and a wealth of inspiration for your self-build or renovation project all under one roof.
Self Build Homes

Home of 2030: winning build concepts for housing of the future revealed

A self build concept is among two winners of this government-backed competition. Take a look at these future forward building ideas.
Self Build Homes

Meer End can design your dream bespoke staircase

Bespoke joinery and staircases can really lift a home. We look at how you can add a classic or contemporary staircase to your grand design.
Self Build Homes

Help to Build: Government announces new scheme for custom and self builders

With the government's announcement of a Help to Build scheme, discover the details you need to know.
Self Build Homes

Inside a narrow woodland home, built without demolishing a single tree

With a brief to preserve every tree in this dense woodland site, architect Frankie Pappas created a linear, narrow home that is threaded through this...
Self Build Homes

Discover why a prefabricated house might be perfect for you

German-engineered prefabricated homes are a byword for quality and sustainability. Discover the secrets of the methods in making these fabulous modern houses.
Self Build Homes

Why Insulated Concrete Formwork self-builds are the low energy homes of the future

Insulated Concrete Formwork Systems have arrived in the UK – a construction method that makes new builds quick to assemble and with stunning insulation properties....