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Should I approach builders first before obtaining planning permission and building warrant approval?


Most builders will be unable to provide you with anything more than a very rough estimate without seeing any drawings.  This is the main reason you should have plans drawn up first.  Another important factor is that a builder may not be aware of an existing piece of structure which could require alteration and therefore have an effect on the overall costs.  Having a full set of drawings will allow you to send them out to several builders and let you compare the quotes.


Are your fees expensive?


That depends on what you perceive as ‘expensive’.  If you compare us with traditional architectural practices then we are considerably cheaper.  Most will offer a good service, but their fees are high at between 10-15% of the estimated building costs.  Therefore for a £40k extension, their fees could be between £4,000 - 6,000.  On the other hand there are some companies and individuals who offer a budget service for a few hundred pounds, however the drawings can often be of poor quality and will have insufficient information for your builder.  They are also usually unqualified and uninsured.  Alcon Design is a registered practice with CIAT (Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists) and its Principle is a fully qualified Chartered Architectural Technologist.  As such, we work to a strict code of conduct set down by CIAT and carry full professional indemnity insurance set at a level appropriate to the size of projects we are involved in.


What is the difference between an Architectural Technologist and an Architect?


Chartered Architectural Technologists are specialists in the technology of architecture, building design and construction.  They are highly educated and trained design professionals that are skilled and qualified to offer and provide advice and services for all types of buildings and construction projects, from simple extensions to complex commercial projects.  They operate to strict standards enforced by a Code of Conduct issued by CIAT.  All practising members have to keep themselves informed of current developments and practices appropriate to the type and level of their responsibilities, and to comply with the Institute’s guidelines of CPD (Continuing Professional Development).  Architects carry out a similar role, but an Architect’s training and emphasis is the design and philosophy of architecture.  Most clients prefer to work with Chartered Architectural Technologists due to their technical expertise and value for money.


Do your fees include Council Planning & Building Warrant fees?


The planning and building warrant fees are separate to our fees and will be payable by you to the local authority.  We will advise you of the costs in writing prior to making the submissions.


If my project requires a Structural Engineer, is this included in the price?


If your project includes structural alterations you are likely to require the services of a Structural Engineer.  We will always advise you if this is the case.  Their fees are separate to ours and they will quote and invoice directly.  We can arrange a Structural Engineer for you or if you prefer to appoint one yourself, we will be happy to work with them.


Is postage and printing included in your fees?


Yes, all postage and printing is included for submissions to Planning and Building Control.  We only charge printing costs if you require additional copies or issues to third parties.  We provide a full set of drawings to your appointment builder.


How detailed are your drawings?


All our drawings are highly detailed for the purposes of obtaining a building warrant.  This results in a set of drawings which your builder can accurately quote from and also build from.


Are you insured?


We carry full Professional Indemnity insurance and Public Liability insurance.


What is the difference between Planning and Building Standards Approval?


A common misconception is that planning permission and a building warrant are the same thing.  Unfortunately this is not the case and the two are entirely separate.  Some projects only require one while others require both.  We will advise you which permissions you need to have in place before you commence your building project. A planning application gives opportunity for proposed development to be considered in the context of its local setting.  Some things that the Planning department will consider include if your development overlooks or overshadows neighbouring property as well as proposed colour and materials of finishes.  Some small alterations can be carried out without the need for planning permission and this is known as Permitted Development.  We can advise you if your proposals will require permission or not.  A building warrant is normally required if you intend to erect, alter, extend, demolish or change the use of any structure.  Building Standards concerns all aspects of the structure both internally and externally.  They check for compliance with the Building Regulations to ensure public health and safety, conservation of fuel and power and that facilities are provided for those with disabilities.


How long does the council take to process applications?


Planning applications can take up to eight weeks to be decided.  Your application will be placed in their queue system and during this time we cannot influence its speed as it is outwith our control.  Similarly, Building Control can take this length of time to respond as well, although typically they tend to be slightly quicker.  All of this is worth bearing in mind when estimating a start date for your project.


Can I start building works before obtaining approval?


No, it is a legal a requirement to have the necessary permissions in place before any works commence.  It is ultimately your responsibility to ensure you have obtained the necessary permissions before instructing a building contractor to start works on site.

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