Loft Conversion Architect - are they the only option?
The term ‘architect’ has been hi-jacked my a simple misunderstanding than many homeowners
have. Not all people that prepare plans and specifications for loft conversions or any other building project for
that matter is an architect. The term or title of ‘architect’ is protected to only those that are qualified and
registered to use the term.
However, that said, the majority of people preparing building designs for residential development including loft
conversions are actually non-architects if you were to analyse the council figures for professional agents acting
on behalf of their clients. So what is going on here and are the ‘alternative designers’ any good?
I consider myself to be an experienced and professional building designer specialising in residential
development and I have run my own fairly successful practice now for nearly 30 years but I too am not an architect.
I am, however, a fully qualified and experienced Architectural Technician.
My own professional body (CIAT) refers to me as an ‘architectural technologist’ but I have always refrained from
using this ‘mad laboratory white coat’ image of a person in preference of a ‘technician’ as we have always been
historically referred to. I have found that most of the general public understand and appreciate what a technician
is all about - perhaps we are the ‘nuts and bolts’ guys of building design where as a technologist is an awkward
sounding ‘boffin’ type chap not really in touch with the needs and requirements of Joe Public.
There are also many other professions offering design services for loft conversions that may also be wrongly
considered as ‘architects’ by the general public. These may be Chartered Building Surveyors belonging to RICS,
Chartered Builders belonging to IOB plus a few other lesser known professionals and institutions.
Employ any one of them and I bet 9 out of 10 engaging clients would refer to them as ‘my
architect’ if they were to describe your presence at their house to a friend on the telephone. I get this all the
time and it grates deeply with my soul. I used to always correct them all the time but I soon became wearisome with
the tedium of constant correction that I don’t think was appreciated anyway.
From a chartered Architects point of view this generic term ‘architect’ must also grate with them knowing that
their title and profession has been diluted by infiltrators and that most of the general public simply do not
understand the difference especially within the residential development arena where we are dealing with the public
at source rather than in a ‘business to business’ environment.
So, in conclusion, who should you be using as your loft conversions designer? Should it be an chartered
architect, a chartered architectural technician, a chartered surveyor, a chartered builder or any other design
professional belonging to some form of recognised professional design or building construction institution.?
Well that a hard one to answer and obviously I am biased for my own technicians profession but’ in all honesty’
I do not think that it really matters provided the homeowner adopts a general ‘check list’ of ‘professional
criteria’ that their loft conversion designer should have and then to interview as many as they can from all areas
of the profession to see who they feel happiest with. Relevant design experience within the chosen field combined
with an professional attitude including customer care and efficiency is probably more important than what formal
title they may have.