FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Do you have questions? Maybe we can help.
Archland has published some helpful tools and documents which you may find useful. Click HERE to view a list of these resources available for download.
Below is a list of questions you may have, just click on your question to scroll to one of our comprehensive answers. If your question hasn't been answered or you would like information specific to your project, just ask us via our contact page and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
What does an architect do?
The short answer is that architects design buildings, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. Architects shepherd construction projects from the first initiation through every step of the design process through to the final completion of the physical building. We advise our clients and represent their interests to make sure the building meets the many regulatory and legal requirements for approval whilst we coordinate the inputs of all the other construction industry professionals to make sure that our clients get the best possible building for the money they are willing to spend.
The standard architectural package offered by most firms is made up of a whole combination of services which help to achieve the above-mentioned result. Be sure to check which services are being offered or excluded before you accept a quote from any architecture firm. The overall quality of a building project can and should be greatly improved by having an architectural professional on board for full standard architectural services. Many clients do, however, want to cut costs by cutting out some of the services which normally form part of the standard architectural service. Clients must make sure they fully understand what any services they choose to leave out will entail.
Here at Archland, we offer a number of different service packages so that you are free to choose and only pay for the combination of services that best suits your individual needs. In order to avoid the confusion associated with the nature and scope of architectural services, we have created a ‘Service Matrix’ document which outlines the full extent of standard architectural services and clearly differentiates the service packages we offer. If you want to download and read the PDF document, click HERE.
Do I need an architect?
In South Africa and most other countries, there are regulations which require building plans to be approved by local authorities before any building can be legally constructed. Such approved plans are kept on record and if the constructed building deviates from them, it could be deemed illegal, in which case you may:
Not be granted an occupation certificate
Not be allowed to legally sell your property to another party
In extreme cases, be evicted and ordered to demolish the illegal structures
In order to avoid the above scenarios, property owners must make sure that they get and keep copies of approved building plans for any new building, any alteration to an existing building, and any existing building for which they do not have or which deviates from existing approved plans.
Such plans can only be submitted by someone who is legally registered as an architectural professional. In South Africa, building plans must be signed off by someone who is registered with the South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP). If you hire any person for work of an architectural nature, make sure that they have valid, current registration with SACAP.
Here at Archland, our full staff complement is registered with SACAP. We also have staff registered in all the various categories of competency to ensure that we have the skills and legal capacity to deliver on any project you may require.
How much do architects charge?
The industry standard for architects and all other members of the built environment professions is to charge their professional fees as a percentage of project construction costs. Most architectural firms, including Archland, utilise published recommended fee structures as a basis for calculating fees and then offer reductions based on the specifics of the project, the services required and outcome of negotiations. This method ensures that fees are based on proven research which allows architects to provide services of appropriate quality at fair rates.
Architectural fees can nevertheless vary significantly between firms with the percentage of construction costs being anywhere from 2% to over 10%. Firms charging at the low end of this spectrum generally undercharge in an effort to get more work and then deliver rushed, incomplete service as they are unable to cover the costs associated with providing a quality professional service. Firms on the higher end of the spectrum often charge a premium for their brand name value but provide very little extra benefit to their clients.
Here at Archland, we base our fee calculations on an ‘indicative contract value’. This means that we only charge fees on the portion of construction costs directly affected by our input and not on those features and finishes which the client chooses. Our clients therefore get better rates and are protected from the unscrupulous practice of architects who overinflate the costs of finishes to raise their own fees.
How do I choose the right architect?
There are a number of factors to consider when choosing an architect. The most important ones, aside from the competitiveness of the pricing, are location, style and working relationship.
An architect should know the weather conditions, culture, construction material availability and local authority relevant to the location of the building. A good architect can research many of these factors to produce a good design, but will still need to travel to the site regularly for inspections and if the architect is not registered in the country where the building is constructed, they will have to collaborate with a local firm to get the project approved by the local authority. Here at Archland, we have experience working all over South Africa and other countries in Southern Africa.
Architects can specialise in different styles. As a client, you will also have certain preferences and expectations with regard to style. Most architects have portfolios of work on their website. Be sure to take a look and make sure you like some of their previous work. Archland has experience designing in a number of vastly different styles and can assign different personnel to your project to suit the stylistic requirements of your brief.
Perhaps the single most important factor in choosing an architect is the working relationship. Developing a building is a long and costly process which requires trust and cooperation between client and architect. Most architectural firms, including Archland, are willing to have an initial meeting free of charge. Use this meeting to make sure you don’t have a clash of personalities which could make the future working relationship difficult.
What do I need to provide the architect with?
Depending on the nature of the project, an architect can start working with very little information. Ideally though, the more information you can provide us with early in the process, the faster and more accurately we will be able to get back to you with good advice or a well-informed design.
The following information will be required as early as possible:
A brief of what you would like to build. We would normally help you to refine and develop the brief further, but if you do not know what you would like to build on your property, we could assist you in creating the brief as an additional service for a separately quoted fee.
The latest available set of previously approved plans for any existing buildings on the property. If you do not have this, we can acquire a copy from the local authority for a nominal fee. If there are no plans lodged with council, we can measure up the building and draw as-built plans for a separately quoted fee.
A council stamped SG diagram (this shows the legal extents of your property). If you do not have this, we can acquire a copy from the local authority for a nominal fee.
A council stamped Zoning Certificate (this shows the legally approved usage rights for your property). If you do not have this, we can acquire a copy from the local authority for a nominal fee.
A council stamped Drainage Connection Certificate (this shows where on the property services should be connected). If you do not have this, we can acquire a copy from the local authority for a nominal fee.
A copy of the latest municipal utility bill for the property in question.
A copy of your Registered Title Deed (this is the legal document which proves that you are the registered owner of the land). If there is a bond on the property, you may need to request a copy from the bank which will keep the original.
What process must I follow to get a building built on my land?
Once you own the property, the first professional you would normally speak to is an architect. As part of the process to provide you with a quote, we would inform you of the correct process to follow for your specific project and advise you as to which other professionals would need to be appointed as part of the professional team.
Once appointed, the architect will work closely with the client to generate a concept for the client’s approval. Following this, the design can be further developed in conjunction with the other professional consultants to a point where plans can be submitted to council.
Depending on the type of project, the council may first require the submission and approval of a Site Development Plan which we would provide and charge for separately. If the property is not zoned correctly for the type of building you would like to construct, a Site Development Plan and the involvement of a Town Planner will be required to initiate a rezoning process. Rezoning will also be needed if your building exceeds the Floor Area Ratio allowed for the property. If existing or new buildings go over the building line, a building line relaxation application will have to be put in. The council now requires neighbour’s consent for a number of things in different areas, so do note that a soured relationship with neighbours may prove troublesome.
After council submission, clients can either award the building contract to a construction company they would like to use, or can, through services provided by the architect or another consultant, go out to tender to receive multiple prices. Once construction begins, the architect can assist throughout the process. This may be in the form of site inspections and continuous design input only, or in the form of the architect fulfilling the role of principal agent which involves the administration of the building contract.
Upon completion of the construction process, the architect can again aid with obtaining an occupancy certificate for the building.
How do I get approved plans for my existing building?
The first step in this process is to find out what plans have been previously approved by council for the building in question. If you do not have this, we can acquire a copy from the local authority for a nominal fee.
Once existing plans have been obtained, most architects including Archland are willing to do an initial site inspection free of charge. Make sure the firm you are dealing with also does this before asking them to come out to site. After the initial site inspection, we would advise the client as to the scope of work and process involved and prepare a quote.
If appointed, we would send someone out to come and measure up the existing building. We would then draw the plans and advise on all the changes which need to be made or applications which need to be put in to get the building legalised and approved.
How long will it take to get my plans approved?
It all depends on the size and complexity of the project. With as-built plans, the documentation process normally takes +/- 4 weeks. New designs take longer and are broken into multiple stages with different deliverables depending on the specifics of the project. These timelines are, however, controlled by the architect, so we can expedite or delay this process within reason at the client’s request.
Getting council approval is a process which relies on government departments, so even though architects often try their best to expedite the process, it remains slow and sometimes unpredictable. If you encroach a building line, you have to first submit a relaxation application which can take 2-3 months. If the building is of a different type to the property zoning, or you exceed the coverage or FAR of your property, you have to REZONE first, which can take 12-18 months. Without the aforementioned steps, a straightforward plan approval generally takes 4-8 weeks. For Sectional Title units, the plans will have to follow the above route, after which a Land Surveyor must measure up the property and update the sectional Plan at the Surveyor General’s office.
Normally it is best practice to wait for plan approval before starting construction. We can advise on expected construction timeframes and various ways to expedite the process if you do not wish to wait for final plan approval, but this will depend on the specifics of the project.
Do I need other professionals, consultants or specialists to design my building?
The number of parties who make up the professional team depends largely on the size and complexity of a project. We will always advise the client which professionals must be appointed and can even aid with finding and appointing the team members in question. At a minimum, all construction projects require an architectural professional, an energy consultant and a structural engineer.
Larger projects usually require a quantity surveyor and project manager to also join the team. Various other professionals such as landscape architects, interior designers, fire consultants, civil engineers, mechanical engineers, etc. may need to be added to the team depending on the specifics of the projects.
Here at Archland we have our own in-house departments for architecture, energy consultants, landscape architecture and interior design. As a result, we can offer four different specialist services with perfect integration for a much better price. We also offer the different services independently.
How much will my building cost?
One of the biggest problems that can prevent an architectural project from coming to fruition is the unexpectedly high costs of construction. Clients often have unrealistic expectations of how much they can build within their predetermined budget because they are unaware of the current going rate within the construction industry.
On larger projects, a Quantity Surveyor should be employed as part of the professional team in order to formulate accurate cost projections and oversee expenditure to make sure the project stays within the budget. On smaller projects, architects should provide a reasonable estimate of construction costs while designing the building. We can also provide a rough estimate of construction costs from the initial brief and here at Archland, we always provide such an estimate along with our quotes as the construction cost estimate is used as a basis to calculate our fees.
In order to aid our residential clients to understand the cost of construction, Archland has developed a tool we call the ‘Client Budget Estimator’. It presents a series of questions and options which, when filled in by the client, are used to calculate a total estimated budget for construction based on a series of assumptions and market averages. To use the tool, click HERE.