Who can design your home

If you are building a house you will need a design. We have discussed two general options before, namely package build companies and freelance designers / architects, and if you choose the former route then the design work will be taken care for you and the choice of designer / architect is out of your hands; however, if you decide to select your own designer / architect then you have a few more choices to consider.

This article covers the different types of people, qualifications, and regulatory bodies that can design your house for you.


To a lot of us the sensible and obvious choice when looking for someone to design an individual house or make modifications to an existing house is to use an architect. Perhaps the words designer and architect get used as general terms for anyone who can design a house, but this is not the case. If someone touts themselves as an architect they must have completed 7 years training and have passed a host of exams. The name architect is protected by law and this means not just anyone can call themselves one, just the same as not just anyone can call themselves a doctor or a lawyer.

An architect is someone who is perfect for designing your house, particularly if you are looking for some level of individuality and they will be more than happy to take on your job. The problem is that architects can be pricey, and maybe a little overkill if you are looking for a simple design. Saying this prices do vary depending on experience and hunger for work, but currently for the vast majority of houses in the UK people do not turn to architects and instead use a different type of person to do their design work.

How much does an architect cost?

In the past (and some still work this way today) architects worked on a percentage fee basis, and typically it was 3% for each stage of the design process. For example 3% of the contract value to prepare planning permission plans, 3% of the contract value for the working details and tendering work, and finally another 3% for administering the contract and certifying that the work has been done correctly. In total that is 9% of the total contract costs. However this way of billing clients is becoming less common among modern architects.

Architects can offer a quotations in advance and thus move away from the traditional % fees, and if you choose a newly qualified one they can cost around £200 per day. More experienced architects can cost this amount per day so be warned they can be expensive. If you are designing something very special or your property will be in the £250K+ build cost region then paying £20K+ for a good architect is not too uncommon. There are however plenty of small practices that charge much less than this.

Regulatory bodies for architects

A requirement for all architects is registration with the Architects Registration Board. There is also a body called the Architects Registration Council who you can ring up and see if the people who you are interested in using really are who they say they are and hold the relevant qualifications. While not optional some architects choose to become chartered and thus join the Royal Institute of British Architecture (RIBA), and you can contact the RIBA for a list of architects or architect practices who are currently actively looking for housing design work.

Along with these regulatory bodies and institutes there is something called the Association of Self-Build Architects (ASBA), which is a special group that was devised to serve the self-build market. This group offer some unique ways of costing up a job, for example fees based on unit area of the build (i.e. cost per square metre). The rate is around £30 per square metre. A similar group called the Design for Homes was set up to help promote architects in the home designing space, and their website allows you to search for architects and view their work.

Architectural Technologists

This group of people who are regulated by a body called the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT) are different from those regulated by the Architects Registration Council, and some see architectural technologists as lesser than fully qualified chartered architects. However, architectural technologists are more than mere draughtsmen (as they were traditionally viewed as), and they can be very good designers and could be a good choice for your house design. Check out the CIAT website for a list of self-employed architectural technologists in your area.

Building Surveyors

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) regulate building surveyors (or chartered building surveyors), but while this group of people carry out very good work and are a viable solution for your house design, it can be a little tricky finding one. When searching look for the group within RICS known as Chartered Building Surveyors because RICS is full of other types of surveyors such as building inspectors and estate agents. Again, check out their website for more information.

Unqualified designers

In the UK you do not actually need qualifications to design houses, so in theory anyone could have a stab at it. This being said there are a lot of capable individuals who do very good design work without specific qualifications. Some may have started an architect qualification but never completed it for whatever reason, while others may have gained a huge wealth of experience over time, or they may have a related qualification that gives them some design skills, such as an structural engineer or a building inspector. You can check out previous work or seek references to see if you want to use one of these people for you design work, which will probably cost you less money. One issue however is insurance, because unqualified persons will probably not have indemnity insurance as standard, but this is not a huge issue because they will most likely point you towards 3rd party insurance which will cover you.


Sometimes it is easier if there are no choices and you have to go down a specific route, but ultimately choice is good and in the end of the day the choice is yours as to which type of person you get to design your house. Many instantly look to architects, but this is likely to be the more expensive route and you may want to look somewhere else if you are designing a relatively simple house. However, if you are looking for a more original and detailed design then architects may be you best solution.

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