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Winkens Architecture
Whitestown, Drinagh
Wexford, Ireland
t. +353(0)53 9126605
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choosing an architect is easy.

This article was written for the Irish Market and was published in an Irish newspaper

Will I ever own my new home?
This questions must have crossed most peoples mind at one time or another. Of course, it is a big step to take and there can be many pitfalls. One way of eliminating problems is to leave the designing and building of your dwelling in the hands of a qualified Architect and a General Contractor.
Since 1991 the comprehensive Building Regulations were updated in 1994,1998,2002 and for the last 4 years yearly.
In Dec 2011 Part L (Conservation. of Fuel and Energy) was updated again.
nZeb is now in place all new dwellings to have a minimum BER of A2
Therefore professional advice is important as a breach of the regulations is a criminal offence.
Though beware - up to the 1st of May 2008 anyone in Ireland could call themselves an 'Architect'. There was no law against this. Since the 1st of May 2008 National registration is here, this shall protect the term 'architect' to be used only by qualified persons, but it still could take awhile before is it fully Implemented. Therefore do not be afraid to ask for proof of qualifications. If they are qualified they will be happy to oblige, if not you should know. Your architect should also have a Indemnity Insurance as otherwise it will be difficult for You to obtain a mortgage.

There are various ways of choosing an Architect. If friends or neighbours have build their own home recently, and were happy with their Architect, they could refer you to him or her. If you see a dwelling that you think stands out, you could investigate, and find out who the architect was. Or you could try the yellow pages, phone an Architect in your area and arrange for an informal meeting where you can find our more about the Architect, his/her Architecture, and his/her fees. The architects web sites are also a good source of information. Look at the 'Practice profile', 'News page' and 'Portfolio' samples of work to see what they are about.

It is best to own a site or at least have a site in mind, with a purchase option - subject to planning permission - before approaching an Architect.
At your first meeting do not hesitate to ask any questions you may have, regarding all the aspects of the building process, especially if it is your first dwelling. During the conversation you will soon find out whether or not you want to establish a working relationship, most likely to last for about a year. Find out exactly what you will get for your money, to avoid any surprises halfway through the building process. Architects are entitled to expenses, in addition to their fees, but it is to the discretion of each how much they will charge. Find out as much as you can before making a final decision on whom to employ. Once engaged in the planning process it becomes quite difficult to change the Architect.

As soon as the Architect is chosen he starts to design your house, to suit your budget, your needs and your site. This house will really be tailored to the very own wishes of you and your family. (A huge advantage that a plan off the shelf or out of a book certainly cannot give you.)
Always remember, an good Architect's job is to find a solution to your personal planning desires. Of course, one cannot expect to get a five-bedroomed house with a double garage for Two Hundred thousand Euros. But within your budget, he can bring a definite degree of distinction to the appearance of your home and achieve that while blending the house harmoniously into it's surroundings.

Taking everything into account, he then prepares a sketch-drawing which he will submit for your approval. After agreement on the design is reached he will then make the final drawings, to apply for Planning Permission. These drawings plus specifications are also needed to arrange for a general contractor. In obtaining tender, at least about four contractors should be asked for submission in order to receive a reasonable price comparison. The Architect then will also advice on arranging the building contract.
During the actual building-time the Architect can also visit the site at intervals to make sure that the dwelling is erected according to his plans and specifications.
Interim and final certificates confirming that the work has been carried out at various stages of construction as part of this commitment. Most lending Institutions do not make stage payments if these certificates have not been issued. For this the architect must have an up-to-date indemnity insurance, ask to see a copy.

If Ireland wants to keep it's attractiveness towards tourists as well as her own people we have to stop destroying our lovely landscape with the 'Bungalow Bliss' of the past and present.
One can only feel good in an environment that looks good, this applies to one single dwelling just as well as for an entire countryside.

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