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Jack Cameron30.5.2024 7 min read

7 Questions With Self Build Expert Allan Corfield

In the summer of 2015, we sat down with our director Allan Corfield to discuss where the company came from, why the company exists and what the future holds for AC Architects.

With the business continuing to go from strength to strength 9 years later, we thought it would be appropriate to look back to offer our newer clients a bit of background about who we are and why we are the right choice for their project:

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1 - WHAT'S THE STORY BEHIND AC ARCHITECTS?

I set up the business amid the recession in 2009. I had been made redundant and there weren’t many architecture jobs in Europe, so I felt like I had to create an opportunity for myself.

Initially, I was looking to create enough work to support myself. However, over the next few years, after building a lot of extensions and doing some work alongside SIPs Industries, I developed a passion for the self-build market and decided to become a specialist Self-build architect.

15 years later, we’ve grown to 24 employees – housing Architects, Technologists, Technicians and a  Structural Engineering team.

2 - WHAT DO AC ARCHITECTS DO?

We work throughout the UK mainly on one-off eco houses, ranging in budget from £80,000, up to £1.5m. We predominantly work with self-builders – a very different type of client compared to the traditional client looking for professional architectural services. Typically, a self-build will require a lot of professional assistance, to help educate the self-builder throughout the building project.

We find that someone new to the self-build process will usually have watched a couple of Grand Designs episodes and will have a lot of ideas. What we do is work closely with the self-builder, help them with their ideas, and take them from the initial design right through to the relevant planning and building control approvals.

In short, we are here to take the self-builder by the hand and walk them through every stage of the self-build project – even managing aspects of the project on-site.

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3 - DO AC ARCHITECTS USE ANY SPECIALIST TECHNOLOGY OR BUILDING METHODS?

We design all types of houses using sustainable construction methods. These include Timber frame, Log homes, ICF and Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs). The majority of the buildings that we work on feature the use of eco-technology, and the biggest benefit for the self-builder is that the running costs for the home are much lower than most other types of build.

Sustainable building methods have many benefits including:

  • Generating less waste by using materials that can be reused or recycled.
  • Reducing our environmental impact and setting an example for others in the industry.
  • Using less energy during construction and, generally, the finished product uses less energy too.
  • Making Passive House standards easier to achieve. 

4 - HOW MUCH DOES AN ARCHITECT COST?

For a new build housing project, based on a full service (inception through to on-site assistance), the RIBA suggests that an appropriate fee should be between 8-10% of the overall construction cost.

AC Architects offers a very cost-effective and affordable professional architectural service, and the main reason for this is that we work with a fixed rate.

Most architects work on percentage costs, which can result in little understanding of the total costs involved in a self-build project. However, we give our client a fixed cost at the very start of the project so that they know exactly what to expect concerning costs, and have a complete picture of their investment going forward.

We also itemise everything that’s included in each of the stages of works that we’re going to do, therefore budgeting cash flow during the project is easy.

You can read more about the cost of a self-build architect here.

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5 - WHAT MAKES AC ARCHITECTS DIFFERENT FROM OTHER ARCHITECTS?

There are four distinct differences between AC Architects and other professional services. We’ve listened to our client’s suggestions and thoughts over the last 15 years and have made significant investments in modern equipment and software which allow us to provide an exceptional level of service:

Free Initial Consultation

We feel it is important to meet with all potential clients and find out exactly what they want, prior to providing information on costs. We meet to discuss the self-build process, covering everything from the planning stages, house requirements, budget and construction method.

This free initial meeting is a perfect opportunity to get to know our clients and find out what will go into their house design to make it their dream home.

All clients and house designs are different, therefore a bespoke fee proposal is created for each project.

Fixed Rate Fees

As mentioned earlier, we provide cost certainty which most other architects do not – through offering a fixed fee rather than a percentage. This provides our clients with transparency from the start.

Along with our own fees, we advise on all other consultant, planning, and building control application costs. This means that the client can budget all payments throughout the design process.

3D Viewing Of Your Project

Our clients don’t just get to see their drawings in traditional 2D format, they get to view their new home or project in 3D format. At this very initial stage, we can either bring the client to our office and show them their house through our virtual reality service or go to their house and plug our computers into the TV. This means that they get the opportunity to walk around their house or extension from day one, and they don’t need any fancy drawing experience or any technology knowledge to do so.

We can also output our drawing files to iPads, iPhones and other mobile devices. It almost feels like you’re walking around in a video game, and it shows exactly what the self-build home will look like.

We provide this service for all projects and it’s not an additional service, that’s just what we do.

Self Build Expertise

We’ve specifically honed our skills for the self-builder, because they are a different type of client, with different requirements.

A traditional architecture client, your commercial client, is used to working with architects and engineers, and they will engage a main contractor to complete the build – i.e. they will have on hand a site manager, a contracts manager, a Quantity Surveyor and all of the trades required. However, your Self-builder is going down the self-build route for the first time, and it will most likely be the first time they have worked with architects or engineers. Most choose self-build because they want to get as much house for their money, and therefore they’re not going to engage a main contractor to do everything. They may opt to project manage everything themselves.

Typically, they don’t have the knowledge to start their self-build project alone, so they need us to guide them on it, which is what we love doing.

In short, we see the self-builder as someone a little different from other types of clients – and we’ve got the skills, knowledge and experience to help them.

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6 - WHAT DOES THE SELF BUILD PROCESS ACTUALLY INVOLVE?

We do the traditional part of the role, which includes initial designs, planning, building control and technical drawings. We then assist the self-builder right the way through in programming the works, engaging different sub-contractors and spending time really teaching them about the building methods so that they know what’s going on.

We want our clients to be competent enough to be able to deal with day-to-day questions from tradesmen and become the go-to person for their own self-build project. 

7 - WHAT DOES THE FUTURE LOOK LIKE FOR AC ARCHITECTS?

Everything is looking great for us. We’re getting clients coming to us from all over the UK, thanks to our offices in Dunfermline and Swindon.

This is a great honour for AC Architects – to be sought after to do work that far down south, where there are probably hundreds of architects in the local area, means that we must be doing something right! 

It’s not because we’re the cheapest, it’s because we’re good at what we do – and we can provide the specific services our clients need. We have all the software and applications to work effectively and remotely with our 3D drawing package, and communicate with our clients regardless of where they may be located.

AC Structures has secured almost 100 projects since its inception in 2021 and we couldn't be happier with their progress. They now offer a market-leading service for both AC Architects & external clients, including several top architects & MMC kit suppliers.

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A lot has changed in the 15 years our practice has been in business, but our core values have remained the same. To guide self-builders through their journey and to build better homes. 

Is it time for you to seek professional help and guidance for your Self-build ideas and project? Get your dream home up and running, and contact the Self-Build Experts at ACA today!

 


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