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Our guide to the building process

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Although every building project is different, those using an architect will generally involve three distinct phases: design, permission and construction. This is the case whether your project is commercial or residential and is an entire build or an adjustment to an existing structure. Here we look at each of these phases, broken down into their key stages.

Phase 0 – Find the right architect

Of course before you start anything, you need to find the right architect. Talk to us about this - we take the uncertainty and the legwork out of finding the right architect by introducing you to practices that will perfectly match your requirements.

Phase 1 - Design

Consultation and brief

Once your have chosen your architect, you can sit down with them to discuss your requirements, vision and objectives. By listening, they will build an understanding of what you require, assess different options and the feasibility of the work, identify if any other consultants are needed, and get to grips with spatial and functional needs. The result of this preliminary appraisal is drawn up in a document called the Strategic Brief. This could simply be a series of sketches, a full feasibility study or something in between – and is the document on which your subsequent designs will be based.

Concept design

The Strategic Brief allows your architect to move things along and to develop different design proposals. He/she will respond to what you have said and will likely draw up several concepts for discussion. As well as a design concept, this will include a planning strategy (and whether or not they will need to liaise with local planners), outline specifications for materials, construction logistics and a cost plan. 

Developed design

Once you have approved the concept design, your architect transforms this into a detailed package of drawings and documentation for submission to your local planning authority. This is known as a developed design. The drawings, which include architectural plans, sections and elevations, will be dimensionally correct and describe the main components of the building and how they fit together.

Phase 2 – Permission

Planning permission

Getting your project through the planning process can be time-consuming and risky. Your architect will handle the process, deciding whether or not to make an outline application first or to submit a more detailed plan later. An outline application may prevent time being spent on a design which won't pass planning. A more detailed application, on the other hand, is more likely to be approved as local planners will have a better idea of what you have in mind. 

Additional planning will be needed in conservation areas, for listed buildings and for sites with Tree Preservation Orders. Your architect will be able to advise on this.

Technical drawings

Once planning has been secured, your architect will turn your developed design into a package of drawings and schedules from which your building can actually be built. Other professionals, such as a structural engineer, may be consulted to enable technical drawings and a schedule of works to be drawn up. It is vital that these are as informative and detailed as possible to prevent ambiguity on site later with resulting stress and money wasting.

Other certificates and permissions

Your technical drawings, once completed, will be used to secure other certificates and permissions, such as compliance with building regulations, health and safety laws and environmental protection legislation. Your architect will advise on what is necessary, according to the size and scope of your project.

Phase 3 – Construction


Before starting construction, you will need to assemble a team of builders and other construction professionals to create your building. This is done via a tender process. Your technical drawings will be key here as they will enable those tendering to quote prices and timescales accurately. They may also want to visit site to understand the requirements of the build even better.


Once your contractors are in place, building can begin. Depending on what level of engagement you require, the architect can handle most of what goes on site. This could include dealing with the builder’s contract; inspecting the work at regular intervals and managing any queries that might arise; instructing any additional work that is needed; keeping track of cost, and generally monitoring progress.


Building completed, the architect will inspect and value the work and issue a certificate. They can also be available afterwards to handle any outstanding, final queries and payments.