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Your Architect - How to Choose

Your architect can be the biggest blessing when considering having a house built from scratch and hiring one can save you a fortune.

Imagine your dream home, built with all of those little extras that you wish you had in your current home - perhaps a simple thing like a utility room or an en-suite bathroom, or maybe you have more grandiose designs - an indoor swimming pool, a hot tub, a sauna, a gym. Whatever your dreams they can all be realised and at a decent cost in Bulgaria, providing you choose a good architect.

Finding the best person to employ as your architect is as important as selecting a reliable builder. It is impossible to gain planning permission to build or extend without one. Your architect is responsible for interpreting your requests and ideas into a workable plan, which takes into account current building regulations, health and safety issues and the type of materials to be used in the construction.

A good place to look for a reliable architect is the website belonging to the Union of the Architects in Bulgaria (UAB) at www.bularch.eu. This is a voluntary organisation of professional architects which in turn is part of the International Union of Architects (UIA). The Chamber of Architects in Bulgaria (CAB), another reputable professional association with over 2,500 members can also provide lists of their members if you email them at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . Such organisations are passionate about their skills and members pride themselves in their innovative and often award winning designs. Many of these architects design everything from apartment blocks and shopping malls to single storey residences – in essence you don’t have to be a big developer to utilise the services of a top architect.

Another way to find a good architect is to spend some time driving around the area you intend to build in to look at the style and types of houses there. Take plenty of pictures to show your architect the style of building you prefer and don’t hesitate to knock on doors to ask who designed a particular house – most people are happy to show you around their dream pad. Ask people whose house you like whether they would recommend the architect who designed it, what their fees were and if there are any extras that they wish they had included in the design.

When you meet your architect, make sure this is someone you feel comfortable working with and don’t be afraid to walk away of it isn’t. They will also need to have a good relationship with your builder and with the municipal where you are applying for planning permission. When you visit them, take in pictures and ideas and if your skills are up to it, a graph paper plan of each storey and of all of the rooms you would like to include. Make sure you fully understand the architect's fee structure, the proposed time frame for the project, and how cost overruns and delays will be handled. Take a registered translator with you if your architect does not speak good English. To safeguard the money you are spending you may wish to draw up a contract with your architect outlining the work to be undertaken and the time frames involved. A professional solicitor can help you with this procedure. Architects fees are generally based on the size of the project and work out at around 16 euros per square metre, with additional fees for the planning licenses and connection of utilities. The size of your project will include the space taken up by areas that are often considered as outdoor areas; balconies, porches and terraces. They will be included in the overall size if they are attached directly to the structure of your home.

It is wise to choose someone local to your property so that they can be on hand should the need arise. A local architect will also have experience of the type of land in your area and can use this knowledge to avoid future problems like landslides or flooding. A Bulgarian architect will obtain all of the paperwork necessary to build or extend your home including permissions from the water and electric authorities in addition to planning permission from the municipal as well as ensuring that once your home is completed it qualifies for the municipal paperwork, which says that it has been built to the correct standards. They may be able to recommend a qualified builder to you, one that they have worked with on previous projects, but this is not a pre-requisite of working with them and you are free to choose your own.

Once you have communicated your ideas to your architect, they will draw up a set of plans to match your ideas. The plans should also include a 3D CAD-CAM design of how your house will look once it has been built. Ensure that you spend lots of time going over the plans including the measurements. If there is anything that you are not happy about, ask your architect to change it and don’t worry about asking for a multitude of changes if the work does not meet your original brief. In some instances you may be told that a change you require is not structurally viable, but if you have seen this feature used on a house in your area, alert your architect to the fact by taking in a video or photo or even making a trip out with them. On the other hand, don’t make additional changes, which did not appear in your final brief. No self-respecting architect enjoys working with someone who frequently changes their mind about what they want.

Once the plans are finalised you will receive a booklet of instructions, permissions and plans outlining structural details on how to build the house. This document is the builders’ instruction manual, but beware it does not constitute a contract with him and you will need to ensure this is done separately through a solicitor. Monitor your builders’ progress regularly and refer to the architects drawings to ensure the plans are being followed.

Many people attribute good design to those who built a particular residence rather than the architect who designed it. Architects are highly skilled craftsmen who can make or break a project. It is worth paying for the best you can afford in addition to spending time researching and sketching out your ideal home, and your architect will be the best choice you could make.