Building Control advice and guidance

Choosing your planning or building agent


An architect is the individual who oversees and manages the entire building project - from initial designs, submission of plans, right the way through to final completion on the ground.

On a large project an architect may well employ the services of different types of surveyors and engineers who will each contribute their particular skills to the design challenges faced.

For an individual to use the title “architect” he or she must be registered with the Architects Registration Board (ARB).

Builders and other tradesmen

Once you have settled on the final designs of your project the task of making the design a reality will fall to a builder and/or other types of tradesmen.

If you have an architect or surveyor it is likely that they will invite local builders to tender for the work and draw up a suitable contract.

The Government has set up the TrustMark scheme to help provide guaranteed standards and protection to customers.

Certified tradesman can be found by searching the TrustMark directory.

Building engineers

Today the term engineer is a very wide one and can cover a huge variety of disciplines, a building engineer is typically a professional who specialises in the design of a particular type of structure or system.

For example a Building Services Engineer may be tasked with designing the building’s ventilation, energy systems or service infrastructure.

Building engineers can be found by searching the CIBSE directory.


There are various different types of surveyor - Building Surveyor, Quantity Surveyor, Land Surveyor etc. In essence the role of a surveyor is to measure, quantify and calculate distances, objects etc.

The point of view of a surveyor is likely to be more about the practicality of the structure rather than its appearance.

Surveyors must be members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

Things to check

To help choose the best person or business for your project we recommend you consider the following:

  • Are they a member of a recognised professional institution?
  • Are they part of a local practice?
  • What type of projects have they worked on before?
  • Can they provide references and examples of their work?
  • Can you find a professional person through recommendations from friends or neighbours?

Some other points

Ensure the extent of the professional’s responsibility is discussed and agreed in writing before any commitments are made. For example do you only want them to prepare plans only or is site supervision included?

When selecting an architect/surveyor be sure to get a quote from more than one organisation. Choose the one that feels best for you but remember the cheapest quote does not mean that they will be the right person for the job.

Check what permissions will be required. Will both Planning and Building Regulation approval be required and if so will their quote include amending the plans (if required) to obtain the relevant approvals?

At your first meeting with your chosen agent you should discuss the following:

  • Their fee
  • Frequency of progress updates
  • Informing you of anything which might affect the quality/cost of your project
  • What information they need from you before they start work

When you reach agreement about the scope of the work, your agent must record this in writing. At the very least, the contract should state:

  • What work the architect will do
  • The fee, or how it will be calculated
  • Who is responsible for what
  • What professional indemnity insurance is in place
  • Any terms for settling disputes