A Firm Hand

By Sweet, Fay | The Evening Standard (London, England), August 28, 2002 | Go to article overview

A Firm Hand


Sweet, Fay, The Evening Standard (London, England)


Byline: FAY SWEET

WHILE growing numbers of homeowners have discovered the benefits of employing an architect to help them shape their living space, companies are increasingly taking the plunge to improve their office environment. And for those who are considering employing an architect or designer for the first time, there is plenty of handholding help now available.

"Of course, everyone wants their workplace to look good, but it should also be designed so that people can work easily and efficiently, in a comfortable and inspiring place," says Ferhan Azman of Azman Owens Architects.

The practice has launched a new service to firsttime clients that offers a stage-by-stage approach to projects. "We know that for many people, employing an architect for the first time can be scary: they're anxious that everything will spin out of control and they'll be left with a huge bill," says Azman.

"People can ask us to do as much or as little as they want.

Perhaps they need a few ideas, space planning, help with designing or choosing furniture, improving lighting or a total refurbishment."

The reception room of software firm Liberate Technologies, designed by BDG McColl An initial onsite consultation costs ? (deducted from the final bill) and includes a full discussion about the design and building process, including building regulations and planning permission. The next stage is to evolve ideas, then comes the design.

There is no minimum size of job.

For a shortlist of architects, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) operates a helpline service. "We ask the company to explain the planned project, then we come up with a shortlist of architects to match the job. They may need historicbuildings specialists or perhaps someone with expertise in lighting," says head of client services Paul Newman. He adds that fees can be between eight and 15 per cent of the total project cost.

Another route to a happier workplace is through the British Interior Design Association. This organisation has a useful website, www.bida.org, full of pictures and a directory of designers. "Any designer will appreciate being called in as early as possible," says BIDA chairman and designer Simon Cavelle.

"Design isn't about the final flourish to make a reception look great. It can go really deep, looking at how a company operates and taking on board issues such as staff retention." He also stresses that it's a good idea for as many staff as possible to become involved. "If people haven't been through the process before, they want to know what to expect. We also need their help to assess how they work and to understand what they need; workshop sessions are always a good idea."

Cavelle says an initial meeting is usually free, but a quote will be based on 12-15 per cent of the budget. …

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