In short I would highly recommend them. Most importantly we are exceptionally pleased with the final result and the new beautiful living spaces we have.
Complete rework and extension of the ground floor of a 5 bedroom detached house, plus rear exterior living space. We used concept 8 for design, planning submission, tendering and project management.
Things we liked about Concept 8 as architects
- Taking time to ask us lots of questions about how we use the space, what we do in the day, the evening, where we like to sit and why, how often we have guests and what we do, what the children do etc. This went on for a while before even drawing the first ideas, and very beneficial. In contrast other architects have tended to latch not the first thing that you say even if it ultimately leads you the wrong way.
- Willing to try a few different arrangements. We went through a whole cycle, actually ending up back where we started with their first idea. The process made us more confident that the choices (which are expensive to correct later) were the right ones.
- If you don't know what you want, for example the space is awkward and you can't see what to do, then they are willing to suggest something (often very creative). A lot of others seemed hesitant to do this, which is a shame because it is one of the main reasons for hiring the experience of an architect. In our case we had two old and intrusive beams that we needed to work into the design, with great success.
- Pushes the process along, e.g. for planning, for tender, and importantly also us if we are taking time to decide, which stops it dragging. Hence you need to commit to make time to go through the plans he makes in detail (right down to thinking about what light switches where control what), they were very good at taking the feedback and producing a better iteration.
Things we like about Concept 8 in the tender process
- Kept it all super compact and tight. For example arranged a day when all the contractors came around on 2 hour slots that they had pre-arranged. Then kept up the press on contractors to return their costings.
- In depth meeting and discussions with the 2 contractors that made it to the short list.
- Very detailed pack of drawings and specifications. I'd advise setting aside time to really go through these and ensure everything you want is captured as they are invaluable.
Things we like about Concept 8 as project managers
- Will do all the admin, talking to people, arranging dates, ordering items, minuteing meetings, keeping track of finances etc.
- Won't shirk on challenging the contractor or a supplier on things on our behalf. In they stepped in to resolve a dispute between the structural engineer and contractor that arose mid build, which could have ended nasty.
- Their experience was useful in the weekly walk rounds with the contractor where they could point things out, challenge decisions or make suggestions, all of which made the build better and smoother.
Cost wise they are not the cheapest you can find, but I think you do get a better service for that extra, and for us it was worth it.