Consumer advice with Gráinne McGuinness
If you have had a renovation job you have been considering for a while or are planning to take the plunge and build soon, there is an opportunity next month to get some expert advice and help a good cause in the process.
Simon Open Door, a partnership between the Simon Community and the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI), has been running for 14 years. Anyone can sign up and, in return for a €90 donation to the Simon Community, you will receive an hour-long consultation with a certified RIAI architect.
I spoke to Eamon Peregrine, who has participated in the initiative for several years, and asked what type of queries he has seen.
“It varies,” he said. “Some people have very small questions, they might want to change a bathroom, or alter something. I have had very simple queries on opening up doors and things like that. So from that scale right up to people who are thinking of building a house or doing a large alteration or extension to their house. The scale can vary, from a small level to quite a project.”
The size of the potential project will impact how much help the architect can give, but said past participants have been pleased by what they have learned in an hour.
“With a small thing, you can usually find a solution or give them advice on the day,” Mr Peregrine said. “But when you are doing a big project, sometimes it is about people understanding the process and what’s involved. The costs, how projects go, there are a lot of things people wouldn’t be aware of, in relation to health and safety legislation, the planning process, all of these things. That is one part of it — how does an architect work, what are the services they provide. Costs as well — what do architects charge in fees, how are building costs worked out, and you can give that kind of indication.
“You do usually come up with some kind of design solution, you might say ‘well look, you can extend in this place here and put your kitchen here’. You would be surprised, you can go quite a bit down the road in an hour.”
He suggests that the more preparation people put in beforehand, the more they get from the appointment.
“People can write down what they are trying to achieve, if it is a couple it might be useful for both of them to do it,” he said. Jot down a few thoughts — what are the problems with your house, what are you hoping to get. From the conversation, we can see then what is the best way forward.”
The architects won’t always have good news. Sometimes the advice he gives is that the homeowner’s plans won’t work as they hope. But even this can be valuable advice.
“I might tell them ‘I don’t think you should do this’. What people think they need to do isn’t what they should do,” he said.
Mr Peregrine goes to visit the clients but other architects will meet them at their offices.
“I visit people in their houses because I think people get more out of it and it is much easier as an architect to see what is possible and what they are thinking of doing when you are in the house itself.” If it is at the architects office, bring photographs and any plans or drawings you may have.
The initiative runs from May 14 to 20 but bookings are already underway. Interested homeowners can go to www.simonopendoor.ie, select their county and find a list of available architects in their area.
As Mr Peregrine points out, it is also a good way to test the water with an architect if you have a project in mind.
“In Ireland, people aren’t going to be using an architect every day, they might only need one once in their life. So they are not going to necessarily have someone they know, so usually in Ireland, they ask friends and get a recommendation. It is all word of mouth. So it is a good way to be introduced.”
If there are any consumer issues that you’d like Gráinne to address or if you have problems that Gráinne could help with, she can be contacted at email@example.com
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