Consumer advice with Gráinne McGuinness
DREAMING of building your own home? Many Irish people do, while others extend and renovate their current homes. In either situation, applying for planning permission is a cause for trepidation.
Planning permission is obtained from your local planning authority and the cost of submitting an application to build a house is €65. But each authority has its own guidelines for building and applicants’ plans must conform to these.
Ask for a meeting with your area planner, before you decide on your design. Discuss with them what you want to build and find out if your ideas fit with local guidelines. Don’t set your heart on a design that won’t even be considered. Having this meeting early could save you a lot of money, time, and paperwork.
Decide whether to engage an architect. I spoke to Carole Pollard, president of the the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland(RIAI).
Naturally, she believes all planning applicants will benefit from using an architect — a qualified one.
“There are plenty of people holding themselves out as architects, but the difference is a registered architect has at least five years’ training and two further years’ experience,” she said. “You are getting someone who knows what they are doing.”
You can check the register on their website, [http://www.riai.ie]www.riai.ie[/url].
Fees charged by architects vary considerably, and the price you will pay is dependent on many factors — from the size of the house to the natural lie of the site. Best advice is to look for quotes and recommendations from people in your area. Given the variables, how can clients keep down overall planning costs?
“Being good at making decisions is cost-efficient,” Ms Pollard said.
Think carefully about what you need from your home, she said. Do you want a big, open family area, or a separate playroom/study for children? Will you need a downstairs bedroom in the future?
“If you know what you want, you can give your architect a well-thought out brief and that will dramatically cut down on the amount of consultations and redraws to get to the final plans,” Ms Pollard said.
Your architect may give you a work-sheet, at your initial consultation, to help you with this, listing the major decisions to be made.
Although you should know what you want, don’t get too fixed on a particular design before you meet the architect.
“You are paying them for their expertise in design, so listen to them,” Ms Pollard said. “They will work with your brief, but are also taking into account particular features in the site, or local planning preferences, that they know will help get your application approved.”
Of course, you do not have to engage an architect to design your home.
There are books of standard plans available for far less and websites where you can purchase plans. Given the savings to be made, do the RIAI acknowledge these as a valid option?
“It may appear cheaper up-front, but be careful of it costing more in the long-run. A few thousand on an architect is only a small percentage of the build cost. But, down the line, having a well-constructed home that has been signed-off by a registered architect makes it much more valuable. Plus, if you by an off-the-shelf plan, it may not be suitable for your site and ground conditions.”
Pollard added: “I would also be concerned about the age of the plans. Building regulations now are stringent and complex. Can you be sure that the plan you buy will fulfil all requirements?”
If you forego an architect, there are a number of Irish sites, including [http://www.xplan.ie]www.xplan.ie[/url] and [http://www.irish-house-plans.com]www.irish-house-plans.com[/url], selling plans from just a few hundred euro.
Depending on the condition of your site, applicants should also be prepared for additional costs of other experts. Engineers and land surveyors may be needed to dig trial holes on-site. If you run into problems getting permission, a planning consultant may be needed and can cost as much again as an architect.
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