Watch a video clip about working with your architect or building surveyor.

Advice & Guidance

Architects and Surveyors

Marianne Suhr - Building SurveyorQuinquennial inspections and programmes of repair should be carried out by experts with special knowledge of traditional building materials and construction techniques, as modern building standards are rarely applicable to old buildings. The patina of age is fundamental to the appeal of an old building and a willingness to repair, rather than replace, is essential. In terms of instructing repairs to places of worship, there is little difference between working with an architect or a building surveyor, though the architect's training in design matters may make them a more appropriate choice when it comes to additions and alterations.

It is important to understand that not all architects or building surveyors have the necessary experience in historic buildings so care should be taken to ensure that you choose someone who has the appropriate training and skills. Experience gained through working on other places of worship of a similar period, size and complexity will be most pertinent, closely followed by experience in the broader field of building conservation. When you are selecting a firm of architects or building surveyors for a particular commission it is always important to have met the individual who will direct your project.

Many architects and building surveyors belong to a professional institution, which regulates their conduct and business activities. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the Royal Institution of Charted Surveyors (RICS) are the most well known but there is also the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC), which caters for a variety of disciplines associated with the conservation of historic buildings. For some grant-aided projects, it may be necessary to choose an architect or surveyor who is ‘accredited' in building conservation. Architects who are accredited through the AABC Register have had their individual knowledge and experience in conservation work assessed by their peers. There is also a new RIBA Conservation Register.

The RICS also maintains a register of surveyors accredited in building conservation. Although accreditation is clearly a good indication of a professional's suitability to carry out conservation work, it must be noted that not all architects or surveyors who specialise in conservation have chosen to join these schemes.

In addition to the RIBA, the RICS and the IHBC there are a variety of other bodies that bring together professionals with related interests. Of particular relevance is the Ecclesiastical Architects and Surveyors Association (EASA), which has strict entry requirements and provides continuing professional development for members. Membership of certain other associations and interest groups, such as the Ecclesiological Society or the Building Limes Forum, may also indicate an active interest or involvement in conservation.

Once you have found an architect or building surveyor for your place of worship try to encourage a good working relationship. Some people like to think of the relationship with their inspecting architect or surveyor as similar to the relationship between a doctor in general practice and their patient. If you work with the same individual over a period of time, they will learn a great deal about your building, its history, its construction and its problems. This will allow them to help you prioritise repairs and prepare effective grant applications. They will also be able to use drawings and specifications from previous phases of work so there will be no need to ‘start from scratch' every time work is required. If you take good care of your architect or surveyor, they will be able to take good care of your place of worship.

© SPAB 2010