The following questions and answers to seek to offer some basic guidance as to the requirements of and differences between building procurement in France and the UK.
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Do I need to use an architect?
In terms of procuring building work using an architect, there are a number of key differences between the UK and France.
In the UK, the title 'Architect' is protected by the Architects Act 1997 (as amended). This means that only those who have completed the required period of training (5 years), practical experience (2 years), and taken the final written and oral exams (1 year), and who are registered with the Architects Registration Board may use the title 'Architect'.
In France, both the title and the activity of the 'Architect' is protected by Loi n° 77-2 du 3 janvier 1977 sur l'architecture (as amended). This means that only those who have completed the required period of training (5 years) and the combined period of practical experience and final exams (1 year), and who are registered with the Ordre des Architectes, may use the title 'Architect', and practice the protected activity of 'architecture'.
In terms of procuring new building work in France, this means that the recourse to an architect is obligatory, whereas in the UK it is not. In France, the use of an architect is required, by law, in the following cases:
The total floor area of the building will, by virtue of its existing surface area, or by the proposed extension to it, exceed 150 square metres, and where the client is a private individual.
The client is a company.
The client is a private individual, but is procuring the work for business purposes (e.g. works to an apartment that will be rented to others).
This is enacted by virtue of the requirement for an architect to sign and stamp the planning application documentation (demande de permis de construire). It is not permitted for a design scheme to be simply 'stamped' by an architect in exchange for a fee, they must also be its author.
We would always counsel and advocate that using an architect provides more than simply the regulatory requirement of their signature on a planning application. Architects are expertly able to assist you with defining your brief, assess the site constraints and opportunities of your land or building(s), provide for design solutions to the problems encountered, and guide the agreed-upon design through the relevant statutory processes. They then assist in achieving precision in detailing and material choices, allowing for control of quality and cost. They are best placed to help you assess the cost proposals received from potential contractors, and then at the on-site phase, they are able to assess whether the works have been properly implemented as described in the drawings and contract, and hold the contractor to account with respect to the project budget and quality demanded so that the project is successfully delivered. The value and peace of mind that architects add to a project and afford their client is far in excess of their fees.
Do I need planning permission?
As a general rule, in both the UK and France, most building work will require some form of planning consent.
In the UK, some works can be implemented without planning consent, known as 'permitted development rights'. Before undertaking a project, you should discuss it with your architect and the relevant local authority before proceeding.
In the UK there are the following types of planning application:
Householder planning consent - to alter or extend your own house.
Full planning consent - planning applications for all other projects not covered in the list below.
Outline planning consent - to ascertain the viability of a proposed development without full details.
Reserved matters - to gain approval for the matters not covered by an outline approval.
Removal/variation of conditions - to discharge any conditions placed on a planning approval.
Listed building and conservation area consent - for alterations to a listed building or in a conservation area.
Other applications relating to advertising, forestry, and agricultural uses.
Typically a householder planning consent or full planning consent will be required initially for most conventional projects.
In France there are the following types of planning application:
Déclaration Préalable - to make minor modifications to an existing building's façade, structure, or change of use without making any modifications to the building itself.
Permis de Construire (for an individual house) - for more major modifications and extensions to an existing dwelling, or the construction of a new house.
Permis de Construire (for non-residential projects) - for projects involving buildings which will be visited by members of the public (called an ERP).
Demande d'autorisation de construire, d'aménager un immeuble de grande hauteur (IGH) - for projects involving very tall buildings.
Certificat d'urbanisme - a form of outline consent defining building use types.
Permis d'aménager - a form of application relating to land use.
Permis de démolir - permission to demolish an existing building.
Typically only a Déclaration Préalable or Permis de Construire will be required for most conventional projects.
How much do architects charge?
Fee levels are set by individual practices. Historically, in both the UK and France, fee-scales were set by the relevant governing body, however this is no longer the case.
Architects can charge an hourly rate, a fixed fee, or a percentage of the construction cost. The clearer the definition of the client's brief, and scope of work that the architect is to undertake, the greater the possibility of arriving at a fixed fee. Conversely, if the brief is not defined, the more likely it will be that an hourly rate becomes the only possibility.
Given the number of variables involved (site location, size of project, budget, local planning regulations, etc.) it is not possible to set out fees for particular project activities (e.g. how much would a planning application cost?) If you have an enquiry about our fees, please email a short project description to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do I need insurance for my project?
In the UK, architects are required to hold and maintain Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) for a period of 6 years from the date of their last project. In France, architects (and contractors and artisans/sub-contractors) are required to hold and maintain Professional Indemnity Insurance for a period of 10 years (l'assurance décennale). BoBo holds PPI in both the UK and France.
With construction projects in France, however minor, you should insure that all consultants used (Architect, Structural Engineer, Heating and Ventilation Consultants, Fire Consultants, etc.) and your contractors and artisans hold assurance décennale. It is normal practice to be sent copies of their insurance as part of their appointment process.
In France, clients are required to take out l'assurance dommages-ouvrage before construction work starts on their project. This type of insurance provides cover for the rectification of any poor-quality construction work or defects resulting from design failures, while the placement of the responsibility for that failure is determined by the courts, which can take many months or years.
The content of this document is provided for guidance only and while every effort has been made by the author to ensure the accuracy of the information and translations contained, no liability can be accepted for any errors, omissions and inaccuracies, or for the opinions expressed herein.