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How to be an architect-developer, and why it’s a good idea

Words:
Amanda Baillieu and Gus Zogolovitch

Gus Zogolovitch and Amanda Baillieu offer some tips and considerations from their new book

Developer Gus Zogolovitch and editor Amanda Baillieu are founders of the Developer Collective events forum, and co-authors of How to Be an Architect Developer (RIBA Publishing, £35).
Developer Gus Zogolovitch and editor Amanda Baillieu are founders of the Developer Collective events forum, and co-authors of How to Be an Architect Developer (RIBA Publishing, £35). Credit: Phyllis Ho

If there were more architect developers, our society would have better housing. They tend to care about quality, and with enough of them in the system other developers would have to up their game. That’s one reason why we’ve written a book for architects covering every stage of the process. 

One essential skill that many architects need to learn is development appraisal; managing risk is the primary task. Otherwise, they have advantages over anyone else starting out, such as the ability to spot promising sites or changes in planning policy. That should give confidence. Do your sums properly, and you should expect to succeed – though most first-time architect developers find that it takes more time, effort and money than anticipated.

Opportunities and challenges exist in any market, including today’s. When it is easier to find land, it can be harder to raise finance. Every developer starting out has to box clever. Those without capital might look for joint ventures, or get options on sites without planning consent. 

Architects can feel embarrassed by the profit motive, but do have to be commercially minded to make it work

Architects can feel embarrassed by the profit motive, but do have to be commercially minded to make it work. Those featured in the book had a variety of objectives besides making money. Some wanted greater design freedom or to be more hands-on. Others aimed to launch a practice or prove its capabilities. If nothing else, the experience teaches you what people really want and about the financial implications of design decisions, which can make you a better, more practical architect for other clients. It’s like the missing piece of architectural training.  


How to Be an Architect Developer is available from RIBA Books 

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