Barbara Griffin-Wright on selecting and working with an architect.

Hut in a valleyWith the events of the last few years, there has been an increasing desire for us all to be able to escape, travel and explore new places. The fantastic thing about glamping is that small or temporary structures can be located on interesting sites providing potentially unique experiences.

I imagine we all have a vision of the Danish obsession ‘hygge’. Although we don’t have an exact translation, the general concept relates to comfort, coziness and contentment along with cherishing the little things. Time spent with friends or family does not need to be big and showy. It can be calm and quiet. These kinds of experiences can be created using temporary lightweight structures, movable pods or more permanent builds, and the importance of understanding context and taking advantage of landscape, orientation and natural features is essential to creating the right atmosphere.

With a recent boom in glamping, and many new entrants to the market, it is more important than ever to differentiate your glamping offering. While some businesses will thrive offering standardised glamping pods and bell tents (perhaps given a superb, high demand location or on-site/nearby activity) others will need to work harder to create the experience today’s holidaymakers expect.

Unleashing your imagination can be a hugely rewarding experience and working with an expert who can help you realise a vision for creating something unique to you and your site can be a fantastic business opportunity.

Architectural BedThe process
For any project where you might think that glamping accommodation might be a great idea, do your research first! Very often the planning application process needs to be undertaken, or at the very least an initial feasibility study with an architect. It is a step-by-step process and although it is easy to find many beautiful rural sites or quirky urban forgotten corners, the viability of a project will be strongly linked to local tourism policy and context. So the first step is very definitely research and feasibility.

If you have a site in mind, and you think it might be viable, initial sketch concepts based on site constraints is often really useful when having consultations with planners, locals or investors. I would always recommend that if you are having conversations with the local planning authority to have some sketches to get them engaged and excited about the concept. Sometimes this will be done informally but increasingly you will need to go down the route of a pre-planning application to get some formal feedback.

Developing a brief with an architect and exploring potential ideas, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of a location and considering what your budget is and the potential of phasing are all aspects of starting a project. Something else that our clients have been asked for during the planning process is a business plan. This will help you consider the budget, growth and phasing of a project.

House in the forestSelecting an architect
As an architect I would say that you should look for someone with a good imagination! There are architects that specialise in different kinds of buildings or projects and generally our design ability will mean that most architects will be able to fulfil the brief. However, I think that you will know when you meet a potential architect if they are the right fit for you.

Remember these kinds of projects are not generally straight forward, otherwise everyone would do them. Firstly and most importantly does the architect seem to be excited by the project? Do they ask lots of questions and give you the impression that they are up for a challenge? If so put them on the short list!

I would always advise that if you are speaking to a number of architects try to arrange an on-site meeting with each so that you can talk face to face and that the architect can fully appreciate the location. Shop around. Speak to architects locally and nationally if you see someone’s work that you like or feel that they might be a good fit for your project!

Make sure to check that any architects you are speaking to are registered member of ARB (The Architects Registration Board). Only qualified architects can be members. Some people think that RIBA is the professional body but associate members who are not architects can still be members.

You can check if someone is a registered architect on the ARB Register at Another useful website is the RIBA Find an Architect website. This is a free to use website where you can input a set of criteria and your information will be sent to chartered architects that might be the right fit for you (

Houses in the forestFees
The other thing to think about is the fee and what services an architect is offering at each stage. Ask for a breakdown – the feasibility study stage, then onto planning, then onto technical design and project management. Fees will vary depending on the complexity of the project, the location, scale and the amount of written reports the architect may need to do in addition to the drawing and design work.

In many cases planners want to see visualisations and a Design and Access Statement (a report that supports a planning application, illustrating the process that has led to the development proposal and explains the design) in addition to the standard drawings. These things can increase the architect’s fees. From my experience sometimes an initial fee for a feasibility study to help establish the scope of the project and some initial concept sketches and fact finding is hugely valuable to establish the next steps and route through to achieving your goals.

In terms of an architect’s fees, this will depend on how an architect charges. Sometimes this is based on a percentage of the overall budget for a project. However, from experience, where projects may not have exact parameters at early stages, fees are generally based on time expected to be spent at each stage. Hourly rates can vary but any architect will be able to give guidance on this.


Extra planning costs
It is worth remembering that there will most likely be additional fees given the nature of a potential site. Ecology, tree and topographical surveys may be required. Again, establishing this at an early stage is very important.

Another issue that has been raised on projects we have worked on is accessibility to and around the site. Is there a public transport route to the site, is there vehicular access and, if so, is there good visibility from the access? Believe it or not these sorts of things can be real stumbling blocks in making your dream of glamping a reality with planners.

Another very important tip is to consult with the neighbours if you have them. They will have concerns and if a planning application is sprung on them without notice they may be less likely to be cooperative.

Treehouse in the forest

Barbara Griffin-WrightAbout the Author
ADSDF are architects who both design and build. We love working on diverse kinds of projects that are a challenge! We specialise in working in rural contexts, converting old buildings and working closely with our clients to develop a project from initial fuzzy thoughts through to a clear strategy.

We love to work holistically helping our clients to join the dots between planning, business, budget and design. We are a family business – a husband and wife team, with both sons involved in the business. We are designing for clients as well as building our own dream, converting an old RAF military base into our future home. Follow ADSDF on Youtube at Home_from_a_ruin


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