4. Appointing a French Architect
4.1. Obligatory Use of Architect in France
Architects are one of the ‘regulated’ professions in France, with access restricted to those with an appropriate qualification.
So, if you want to engage a bona fide architect, make sure they are a member of the l’Ordre des Architectes. Anyone who is not a member is not a qualified architect.
We have come across numerous instances of individuals claiming to be an architect registered in France, but not actually professionally qualified, and then using a bone fide architect to sign off their work. This is not illegal, but we would not recommend it as a method of building procurement.
The quality of French architects is generally very high, but their services come at a price, and there is no easy formula to ensuring your appointment is a successful one.
Many have a rather high opinion of themselves, like many professionals in France!
The use of a qualified and registered architect to prepare and submit a planning application is obligatory if the proposed net habitable floor area (called surface de plancher) of the new building is greater than 150m², or where an extension to an existing property generates a surface area that exceeds this threshold.
If you do not comply with this rule your planning application will be determined as inadmissible.
Below 150m2 you can use someone who may not be qualified as an architect, such as a maître d’oeuvre (contracts manager) but you need to be careful about selection and professional competence.
At a minimum, the architect will need to provide you with floor, site and elevation plans.
Once planning permission has been obtained you will then need to decide if you also want production drawings, for all architectural, structural, civil engineering, electrical and plumbing work. The cost of second stage architectural drawings will be high, and you need to consider if it is really worthwhile.
Some major builders offer a 'turn-key' service, in which they also take care of getting planning consent. In most cases, this will involve a dwelling constructed for you from a design catalogue - a process called contrat de construction avec fourniture de plan.
Whilst this will remove the need for you to appoint your own architect to prepare plans, you would be wise to have a professional on board to keep an eye on the construction phase.
Next: Finding an Architect
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