Before you proceed to appoint an architect for your French building project, you might want to consider other free sources of planning and architectural advice.
The use of a qualified architect is obligatory in France if you are submitting a planning application, and the proposed habitable surface area of the building is greater than 170m², or where a proposed 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.
You are not obliged to use a French architect, but if you use an architect in your own country, or a foreign architect based in France, they must hold a recognised architectural qualification.
Before you select your architect, you might also want to consult the Conseil d’Architecture ‘d’Urbanisme et de l’Environnement (CAUE).
The CAUE is a federated body established by the Government to provide FREE advice to local councils, public officials, and private applicants in matters of planning and architecture.
Some CAUE have full time architects, but others use those who work in the private sector who spend some of their time working in the CAUE, for which they are remunerated by the local regional council.
The CAUE cannot be used to prepare and submit a planning application, but they can be a useful source of preliminary advice if you are contemplating a building or renovation project.
Your local mairie (if they offer a planning service) or the Direction Départementale d’Equipment (county planning and highways department) also offer a free planning and architectural advice through their conseil architecte. This service may also sometimes be provided directly by the CAUE.
If you are seeking advice on traditional methods of property renovation and repair, then you may want to contact the Maison Paysannes de France.
This is a charitable organisation that promotes the preservation of the character of older buildings and the use of traditional techniques of property restoration.
A similar charitable organisation is the Fondation du Patrimoine, whose main role is the protection and restoration of properties of historic or architectural interest in rural areas.
Not only do they offer architectural and building advice, they are also in a position to offer advice on financial assistance for property renovation.
Finally, we should also mention ANIL (L’Agence Nationale pour information sur Logement) the government housing information and advisory agency.
There are local offices of ANIL in all départements, staffed by civil servants whose responsibility it is to provide guidance and assistance to those seeking to buy, rent, refurbish or construct a property.
ANIL is also a useful source of advice in the event of a dispute with your architect or builder.
You can read more in our guide to French Planning System.