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COVID-19: how has it affected architecture project costs?

COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the construction and architecture sectors – in more ways than one. From cost to lead times, many projects – large and small – are feeling the effects.

So, when’s the right time to buy? How do you know when the price is right? And what do you need to be thinking about?


In recent months, the UK has experienced a surge in the costs of essential building materials. This is due to severe shortages arising from the both the pandemic and Brexit, with supplies (many of them imported) being held up on their way into the country.

According to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the overall cost of building materials for new housing has risen by 6.7%, in comparison to the start of last year (2020). The report also reveals shortages of bricks, mortar and plasterboard, as well as a 23% rise in the cost of imported plywood since January 2020, with sand, gravel and aggregates all experiencing similar price increases.

This is seeing the overall costs of architecture projects rise rapidly (from £17k to £47k in the case of a recently quoted extension project). This is making it tricky to know when the time, and the price, are right. The key is setting a realistic budget and working with your architectural consultant to help you achieve your vision within your set budget.

Get ahead of yourself with planning

Although the time may not be right for your budget, now is the time to get ahead and fight the construction and planning backlogs.

After various periods of construction downtime due to national lockdowns and isolations, there is inevitably longer lead times on construction projects as the industry battles the ongoing backlog of work.

These supply chain bottlenecks have meant many building plans face delays. An analysis by the Local Government Association shows that over the last decade, more than a million homes that have been granted planning permissions are still yet to be built – and this number is only set to rise.

If you’ve a project in mind – whether it’s a residential or leisure development or home extension – you will need to apply for planning permission: sooner rather than later.

The planning process isn’t always straightforward, and the supply backlog is seeing permissions take longer than usual to come to fruition (as long as 6 months for a recent client we’ve been working with).

Even if the time isn’t quite right with material prices now, get your planning permission secured so you can take advantage as soon as project prices return to ‘normal’ or if you decide to press ahead regardless. If you’re not sure how to approach it, book an appointment with an architectural consultant that can help to chat through the complexities.

The silver lining

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has recently proposed plans to make building your own home easy and affordable. The new £150 million ‘Help to Build’ scheme has lowered the required deposit for a new home to just 5%, meaning you could secure a £250,000 new build with only a £12,500 deposit.

This ‘lightening of the financial load’ may mean residential project managers have more budget for their architectural design. This flexibility allows for design changes and details that may have otherwise been unviable.

While it is difficult to know how long supply shortages and price surges will last, this time can be used to fine-tune your architectural designs, both residential and commercial, allowing you to make alterations to small details or hard to find materials because of the pandemic. This flexibility can make a big difference and is perhaps one of the only positives of the current industry climate.

Regardless of the issues the industry has faced over the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s always important to plan well and establish a realistic budget, taking into account any hidden costs.

While time delays and construction prices may have soared, taking the time to factor in these costs into your architectural design process will help mitigate the effect they have on bringing your project to life. They may even add some unexpected flexibility, allowing you to get your project just right.

To find out more, call 01260 602 005 or visit our website at to book a FREE consultation.


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