Ruxandra Palcu Architects is an RIBA Chartered practice creating healthy and comfortable architecture that performs to the highest standards, whilst respecting the natural environment. Founder Ruxandra Palcu chose to pursue her career with a passion for promoting sustainability and a commitment to improving happiness and quality of life through architectural design.
Our core values incorporate:
COLLABORATION - RPA embraces collaboration to create beautifully detailed architecture that is good for people and the planet, always exploring new innovative approaches that will contribute to the creation of self-sustaining, thriving communities. We collaborate with contractors and other professionals that share our ambitions for delivering highly efficient, affordable buildings
PERFORMANCE DRIVEN DESIGN - RPA is committed to contributing towards raising the standards in the built environment, by embedding environmental design within all of our processes. Sustainability strategies are explored from initial project stages and systematically reviewed against the strategic targets, following the RIBA Sustainable Outcomes Guide. RPA is a firm advocate of the London Energy Transformation Initiative and their mission to place the UK on the path to a zero-carbon future. We also collaborate with Architects Climate Action Network and we are signatories of the Architects Declare movement.
RETROFIT FIRST - RPA supports the industry campaign to prioritise retrofitting existing buildings over demolition and rebuild. Retrofit of existing buildings is cost-effective and conserves, and enhances, existing communities. Additionally, retrofit reduces carbon emissions through embodied energy savings made in repurposing existing buildings, compared with the ultra-high embodied energy costs of demolition and rebuild.
RESEARCH - As an architectural practice specialised in environmental design, learning and research are essential to our process. We are constantly embracing opportunities to research and develop new knowledge and architectural procedures with project collaborators, industry bodies, and academia.
People are at the core of our design process. We thrive on the client / architect / design team relationship to explore all design possibilities. We collaborate closely with contractors, structural engineers, services engineers, other architects, and a variety of other disciplines in the quest of delivering the highest quality of architecture.
Ruxandra Palcu MSc Arch RIBA ARB MSc EDE
Founder and Director
Ruxandra’s extensive experience was consolidated on commercial projects whilst working as Associate at 50-people practice Harper Downie in London, leading complex projects including hotels, offices, and large-scale residential developments. Her expertise in hotel design led to her partnering with Z Hotels for the delivery of numerous hotels in central London, before forming Ruxandra Palcu Architects Ltd in 2019. Ruxandra is registered as a Certified Passivhaus Designer and she also holds a Diploma in Retrofit Coordination and Risk Management.
Ruxandra graduated with a degree in Architecture (MSc Arch) from the Polytechnic University of Madrid in 2007, which enabled her to work with distinguished architects such as María José Aranguren, José González Gallegos and Javier Bernalte. In 2019 she also graduated with a master’s degree in Environmental Design and Engineering (MSc) from University College London.
The process of architecture starts with understanding how we can help our clients; communication is key in order to create a project brief. Following the initial discussions, and once we have clearly outlined the client's goals and desires, we prepare a detailed fee proposal outlining each project task so that clients are aware of exactly what they are paying for. Good design produces better value; balancing quality, time and cost from the beginning is essential in evaluating design quality along the way and ensuring excellence in the end result.
We use the latest building information modelling software, which allows us to produce fully coordinated drawings and schedules, all encompassed in one 3D model, for a perfectly integrated design. This 3D model is also used for real-time visualisations that assist the design team and clients to have a clear understanding of how the design is evolving throughout the life of the project.
In parallel to the standard architectural services outlined in the RIBA Plan of Work, we can perform the following additional services:
Passivhaus design services
Retrofit Coordinator services
The RIBA Project Work Stages, by which we structure our projects, are as follows:
Stage 0 - Strategic Definition
The primary goal of Stage 0 is strategic, to ratify that a construction project, or otherwise, is the best means of achieving the Client Requirements. Stage 0 is not about design or the practical details. It focuses on making the right strategic decisions and capturing them in a Business Case. This stage involves considering the pros and cons, Project Risks and Project Budget for a range of options and, where necessary, carrying out Site Surveys and corresponding planning appraisals, before undertaking a comparative analysis and recommending and ratifying the best option for delivering the Client Requirements.
Stage 1 - Preparation and Briefing
If Stage 0 has determined that a building project is the best means of achieving the Client Requirements, the client team begin the briefing process during Stage 1. The Client Requirements for the project are considered in more detail, in connection with a specific site, and the outcomes recorded in the Project Brief, including guidance on the Project Outcomes, Sustainability Outcomes and Quality Aspirations. These may influence how the client, design and construction teams are assembled to form the project team, as part of the Procurement Strategy, and may dictate the core milestones in the Project Programme.
This stage involves developing the information that the design team will need to commence the design process at Stage 2. Feasibility Studies might be required in order to tease out the full range of briefing considerations and to demonstrate that the Spatial Requirements can be accommodated on the site, nevertheless Feasibility Studies are not part of the design process.
The design team, with appropriate knowledge, skills and experience to deliver the Project Outcomes, are to be selected, ready for Stage 2 to commence. On some projects, this team may already have been appointed to develop the Project Brief.
Stage 2 - Concept Design
Stage 2 sets the Architectural Concept for a project. Proposals that align with the Site Information and the Project Brief, including the Spatial Requirements, are prepared. Regular Design Reviews are used to seek comments from the client and other Project Stakeholders and the design is iterated in response. Any Project Brief Derogations are agreed, or the Project Brief is adjusted to align with the Architectural Concept.
The Architectural Concept proposals are also iterated to accommodate inputs from the design team and from specialist consultants, including the Strategic Engineering requirements (building services, civil and structural engineering). The proposals would also be coordinated with the Project Strategies, and everything captured in a Stage Report. The Cost Plan is used to demonstrate that the proposals and Outline Specification are aligned to the Project Budget.
The client may seek Pre-application Planning Advice on the suitability of the initial proposal from a planning adviser or the relevant planning department. The Architectural Concept will be reviewed against the Quality Aspirations, and the route to Building Regulations compliance is to be clarified and agreed. A Design Programme is prepared, in line with the Project Programme and the Responsibility Matrix, to guide the design process and to ensure that the Information Requirements are included in the Stage Report signed off by the client.
Stage 3 - Spatial Coordination
Stage 3 involves testing and validating the Architectural Concept, to ensure that the architectural and engineering information prepared at Stage 2 is Spatially Coordinated before the detailed information required to manufacture and construct the building is produced at Stage 4.
Detailed Design Studies and Engineering Analysis are undertaken to ratify the assumptions made during Stage 2 and to layer more detail onto the design. Stage 3 is not about adjusting the Architectural Concept, which should remain substantially unaltered, although detailed design or engineering tasks may require adjustments to make sure that the building is Spatially Coordinated.
Design Studies should be aligned to Cost Exercises and the development of the Outline Specification - iterations of the design may be required to ensure the Cost Plan aligns with the Project Budget. Product suppliers and specialist subcontractors might be consulted to test or conclude specific aspects of the design. A Spatially Coordinated design allows each designer, including specialist subcontractors, to finalise their information at Stage 4 (except for minor tweaks at interfaces) without further major iterations of the design.
The Project Strategies are to be updated and additional detail added, and a Building Regulations review undertaken. A Stage 3 Design Programme is created to make sure that the right tasks are undertaken at the right time. At the end of Stage 3, once the client has signed off a Stage Report that captures all the design development work undertaken during the stage, a Planning Application can be submitted.
Procurement is a critical activity in securing a successful outcome to the project. The form of procurement to be used is therefore a key consideration, and must be decided upon at the appropriate time. Procurement is not stage-specific, and the timing of procurement-related activities will depend on the procurement route chosen for the project and actions and considerations are required in all project stages.
Stage 4 - Technical Design
Stage 4 involves the preparation of all information required to manufacture and construct a building. A Building Regulations Application is made during Stage 4, before work commences on site. It will also be necessary to discharge any pre-commencement Planning Conditions.
Cost control measures applied during this stage will vary from project to project. These might include the preparation of an updated Cost Plan, bills of quantities or pricing schedules, as defined by the Procurement Strategy. The Building Contract needs to be agreed and signed at some point during the stage, to allow Stage 5 to commence. The majority of Project Strategies developed by the design team will be embedded in the Manufacturing Information and/or Construction Information, but some will continue into this stage and beyond.
Stage 5 - Manufacturing and Construction
Stage 5 comprises the manufacturing and construction of the Building Systems in accordance with the Construction Programme agreed in the Building Contract. The construction team take centre stage at Stage 5. The contributions from the client team and design team will depend on the Procurement Strategy, and on how the client decides to review Construction Quality as construction progresses.
Stage 6 - Handover
Stage 6 starts with the building being handed over to the client, with Aftercare initiated and the Building Contract concluded. After the building has been handed over, the construction team rectify any residual defects as promptly as possible. In addition to the core contractual obligations to rectify defects, certify Practical Completion and close out the Building Contract, other tasks are undertaken.
A Project Performance session can be facilitated, where the project team shares their experiences for the benefit of future projects. Initial Aftercare tasks are initiated and completed at this stage. The project team might also be interested in the feedback from a light touch Post Occupancy Evaluation, conducted once any seasonal Commissioning has been completed, so they can understand how the building is performing and whether the building and its systems are being used as planned.
Stage 7 - Use
On the majority of projects, the design team and construction team will have no Stage 7 duties to undertake. However, both teams might be interested in receiving ongoing feedback, to help them understand how they might improve the performance of future buildings. The client may commission Post Occupancy Evaluation services to determine how the building is performing in use.