These are our answers to some FAQs

The frequently asked questions we get asked the most about architecture and how we work with our clients – we hope they help answer some of your queries too.

There is another category of question, concerning matters that we think you should know about, what we call MAQs, or Must Ask Questions:

What do architects do?

Architects create a framework for people’s lives, through the design of the buildings that people live and work in. The work that we do includes:

  • investigating
  • guiding
  • analysing
  • suggesting
  • giving options
  • solving
  • anticipating
  • advocating…

See here for more.

Why should I hire an architect?
  • To make the most of your land
  • To have someone to help in the negotiations with your builder
  • So it is right first time

are a few answers to this question – see here for more.

What are the steps in the process?

We always start with a Needs & Options Review. For a full description of the stages of a residential renovation project see our Process page. But we’re also happy to talk to you if you just want quick advice about a potential property purchase.

I think I need a DA – what do I need to do?

First of all, depending on where you are and what you want to do you might not need a DA – we can help you work out what you need. For an outline of the development application process see here.

Do I have to use an architect – can’t I just go straight to a builder?

Going straight to a builder means you miss out on an architect’s design, which is nearly always going to be a better solution; see here for a more thorough explanation.

How do architects charge?

We tailor our fees to suit your project; the fee is usually structured in one of three ways:

  • as a percentage of the total construction cost;
  • as a fixed fee with a stipulated sum; or
  • as a reflection of the number of hours needed to do the work.

We sometimes propose a hybrid arrangement, with an hourly rate for some stages and a fixed fee for others.
For more, see here.

What does it cost to build?

There is no single answer to this question – it is like asking how much does a car cost: it depends. The cost of a project depends on quality, complexity, size, scope, time and site conditions. Architect-designed projects currently cost upwards of $3,000 per square metre in Sydney; as the expected standard of quality and finishes increases, so does the cost. As they say at NASA: ‘faster, cheaper, better – choose any two’.

How do you keep the project on budget – cost estimating?

Yes. Once the sketch plans are resolved, and prior to preparing for the Development Application with Council, we highly recommend having a quantity surveyor produce a cost report. We feel it is best to engage an external cost consultant to look at the project at this point so that the client is happy with an indicative budget before council submission – it’s no good getting approval for something you can’t afford to build.
After council approval, the scheme is documented and then put out to tender. The documentation process is very thorough, and so when the builder prices the project it is an accurate estimation of what the construction cost will be. We recommend fixed price contracts. Along the way, if you ask for additions or amendments to the scheme, we will advise you on the cost implications to the overall budget.

What can we do to help keep our project on budget?

Being realistic about the budget is very important for a successful project. We give advice on costs, the quantity surveyor prices the sketch plans, and then the builder quotes on a very detailed set of plans. If you do not increase the scope of work or add more expensive items – and can avoid uncovering unknown conditions in the early stages of the construction – you will remain within budget. Choosing the right builder is also very important in this equation. It is best to choose quality builders who may seem to cost more at the outset, but then do not look to make it up with variations during construction.

Do you have a builder who can build it for me?

We have worked with a number of builders. We recommend working with experienced, licensed building contractors who are fully insured and who will stand by their work. During the documentation stage we will contact builders we have worked with, or who whose work has been recommended by colleagues, to find if they are interested and available to provide a price in a competitive tender with four or five other tenderers. A tender process based on thorough documentation should obtain a firm, competitive price for the construction work that is not full of allowances and unknowns. The smoothest process – the best quality and the happiest clients – is when the architect is engaged to administer the building contract between the owner and builder: to assist with any queries that arise on site, to monitor quality, provide additional information when required, to assess builder’s claims and certify payments.

What are some of the factors that create cost over-runs during construction?

Initially there may be unknowns with ground conditions – or, in alterations and additions, the condition of the original house – that can result in cost overruns. Then there are things that are just the down side of the building industry, such as sub-contractors being so busy that they don’t provide their work on-time, which can have knock-on affects on others – but that is really for the contractor to deal with. Then there are changes on site, which are usually directed by the client. Bad weather can cost money as it means time, though this is less of a problem if you have a fixed price contract.

Won’t an architect’s involvement drive up the cost of my project?

Architectural design fees pay for extensive forethought about a project before any concrete is poured. See here for more.

How can I make sure you will give me the design that I need?

The development of a design is a two-way process between you, the client, and us, the architect. It starts with the design brief – this is when you tell us your wants, needs and dreams, as well as your budget. Look at our guide How to Prepare for your Project for some of the questions you should ask yourself before embarking on a project. The brief needs to be thorough, so we can understand your goals, what you want out of the project. With our Needs & Options Review process we get to understand your brief before we do any design work. Then, when we do start work on the design stage, we present a series of sketches and design solutions for your input and your response is taken on board at each stage until we arrive at the optimum solution for your project, on your site, with your budget. There is not a ‘take it or leave it’ design solution; we keep going until it is right.

What style of architecture do you do?

The best answer is to look at our portfolio of projects; we do not follow or promote particular styles or trends, as each project and every client is different. We agree with Le Corbusier that ‘the “styles” are a lie’; styles change every five or ten years and are pretty disposable; building is slow and pretty expensive. We believe in designing buildings that will last for a long time, that are environmentally efficient and as sustainable as possible. We believe that your home should be a robust container for your life, something that will change with you as your circumstances change.