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Partial Services: ‘I want the drawings but I’ll look after the construction myself’

Clients sometimes approach us saying ‘I want the drawings but I’ll look after the construction myself’ as though the role of the architect after the development approval is negligible. Sometimes, after getting the development consent, they decide to move ahead without detailed drawings – after all, how hard can it be to build a building? These people don’t understand that the design process continues after the development application (DA) has been approved. Development Approval is for the type of building, the overall size, the height and bulk and window locations – the matters that can cause impacts on the environment due to inappropriate use or scale, or on neighbours’ amenity through overlooking or overshadowing.

After the development approval you are not legally entitled to build until a construction certificate (CC) has been approved. In granting the CC the certifier states that the building will comply with the Building Code of Australia (BCA) and relevant Australian standards if it is built according to the drawings and specification. Bathrooms, Kitchens, Laundry and many details are not needed for the CC approval, so they are often not supplied at this time. Nor are they provided when clients only want to engage the architect for the minimum set of drawings that will get for an approval.
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The details are not the details. They make the design. Charles Eames

Although details are matters that have a major impact on the quality of the finished project, some clients only want to pay for what they are required to provide in order to get their approvals. Details, they say, they’ll work out with the builder on site. They can do that, of course, as there are many ways of procuring a building. However the quality of the built result suffers. It seems a false economy to get a kitchen or bathroom designed by someone new to the project – a bathroom or kitchen supply company, for instance – when the design has been closely considered by the architect even if the architect has not yet been asked to document it in detail.

House-at-Glebe_Construction6Limiting the architect’s involvement can be a way for clients to be able to afford an architect on their project, and an architect’s partial services will always produce a better design than something produced by a builder. But it must be emphasised that the production of construction documents is an important part of the architectural design process.

The production of construction documents is an important part of the architectural design process

They are a detailed and organised set of drawings, schedules and specifications that record the decisions made and the information gathered during the design process between the client and the architect.  The design documentation is the primary means of communicating your requirements to the contractor for construction. The realisation of the built work is a complex process which starts with lines, numbers and words on flat sheets of paper and concludes with a structure built for human habitation – your home. In this process there are myriad clarifications, deliberations, and refinements of the design that are required, along with the input of a collaborative building contractor. These clarifications, deliberations, and refinements continue while the construction works are ongoing.

Retaining the architect for the full project ensures that you get what you wanted as decided during those long conversations during the sketch design stage at the beginning of the project.

Retaining the architect for the full project ensures that you get what you wanted

Also see 9 Myths about Architect Services during the Construction Stage

by Peter Hill

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