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Architect, building designer, drafts person, oh my!

Jacinta O'Brien
October 22, 2016
Which would you choose and why? We're looking for someone who will draw up the plans, help with the application to council and monitor progress along the way. Although if the plans are understandable, I've done the owner builder course, then I'm sure I could monitor somewhat...maybe... In theory.

Comments (47)

  • LesleyH
    Thete is already an extensive post on this.
  • Jacinta O'Brien
    I'll give it a google then. My apologies for the repeat question. It's all new to me.
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    No, architect's don't just do "big budget"....but custom design just can't compete with the cost efficiencies that volume housing companies can achieve. $400K is super tight for a custom designed home no matter how small it is. I could give you a pretty accurate trade breakdown on a new house scenario (without designing anything) and dealing with say a minimised scale/size) and when you stack up the costs starting with preliminaries and then considering if you are an acreage situation considering services trenching in, site establishment flag falls, larger scale external aspects, even done conservatively you'll be more realistically/likely talking $700K ballpark minimum as a start and will go up from there depending upon certain decisions & detail........You need to be thinking $3500/m2 as a minimum for a custom scenario so unless the house is super small/apartment/unit sized ( which doesn't make sense on an acreage scenario) you'll have your budget challenged.........I crunch these numbers on a daily basis and I'm not exaggerating or being loose - but hope this helps give you a gauge for your decision making moving forward......Whilst I am a passionate advocate for architecture & quality design, I'm also super conscious of the realistic of what it practically costs to achieve the built results and you need a certain amount to achieve a certain scale of building when they are "one-offs" with minimal inherent economies of scale........... Possibly in your case you may be best to pursue a new home at an under $400K budget with a smaller design & construct packaged builder who kind of does a certain thing regularly so you can possibly achieve some system cost efficiencies but also get some customisation/flexibility....steer clear of the bigger companies because they as you say will be inflexible........ best of luck! Cheers PD
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  • Jacinta O'Brien
    I've googled my heart out. If you could direct me to these extensive articles that would be fantastical ;)
  • bigreader
    https://www.houzz.com.au/discussions/4213152/owner-builder-worth-the-headache

    Have a read of the comments on this thread as a start. Good luck.
  • Vy

    Jacinta ..I'm trying to find the thread but can't seem to find it as it wasn't the topic that the poster posted rather a diversion from topic in the thread itself

  • Vy

    bigreader ditto

  • bigreader
    Great minds Vy.
    Jacinta O'Brien thanked bigreader
  • annb1997

    Here is the post.

  • annb1997

    Happy reading. Hope it's helpful.

  • annb1997

    Oh, sorry, I see the post has already been mentioned, and doesn't seem to be what you want. Oops.

    Jacinta O'Brien thanked annb1997
  • Jacinta O'Brien
    Thanks everyone. I read the article although I'm now more confused and nervous than ever. I guess it all comes down to preference really and at this point I don't have one. Arggh!

    Thanks though. Shows I'm not the only one confused by it all.
  • Vy

    Jacinta spend time research ..look at their portfolios..We were lucky with our architect. He was on the same page as us..

    You need to find one that designs the same as what you want if they are into period homes and you want a modern look they might draw but their heart may not be in it etc ..

    Jacinta O'Brien thanked Vy
  • PRO
    Smudgeable Design

    Hi Jacinta,

    I think this is a common dilemma. Here's my two cents:

    Architects - arguably the most expensive (depending on how much you use them) but you will get the best quality design and the most thorough documentation.When getting builders and other contractors to price your job, the more detailed information you can give them the less likely you will be to experiences nasty surprises later on.

    Architects will also manage the job for you on site, and administer the contract meaning they will also check all of the builders requests for money at the various stages before you pay out the cash. Depending on the builder and the nature of the site, this can save you a lot more money in the long run that the cost of the architects fees. It depends how confident you are dealing with this stuff yourself.

    Building Designers - Whereas an architect has done 7 years at uni and sat honorous professional exams. A building designer can set up after a two year TAFE course. Obviously the depth of knowledge and the quality of the design work you are going to receive is therefore less (though this depends greatly on the designer - I find quality varies far greatly between building designers than it does architects). That said, a decent building designer will know everything you need to get the various permits, and produce drawings that a builder can work from (they just may not be as thorough). It depends on the complexity and level of detail/quality that you require really. If your job is relatively straight forward and you are not looking for a particularly high-end finish then a building designer can be a much more cost effective way to go.

    Also, If you already have a pretty good idea of the design you want and you just need someone to do all the technical bits to get the permits then a Building Designer can be a really good option. Have a look at this: http://www.architectyourself.com/design-your-own-home/

    Draftsperson - These guys are the cheapest and least qualified. They effectively know how to drive CAD. Don't expect them to do much (or any) design, but they will be able to produce the drawings for the permits you need. They will have less technical knowledge than building designers too, so you will need to have a fair idea of how you want your house to be built and you will need to manage them much more closely. In the past I have worked with people who have produced 'design drawings' themselves which they have then taken to a builder, who in turn employs a Draftsperson to draw them up properly for the permit applications. Again it depends on how much you are willing to do yourself and what sort of relationship you have with your proposed builder.

    Owner Builder - With regards the owner builder, generally I advise against it. You can save some money doing this but paying a builder to oversee sub-contractors means that he takes responsibility for any mistakes (if something goes wrong you may find all of the tradies just point at each other and it can be difficult to get it fixed without further expense). Also, while builders typically add a 15% management fee to the price, they will also be able to get preferential rates from tradies in return for repeat work, and they will have similar relationships with suppliers and manufacturers (or they should) - so the cost difference can be less substantial . Finally, they have insurance if things go wrong. When it is your own insurance, it can be easy to bury your head in the sand and pretend nothing has happened. When you are detached from it you can be far more logical and clinical about making a claim and getting it fixed.

    It really depends on how much you want to do yourself and what skills you have. I am happy to give you more advice if needed, just drop me a line.

    Good luck!

    Mark

  • LesleyH
    This is the one I mean. Sorry I should have been more specific.
  • LesleyH
    And another
    Jacinta O'Brien thanked LesleyH
  • PRO
    Smudgeable Design

    Hi Jacinta, id love to chat you about some more about this. Can you drop me a private message?

    Jacinta O'Brien thanked Smudgeable Design
  • PRO
    MB Design & Drafting

    Architect Yourself, what you have said re: Architects, Building Designers, Draftsman is only partly correct.

    The major part you missed was 'experience'. This goes for any profession by the way......

    Although an architect may well spent years at Uni doing the degree this doesn't equal any decent real life work i.e.: experience. A newly graduated architect may have little if any real life experience. Probably have rarely been onto a construction site or talked to clients. Therefore they are inexperienced! No amount of 'classroom' education can ever match the experience of working in the industry on a daily basis for a number of years in a chosen field. This is why a graduate spends time (2 years) with a practicing registered architect before they themselves can be a registered architect. If the practicing architect only does high rise facades what experience will the graduate have in residential dwellings? Not all architects have the design experience to design a residential dwelling to a high standard.

    Draftsman: 'They effectively know how to drive CAD. Don't expect them to do much (or any) design, but they will be able to produce the drawings for the permits you need. They will have less technical knowledge than building designers too' is quite honestly some of the biggest load of BS ever written! It's actually not only misleading but also degrading to the many superb draftsman doing exceptional work.

    Again experience is key. A draftsman like a building designer and like an architect should know not just how to draw but to have the technical knowledge, know the various legislation where they're doing the jobs, the NCC, Australian Standards, etc, etc.. How can a draftsman draw something if they have no understanding of the technical side. They probably couldn't even add any text to a plan if that was the case! How would the plans once complete even make it past the council's customer service desk if they have no technical knowledge of what they're drawing? As a worker in a practice they would probably have a very short career....

    Your statements are only partly correct, are quite misleading and quite degrading to the all the profession's.




    Jacinta O'Brien thanked MB Design & Drafting
  • PRO
    Smudgeable Design

    Hi MB Design,

    You make a very valid point about experience, and I would recommend checking out previous projects completed by anyone who intend to employ (including builders). That said I stand by my comments about architects having a superior education. I am not saying everyone should employ an architect, far from it as I know this is prohibitively expensive for most people, I simply want to temper peoples expectations of the alternatives.

    As I said in my post, I believe that the quality of draftspeople and building designers varies greatly from individual to individual. There are some brilliant (and experienced) building designers out there and some truly awful architects too.

    Generally speaking, in my 20 years experience in the construction industry, I find that many Building Designers and Draftsmen simply don't have the room in their fees to be creative and explore various ideas and concepts. Much like builders they prefer repeatable, standardised solutions that they can then tweek and apply to numerous applications. Again, I am not saying there is anything wrong with this, I am simply stating that if you want a unique and site-specific design then you might be better opting for an experienced and well-respected architect

    Jacinta O'Brien thanked Smudgeable Design
  • LesleyH
    Yes experience also helps knowing minimum size of rooms, how to place furniture and other functional items.
    Jacinta O'Brien thanked LesleyH
  • LesleyH
    Huge variety in quality and experience in architects as well - I know this from 30 years of experience in property development. This applies to any profession regardless of training - law, education, doctors, architects, building designers and drafts people. With experience my father use to say he has 30 years of experience, 30 years of doing the same thing year in and year out.

    Referrals are great from people you know but you would need more than one person's view. See their current work and ask the owners their thoughts about the process and pricing. Really do your homework.
    Jacinta O'Brien thanked LesleyH
  • Jacinta O'Brien

    Thank you everyone. It's still a bit of a dilemma but from all the comments I think we've been going about it ok so far.

    We've been searching for architects and building designers for close to a year, checking their projects to see if they've handled similar projects to ours or dealt with similar issues to ours (rising damp, narrow footprint, inner west council). I've been thinking about it for almost 3 years!

    We've also been checking the planning.org.au website for developments going on in our area to see who their building designer/architect was, their plans and budgets so we have a fair idea of what we want, how much we want to spend and what we can get - uncovered demolition nightmares not withstanding (although there is a contingency amount included).

    Recommendations have been sourced through friends, family and colleagues as well as Facebook groups. Additional checks of online reviews as well as going to the Department of Fair Trading for information.

    It's a massive amount of information to sort through and come out with a clear answer. I think my head is going to explode.

    Again, thank you all so much!

  • PRO
    Smudgeable Design

    sound like you are doing the right thing. sometimes it helps to just meet a few people and see what sort of vibe you get as well.

    Can I ask which Facebook group you have been looking at?

  • Jacinta O'Brien
    Just some local ones Marrickville Pay It Forward, Marrickville 2020. It helped to find people who had good and bad experiences with local services.
  • PRO
    Smudgeable Design

    I agree, good work!

  • Mel N

    I love that you list your issues: "rising damp, narrow footprint, inner west council". I can say this, because I share 2 of your issues- narrow footprint and inner west council!!. You poor buggers in Marrickville have inherited our Leichhardt lunatics. Word-on-the-street I hear is that they haven't fully amalgamated yet. My sister has just got a DA through in Marrickville seamlessly as the people assessing it were all ex-Marrickville planners. I'd hurry and get something in, before they decide to centralize the process.

    Are you in one of Marrickville's few heritage conservation zones?

  • Jacinta O'Brien

    Marrickville Council weren't any better. It's going to be a total nightmare regardless I think. They're clearly not amalgamated because you have to choose 1, 2, 3 and so on to get to the previous council group. Talk about poor planning and execution. Utter plonkers.

    I'm in Sydenham and every check I've done says we're not heritage (thank the Lord!) at this point.

  • annb1997

    Hang in there, Jacinta.

  • Mel N

    Honestly, it might not be that bad. As I said about my sister. She submitted a pretty ambitious plan, certainly not expecting to get everything (inc. a carport on the front!), and got everything....just had to drop the roof level of the 1st-storey addition a little, but no massive plan changes.

    Another option....you could find a local private Town Planner, sketch your ideas for them and get them to review how compliant it is. They may even suggest some alternatives. We did this the other way around- got the architect first, then needed TP to comment and support the DA. Unfortunately the 1st TP we spoke to refused because the plan was so far from compliant!!!. The 2nd one, only if we made some major changes would they support it. I guess the other alternative is have a pre-DA meeting with council. My sister did this- incorporated everything they suggested, and no issues.

  • Jacinta O'Brien

    Nice! Thanks Mel N. We have been reviewing other development applications so we're really looking to do something similar. The pre-DA meeting would work a treat I think. I've got my little 3D planning app so we could block it out to get an idea.


    Thank you. I have a next step instead of just spinning :)

  • PRO
    Scott Manuelle Constructions
    Hi, as a builders wife we work with a variety of architects, draftsman, owner builders etc and the one thing the owners have in common is generally a design is done before consulting with the builder to find out how much the build will actually cost.

    We usually come along once the architect, designer and draftsman have been engaged and are the ones having to change your design and budget to get you to completion.

    My advice is to get a builder in prior to plans drawn and council approval and make sure what you have in mind is within your budget. Most builder will provide you an estimate. Once you have plans drawn each change will cost $$$.

    Word of mouth and social media is definitely a great way to find good quality professionals.

    All the best
  • Jacinta O'Brien

    Thank you Scott Manuelle Constructions. I think we have a fairly good idea about what our budget can get having reviewed other DAs in the area and seen what their getting for their money. As remediating issues and the structure is the priority, we're prepared to go easy on everything else to ensure we adhere to the budget. I've no qualms about picking a $50 bath tap set over a $500 one as an interim measure.

  • LesleyH
    Having given my view above, if I was building a residence with a development and construction budget over $1,000,000, I wouldn't hesitate on researching and engaging an architect , as, with this budget, it would require an artisric flair and up to date knowledge of superior fittings and design elements.
  • annb1997

    Ditto.

  • PRO
    MB Design & Drafting

    Jacinta, try Carter Williamson Architects in Summer Hill. They're well experienced in your area and do great work. You could contact Howard Smith who runs an inner west architects association. I only have his email. (howard@hksa.net.au).

    I've done a few alterations and additions around Balmain and Leichhardt but they're few and far between. The council can be tricky but providing enough information and reports along with careful design is the key. This is where the time goes but the outcome can be an effortless DA/CC.

    The next part is finding a good builder. There is a lot of good one's around but I've heard of a few terrible one's recently cashing in on the shortage. Concrete footings poured without being inspected....that were also completely in the wrong spot...... This is where having an architect will pay off as they are the one's taking on the responsibilities of design, plans, council applications, project management, builders and trades, etc. If I knew the area better and did regular work I would know of some good builder's you could trust but I don't unfortunately.

  • LesleyH
    I would be happy taking a recommendation from MB design and drafting, always practical advice given.
  • Gallifrey

    Unless you are building a very standard and inexpensive house, don't risk it by not using an architect. You are investing too much money and will have to live with the outcome for years, and then there is resale to consider.

    Either go with a standard design from a home builder that you can live with (and make minimal changes if any), or get an architect. I would not risk anything in between.

  • LesleyH
    Or a buiding designer for up to a mid priced home.
  • Cattie

    I agree with Gallifrey. If you are in the inner west, you are probably modifying your house rather than rebuilding, so you probably need architect, and ideally someone who is very experienced in local building. We used a designer from outside the area for a tiny, simple extension, and had unexpected costs and hold-ups (and a huge cost per m2), in spite of a pre-DA consultation. For example, we found that residential building in some parts of Leichhardt is considered unacceptable because of aircraft noise.

    Jacinta O'Brien thanked Cattie
  • Jacinta O'Brien

    Our house was mid range in price although we live under 7 km from the city and prices have now gone through the roof. We're very conscious of not over capitalising and have collected development application layouts we think would work for us as well. Because it's a narrow terrace there aren't that many options.

    I think we've thought, researched and set a healthy enough budget. It's all a matter of who helps us sort it out! So thank you all again.


  • PRO
    MM+J Architects

    An architect of course!

  • Jacinta O'Brien
    It’s been an utter nightmare. Architects didn’t want the job as the budget was too small (350k) so we went to 2 concept to completion companies who both designed something over our budget despite saying we could get what we wanted within our budget. The plans never changed. Now what the current company has designed has failed to meet Councils requirements, mind you that’s because Council doesn’t have guidelines or legal clauses that outline their reasons for rejecting the design.

    A year later and we’re nowhere closer.
  • PRO
    MM+J Architects

    One of the significant issues is that construction costs have risen hugely - your architects may have firmly believed it could be built within budget - as for council - they do have specific regulations on what can be built but that is not a guarantee of getting it approved. I can look at it if you like David McCrae 0425 245 223

  • PRO
    MB Design & Drafting

    Thats a shame that nothing has really worked out for you.

    This is why when you mention councils, designers and builder's many people grit their teeth....

    I recall you're in the inner west of Sydney? which can be a tricky area. Keep pushing the designers to amend and get it passed. Many plans don't get passed first up but many councils will just reject rather than working through it all.

    Don't give up on your dream and I wish you luck with it all.


  • PRO
    MM+J Architects

    MB Design and Drafting - you speak the truth....Councils can be troublesome

  • PRO
    Paul Di Stefano Design

    Jacinta, am very sorry to hear that you've had no luck with your project pursuits......but may I also add your story is unfortunately not too uncommon and it doesn't surprise me...........after doing this for a fair while now may I add a comment or two.....skimming through the post above, a completely underestimated and often overlooked skill required by a design professional, whether categorised as an architect, designer, drafty or whatever is their capacity to manage the client's expectations of what is viable in a certain situation for a certain budget with their experience and knowledge. Yes construction costs have risen, and will continue to do so, and that's nothing new. $350K depending upon what you're doing and where, once upon a time was a healthy budget, but not anymore when you stack up the components. that is not to say that you cannot do anything, but to achieve something you'll need to be working with people who are all over the current construction costs and can help you strategically and logically consolidate your priorities simultaneously within the design/creative process to resolve an appropriate solution. There is always a (creative) solution to a scenario and a way to successfully navigate/negotiate challenges such as council limitations, challenging context, budget or whatever. Honestly, as a designer that's the easy bit, the hard(er) part is managing people in negotiating their particular "wants" and expectations and relative costs. What I understand really gets to people (like you have clearly experienced here ) is the unpleasant surprise and disappointment down the track after investing time and money with a company/designer in believing that you're working towards a feasible outcome when in reality the concept/direction is revealed to be non-viable, stonewalled or beyond budget. To avoid exactly this issue I service the front end of projects very broadly considering hard costed concept scenario options and hence "cutting to the chase" in order to appropriately align project requirements and project budget against the relevant specific contextual backdrop. Very quickly we endeavour get a realistic and accurate handle on whether a particular project direction is going to be viable or not and manage the client's expectations appropriately and fairly with minimal time and investment from their end. Depending upon the client and situation this step of the process initiates recalibration of client expectations (on budget or brief) and identification of what is possible one way or another so moving forward can occur with confidence and efficiency. From experience this has proven to avoid the exact situation you've unfortunately experienced. This should not be a "nightmare", rather it should be an exciting time in the process. At the end of the day it all comes down to money, it is invariably the ultimate controller of the decision-making process and accordingly you need to find and work with people who inherently understand this and can design honestly for you with respect to this factor and your specific needs. I hope this helps in some way and completely understand and sympathise with your situation :)

  • Jacinta O'Brien

    We'll have to agree to disagree then.

  • PRO
    Paul Di Stefano Design

    Hmm.......with what specifically??