A quick guide as to why using an architect can save you time, stress and money on your project.

The role of the architect is complex and varies from client to client. Here is a quick guide to what an architect does, why using an architect will benefit your project and what stages and steps are taken and payment methods you can expect to encounter.

What is an architect?

In Australia to become an architect involves five years study at university, followed by a period of mandatory practical experience, and finally a registration examination, before they are allowed to practice their trade.

Aside from drawings, plans and renderings of your project, an architect can help you set a viable and realistic budget, while guiding you through council planning processes, managing consultants and obtaining competitive quotes for the work required to complete your project. A registered architect also has to complete mandatory Continuing Professional Development every year, which ensures they are always up to date with the latest information.

Why an architect?

Great design is not just about making the building or dwelling look good, an architect designed building is usually highly sought after and can equal sound investment with financial benefits. An architect can identify how to situate your project on the available land, in order to take advantage of all possible benefits including optimising views, aspect, sunlight, shade, natural cross-flow ventilation and efficient energy usage. The architect can also project manage the entire operation which equates to less stress for the client and more peace of mind. Architects can also save you money by picking up on potential issues before they become costly errors.

The role of an architect

The services of an architect consist of the following:

1. Design and feasibility

2. Development application/complying and development approval mechanisms

3. Contract documentation and detailed construction drawings

4. Contract administration and on-site architecture role (as two separate hats) during construction.

How much does an architect cost?

The cost of an architect will largely depend on their experience, reputation, location and the demand. You can employ an architect for all of the above stages or for just partial services. Although initially an architect may seem costly, in the long run, employing an architect for all stages can save costly blow outs in budget and better plan for/highlight potential delays/problems/issues.

Architects usually use on of the following or used in can be used in combination:

  • A percentage fee of the total construction cost.
  • Fixed fee project with detailed inclusions and exclusions.
  • Hourly rates for selected stages and exclusions: This means there is no fixed budget and you only pay for work that is completed. Usually a broad range is given of expected costs, but if you run into unexpected issues or make numerous changes, this can lead to a budget blow out. This requires excellent record keeping.

Important note: Any work completed outside the client and architect agreement will cost you more. The clearer your brief and budget indication, the tighter the management of the cost and fees.

What homework do you need to do before consulting with an architect?

Research the style of work the architect usually does. Have they got experience in the genre of design and the area your site is located, i.e. heritage,
sustainability, steep sites and so on. How familiar are they with the local authorities and local council.

Check the architect’s qualifications with the authority in your state to ensure you are working with a certified professional. Request references and visit their projects in various stages of construction and finished projects.

Before meeting your architect for the first time, make sure you have a clear brief for exactly what you want. Be clear about your budget ideas, ask for clarification on exactly what will be delivered and its cost. If a long term plan is required a good architect will also be able to present a Masterplan, that can be staged to accommodate the budget and needs.

Notes of meetings are very important, in managing the client’s actionable outlines, as lots of decisions can be made in a single meeting. It is imperative for decisions, timelines and clear communication. Discuss timelines and be aware that there are factors outside yours and the architects control with regards to the approval process and other issues that may arise.

Most importantly, develop a constant flow of trust and communication between you and your chosen architect. The more that is discussed and confirmed, the clearer the project becomes, and the more unlikely it is that you will come across an unwelcome surprise. Architects have a finely honed set of skills and creative minds, so be sure to create a working relationship built on mutual respect and trust and you can be sure your project will be a smoother and more joyful process for everyone involved.