Using an Architect for Housing (in a very small nutshell)

(A more detailed list can be found at the following link: http://bit.ly/RNAarchprocess)

Concept Design (4 weeks)

In this first stage of the process, the Architect nuts out the brief in the first meeting with the client then goes away and comes back with a number of initial rough concepts that fulfil that brief. Over the course of the concept design period, these rough early designs are distilled down into a single solution before proceeding to the next stage. Usually, during this time, a detailed measure up of the existing property occurs by the Architect (internally) and possibly a land surveyor (externally) if the best solution looks like extending the property boundary. At this early stage the Architect will also review all the council overlays on the site and ascertain whether there are any extra local council requirements on top of the requirements from the Building Code and Regulations. In some instances a Town Planning permit may be required which is an additional Architectural Service and a lengthy process in itself.

Unlike some other design practices, we start from day one with computer modelling (in addition to drawing and sketching). We believe a good working 3d computer model is paramount to the process of understanding even the early stages of how the design will look and feel. It also ensures we are on the same page as the client from the very beginning as it makes these concepts come to life. Imagine being able to walk through and visualise even very early concepts of your design! This is even possible in VR.

At Concept Design the Architect can suggest finishes, appliances and fittings but the process is still very organic. It’s usually wise at this stage to engage a Cost Planner to do an early analysis of the design and make sure the project is sticking to the budget. Once everyone is happy with the initial overall concept it’s off to stage 2…

Design Development (6 weeks)

Here the design gets further refined. Spaces are moulded and perfected. More finishes, fixtures and lighting elements are added. Details of how things go together begin to emerge and cabinetry starts growing doors and handles. The model is looking much more detailed and the client can take a virtual tour through the design getting a real sense of what the final spaces will be like. The Architect also begins to do accurate computer renderings of the interior spaces.

At this stage, the Architect will provide recommendations for further consultants particularly the Structural Engineer to have some early input in the design. At all stages, the Architect must also constantly compare the design to a large catalogue relevant regulations and standards to ensure they are incorporated into the concept. A Building Surveyor is engaged to ensure the building meets compliance and remains on the project until the very end. The building must also achieve an overall 6-star energy rating. This is where the Energy Rater comes in to crunch the numbers, run simulations and make sure the design is energy efficient. Consultants are usually engaged directly by the client on the Architect’s recommendation. Further details about roles of consultants can be found here: http://bit.ly/RNAcons

Contract (Construction) Documentation (12 weeks)

This is where the design gets technical! Volumes of highly detailed plans, sections, elevations, details and other drawings are prepared to allow builder’s who are tendering on the project to provide accurate costings and timeframes. The Architect will also provide schedules and a performance specification to ensure quality is taken through the build. The Structural Engineer will also provide a set of drawings at this stage. Once the package is ready we can go to Tender...

Tendering and Building Contract signing (6 weeks)

The drawing sets and specifications go out to tender (usually to 3 builders). After 1 month costings are received back from the builders and the tenders are compared. The architect will meet with the client and make a recommendation. Often the tenders require some negotiation to bring them closer into line with the client’s budget. Note that this can be a lengthy process if re-documentation is required.

Once the client and the builder are happy, we proceed to contract signing and we can start building! The normal building contract we use for housing at RNA is the ABIC SW H. This is a contract specifically designed to be administered by an Architect on the client’s behalf. One of the key advantages of this contract is that it ensures quality is taken right through the build.

Construction (4-6 months)

The build goes up! Throughout the process the Architect acts as agent to the client especially ensuring the details of the design are constructed accurately. The only time the Architect does not act exclusively for the client is when the Architect assesses the builder’s monthly progress claims. This determines how much the builder can invoice so obviously the Architect has to remain impartial. Gradually everything is put together, finishes are laid, issues are worked through on site, and the spaces take shape until eventually...

The client moves in!

The architect issues a certificate of practical completion to the builder and the Building Surveyor issues an occupancy permit. A small amount of money still is yet to be paid by the client to the builder as the defects liability period begins. Over the following 3 months bugs are ironed out in the build and defects in workmanship and performance are attended to. Finally the client’s contract with both the Builder and the Architect concludes when the Building Surveyor issues a final certificate.