Loading page...

Working with an architect works

Whether you are building a new home or developing an existing one, working with a qualified architect is your best bet to bringing your dreams to life.

Whether you’re building a new home or developing an existing one, working with an architect is your best chance of bringing your dreams to life.

Designing and building or renovating a home can be very complicated.

When you hire an architect, you have a professional on your side who knows the construction industry inside out; someone who has undertaken seven years of architectural training and is a registered professional.

No other building professional is as qualified in design and construction to such a high level.

Not designers, draughtspeople or your sister’s husband’s brother who’s handy on a computer.


Architects are professional problem-solvers and lateral thinkers.

For instance, they can suggest new ways of utilising space and light, assist with ideas for materials, finishes and fittings, find the right builder, and create design solutions to reduce your running costs while maximising energy efficiency.

An architect will help you maximise the potential of your renovation or building project, guiding you through the design and construction process.

They provide a service that extends well beyond a set of drawings: they can stimulate your imagination, help your peace of mind, stretch your resources, administer contracts and keep everything on track, on time and on budget.

In short, for a fraction of the costs of the total project, they are a sound investment.

The earlier the better.

Working with an architect is a partnership, and the sooner you establish that partnership the better the relationship you’ll both have to deliver your dream home.

An architect can help you right from the early stages when you are not even sure if you should renovate, detonate and rebuild or simply move.

An architect will help you determine if your budget is realistic and if your ideas are achievable within council and other regulations. They can help you define your project, carry out site analysis and provide a variety of other pre-design services before you even start looking at concepts.

An architect can take you all the way from drawings to completion day.

They can oversee the design, assist with the approvals process, manage the build and help keep track of your budget.

Here’s a guide as to how you can work with your architect to achieve the best results.

Concept design

This stage is important for all projects. It begins with your architect getting a real feel for your needs so that together a clear brief can be established with a realistic budget. This will help reduce the overall design costs and help ensure that your home is completed on time and on budget by identifying and reducing any potential issues early on.

Once a brief is agreed, initial design work can be undertaken. This is the point at which your architect prepares early design concepts which start bringing to life your brief and ideas. Some important aspects of a design begin to come together such as the floorplan layout, the way the building or renovation is arranged on the site and the way it responds to things like sunlight and prevailing breezes.

Town planning & development application

Some projects require approval from your local council. Your architect can help with the necessary drawings and approvals (where required) before your project goes ahead, including preparation of applications to the local council and negotiations with the other statutory bodies such as water authorities.

Design development

Your architect will work closely with you to develop the design to ensure it fits your dream, maximises your investment and ensures cost effectiveness and value. This stage includes refining details of the design, the selection of building materials, resolving any outstanding regulatory issues, and working with specialist consultants such as structural engineers to ensure the building meets building regulations.

Construction documentation

The drawings and specifications will be prepared by your architect, and they can oversee the development of specialist plans where necessary (e.g. structural engineering, plumbing) by other consultants. They will also lead you through the process in regards to the building permit.

Contractor/builder selection

Your architect will guide you through the contractor selection process, helping you select suitable builders, obtain competitive prices for construction, negotiate with the preferred tenderer (if required) and prepare the contract documents.

Contract administration

Your architect can administer the contract between yourself and a builder to build your dream home. They will liaise with the builder to assess quality of work at key stages and ensure that contract and specifications are complied with. They will keep you informed of progress, approve variations, certify progress payments, identify defects and ensure they are rectified, and generally oversee the construction through to successful completion.

1. Gather your thoughts.

This is a vital part of the process because this project is all about your ideas. Our suggestion is to start a scrapbook, or you can use our Pinterest Dreamboards to get inspiration and start collecting ideas.

Everything you see that fits your thoughts or builds the dream should be put in here.

It will give your architect a head start on what you like.

At the same time, start a list of the must-haves (e.g. number of bedrooms, bathrooms etc.), your present and future needs and how much you realistically have to spend.

2. Choose your architect.

There are almost 6,000 practising architect members of the Australian Institute of Architects so your choice is immense, not to mention daunting.

Thankfully, this site can make the task easier. You can use a searchable directory Find An Architect that groups them by locality and specialty. Or you can purchase a fixed price design feasibility service that will help you understand what’s possible for your dream home ideas on your block.

3. Refine the brief.

This is the final stage of the nitty-gritty.

This is the time to work with your architect to ensure they have all your needs and wants to start creating.

He or she will have probably done some preliminary work on the peculiarities of the site, zoning and planning guidelines, drainage, views, sun and wind directions and changes and any other factors that need to be taken into account.

Together you tighten the brief, set some timelines and the design process begins.

4. Concept design.

Now it’s getting exciting.

The architect comes back with the initial ideas. Typically this would be a floor plan, maybe some elevations or perspective drawings, references to the materials proposed and the like.

The idea is to give you a clear notion of what is being proposed, leaving you room to make comment and changes, without going to final drawings.

5. Your Feedback.

This may be the most critical part of the process and remember, it’s a partnership. It’s your chance to give your thoughts on the concept design and any changes you would like to see and the reasons why.

We recommend the best way to approach this is to write down all your thoughts and why they work or how they could be improved.

Chances are the solution the architect finds will be something that hadn’t occurred to you.

It’s important to cover all the questions (no matter how silly you think they sound) and thoughts you have before things get serious and the builders start building.

It helps to be positive too. Point out the features you like. This helps the architect in modifying the design or redesigning from scratch.

6. Developed design.

Now we’re into the serious part of the journey.

The final concept should be agreed at this stage. All the re-designs and rethinking should be done to your complete satisfaction and you should know exactly what’s going to happen and what you will be building.

Final budgets will be discussed, fittings and finished suggested or modified and priorities set. For instance, the fancy taps may have to go in favour of the Italian oven.

Don’t feel rushed or pressured. Take your time and when you’re happy, give your architect the green light.

7. Permits, approvals etc.

This is where an architectural firm really makes life easier for you.

They know how to navigate through the sea of red tape and regulatory approvals to ensure everything that needs to be approved and signed off is looked after.

8. Working drawings.

Suddenly your plan has blossomed into a whole raft of drawings covering every aspect of the construction.

These drawings are part of the process to explain to the builder and their team how to convert your dreams into reality. The concreters, carpenters, electricians, plumbers and everyone else in a typical construction crew are looking at the plans for their area of specialty. These working drawings are the final plans and will undoubtedly look highly technical and a little confusing.

Ask your architect questions. They will explain what is happening.

9.Choosing your builder.

You architect can be of assistance here as well unless you had already engaged or decided upon a builder.

The architect knows your budget, style of building, any challenges the site may present and can work with you to shortlist some builders and help in the final selection process.


This is the legally binding commitment between you and your builder to deliver your project. Your architect can administer this contract on your behalf.

It is not uncommon for building projects to contain hidden surprises– structural difficulties such as unexpected ground conditions, for example – that can have an impact on the design and the building cost.

The best way of preparing yourself is an adequate written contract, designed to manage such events fairly from each party’s point of view.

Your architect can advise you on the contract type, as well as be the contract administrator. They have the skill and expertise to do so and they can minimise your risks and stress.

It’s genuine peace of mind for everyone.


This can be the scary bit, especially if you’re trying to manage it yourself.

An endless army of people with problems and questions.

We recommend you keep your architect in the picture during this critical stage. He is your site representative and knows better than anyone how it should look, how it should be finished and the quality demanded.


Do I need to contract my architect to deliver all the services necessary to complete my home?

Not necessarily. You may have project-planning, design or construction expertise yourself, and feel confident to undertaking some tasks yourself. But don’t be misled by DIY forums and home improvement TV. Building construction is a complicated process and requires expert input.

Discuss this with your architect so that you fully understand how the building process will unfold.

Then you can establish who will do what and how to coordinate it.

How do I find the right architect?

All building projects are different – every client, site and therefore every brief is unique. There is no single solution to your project and the range of architects will each offer their own approach. Selecting the right architect is one of the most significant decisions you can make.

Good architecture needs close collaboration between client and architect – a partnership.

Choose an architect whose work you like and that you get on well with: a renovation or building project can be a long, slow process.

Your architect’s aim will be to follow your brief closely and apply their skills to bring your ideas to life. The more you share and collaborate, the better the result.

Our architect profiles feature past projects so you can quickly put together a shortlist.

Architects must be registered in the state or territory in Australia in which they are delivering the architectural services. We recommend architects who are also members of the Australian Institute of Architects. You can check if an architect is registered here.

Be prepared to answer questions about your project’s purpose, budget, time-frame, site plus the team of players you anticipate being involved with your project.


Once you have selected your architect, the responsibilities of each party and the services to be provided by the architect should be set down in a formal contract, (usually referred to as an agreement).

An Australian Institute of Architects Client and Architect Agreement will include:

• details of the project

• architectural services

• cost and time

• architectural fees

• specialist consultants

• intellectual property

• insurances and liabilities

• client and architect obligations

• dispute resolution and termination

• special conditions

How do I choose?

Follow up by contacting referees: ask about their experience working with the architect, what role did the architect play in managing their project and whether they are happy with final job.

You want a balance between design ability, technical competence, professional service and cost. Importantly you want to feel confident that your architect understands what you are looking for and has experience designing the style of home you want.

Don't forget to notify the selected firm as soon as possible to ensure their availability.

Fees and Expenses

Architect’s fees are a matter for negotiation: there is no standard basis for calculation.

The fee will reflect the degree of personal service and design that your home involves, and will be affected by the complexity of the project.

For instance, projects involving house extensions and refurbishment can be significantly more resource-intensive than new builds. Repair and conservation of historic buildings is even more complex.

Fee options.

An architect may quote their fee as a percentage of the building cost or as a lump sum. In cases where the scope of their work is harder to predict, or for services such as feasibility studies or those not relating to construction, the quote may consist of an hourly or daily rate together with an estimate of the time required.

Let your architect talk you through their proposal but also keep asking questions until you are satisfied you understand the reasons behind the costs.


Find an Architect

Design Services

Contact us