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Working with a residential Architect?

Posted: Thursday, November 7, 2019 at 1:15:33 PM EST by David Hackwood - Architect

So you’ve decided to build a new home, add an extension or do a renovation of your existing home. Often as first-time builders or renovators you are completely in the dark as to how the whole thing works.

You are looking for someone you can trust and are comfortable with for the design and to guide you through the seemingly complicated process of dealing with councils, engineers and builders. Do you engage an architect?


Image source: freepik.com

Engaging an architect can be expensive with the fees they charge… or so you have heard. However using the right architect will always add far more value to your home than the cost of their fees.

But how do you find the right architect? Talking to two or three architects can be invaluable to find a good fit for you. Most architects will have an initial meeting to allow you to chat about your project, and for both parties to get to know each other.

While having similar taste and design values is good, in any architect-client relationship the parties should also be a good fit personality wise.

Ask lots of questions, look at previous projects they have completed or designed… but most of all see if they are interested in you, your values and your vision for your new home. After all the role of the architect is to bring your dreams to life.

After you have chosen your architect make sure you agree on what services are to be provided, likely time frames involved, what fees will be charged and what form of written agreement is to be used. Most architects are happy to explain the process and many will charge a fixed fee for their services.

Agreeing on a realistic budget is imperative so that the architect can create a design that brings your ideas and requirements into line with how much you want to spend. The right architect won’t shy from advising when and if your ideas won’t match your budget.

The design stage of any project should be enjoyable as you work with your architect to unlock all the ideas and explore all the options.

Whist your architect can be engaged to do the design, get you the necessary approvals and help you find the right builder, they can also be involved during construction to ensure you get what you are paying for.

Ultimately the end result should be a home that suits your site, your lifestyle and your budget, that you and your family can enjoy for many years.

Tags: architect, home, design, ,

Smarter Small Homes

Posted: Thursday, June 19, 2014 at 9:56:08 AM EST by David Hackwood

With the cost of building houses increasing and a need for houses to be more affordable, there is a move towards designing and building smarter smaller homes. Small homes are not new but combining them with smart design principles to create affordable, efficient and sustainable homes is.


  •  Minimise the building footprint – 150 - 200m2
  •  Utilise ‘add on’ design – build the rooms you need now and allow to add extra rooms when needed.
  •  Utilise efficient use of space – design to suit your furniture.
  •  Enhance and increase the available outdoor space.
  •  Embody ‘Livable Housing Design’ principles’ to ensure the house can be adapted to suit changing needs.
  •  Utilise materials and products that can be simply installed and finished eg sandwich panels for walls and roof or sheet products for quick coverage.
  •  Build to standard material dimensions to minimise waste.
  •  Include passive solar principles to reduce heating and cooling needs.
  •  Maximise natural lighting whilst maintaining privacy – incorporate courtyards and skylights.

 With creative design small homes can be innovative and livable.



Livable Housing Design

Posted: Monday, August 12, 2019 at 2:54:16 AM EST by

Over the last few years we have seen ‘sustainability and ‘energy efficiency’ become part of the design of the Australian home. Our homes are greener and more efficient than ever before. Now there is a move to transform the home even more.

Livable Housing  Design is an initiative of the government and various business and community groups. The aim is to encourage homes to be designed to be more versatile and better meet the needs of occupants over their lifetimes.

The Livable Housing Design Guidelines make homes easier to access, safer to use for all occupants including people with a disability, those who are ageing, people with temporary injuries and families with young children.

At this stage the guidelines are not mandatory but Australians are being encouraged to voluntarily comply with the design elements.


There are 3 performance levels – Silver, Gold and Platinum with Silver being the base level. The goal is for all new homes to achieve this level.

The seven core design elements for Silver level are:

  1. A safe continuous and step free path of travel from the street entrance and/ or parking area to a dwelling entrance that is level.
  2. At least one, level (step-free) entrance into the dwelling.
  3. Internal doors and corridors that facilitate comfortable and unimpeded movement between spaces.
  4. A toilet on the ground (or entry) level that provides easy access.
  5. A bathroom that contains a hobless (step-free) shower recess.
  6. Reinforced walls around the toilet, shower and bath to support the safe installation of grabrails at a later date.
  7. A continuous handrail on one side of any stairway where there is a rise of more than one metre.

The other two performance levels introduce additional elements in areas such as the kitchen, laundry and  bedroom plus details for elements such as power and light switches, and floor coverings.

For more detailed information refer to the Livable Housing Australia website: www.livablehousingaustralia.org.au

 A lot of the ideas are common sense and have been part of good architectural design for some time. However the move to make livable housing more mainstream is great and I personally support the initiative.  Discussing the Livable Housing Design Guidelines will form part of the design consultation  process with any new clients.

 Hopefully I can help contribute to the goal of Living Housing Australia – ‘Championing safer, more comfortable and easier to access homes for everybody, everyday, at all stages of life.’



The Advantages of Using an Architect

Posted: Monday, December 10, 2012 at 10:21:18 AM EST by David Hackwood

 The most important piece of architecture that you are ever likely to experience is your own home:  it’s the one piece of the built environment in which you will spend most of your life. Architects spend seven years training while all the time considering the creative use of space, the appropriateness of materials, the importance of detail and the intangible improvements in human wellbeing that occur in a well-designed environment. So we ought to use them.
Kevin McCloud ‘Grand Designs Handbook’ 2006 


Commencing a building project, be it a new home, a simple extension or a complex building, is a big decision, so it makes sense to use the expertise of an architect. An architect has the technical skills, knowledge and experience to ensure your vision becomes a reality. 

Designing and building without an architect may save you money upfront but an architect can add design benefits and value to your project by utilising their specialist skills. They can save you money over time and give you a more original and creative building. 


An architect is usually a university trained, multi skilled professional who is required to be registered with the Board of Architects in the particular state where they work. They are also required to undertake continuing professional development to ensure their skills and experience remain relevant and up to date. This is to protect your interests so you know when you engage an architect you will be working with a fully qualified professional. 


Architects do more than just design and produce nice drawings. A good architect can help you with the following skills:

  • Advise on selection of a site
  • Help you put together your brief
  • Design and plan to match your personal requirements and budget
  • Prepare drawings for approval
  • Obtain competitive quotes  from builders.
  • Be involved on site during construction to ensure the building is completed as per the documents. 

Architects understand council rules and policies on what you can build and where. They also tend to think laterally and in the design process can give you more options and possibilities. 

A good architect can incorporate current trends and concepts. For example ‘sustainability’ and ‘energy efficiency’ are desirable in new homes nowadays and a skilled architect can sensitively include these ideas and still produce a building that is pleasant and appealing. 


Generally ‘building designers’ have limited formal design training. They will draw what you ask them to but may not make suggestions or present you with options. They have skills to provide you with building application drawings but may not take responsibility for cost estimates or ensure that the design meets your budget.

Only a person who is registered with the Board of Architects can use the term ‘architect’.  Architects offer a far greater scope of services based on their higher skills and experience.


Architects fees vary for each project so it is best to ask for a fee proposal and to make sure you have a clear understanding of the services and costs prior to making a decision. Because a good design will save you money over time and add value to your home, in most cases architects pay for themselves. An architect designed home is usually a good investment because of the quality and efficiency of the final product.

 The main advantage of using an architect is that he (or she) is trained to do the specific task that you need them to do and has your best interests at heart.  Engaging an architect for your building project is the smartest decision you can make.



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