The Australian Dream Series


Selecting a Building Designer

A Building Designer or Architect ?

In broad terms, qualified Building Designers design houses, unit developments up to 2 stories and small commercial projects. Architects are involved in the same fields but with a tendency for larger commercial projects, high rise unit developments and the like, generally with an active involvement in controlling the construction. [ contract administration ]

A Building Design firm is more likely to charge a fixed price for their design services whereas Architectural firms in general base their fees as a percentage of the final building cost [contract price]. Fees range in the vicinity of 2,3 or 4 percent depending upon the project.
With domestic and small commercial projects, as the Builder generally fills the role of Project Manager and there is then no need for a separate Contract Administrator, many Architects do not target this sector of the market. [ and are often priced out of it ]

Which ever way you choose to go, in all cases try to obtain a fixed price at the start of the project for your completed working drawings.
- Working drawings are referred to as the complete drawings ready to submit for building approval.

It will be near impossible to obtain an accurate over the phone quotation on your project from any reputable firm due to the variables in structural detailing requirements that may occur between homes. Be prepared to sit down and discuss your requirements before you can be given an accurate price.
As an example - a concrete slab can be designed by your building designer in accordance with the Australian Standard AS2870 as long as the home is under 30 meters in length. Over 30 meters and they will need to engage a Structural Engineer to produce the slab design. Likewise for any site classified as class E or P an Engineers design will be required.
(Refer to Section 4 - 'Soil Tests' for information on soil classification).
Similarly Building Designers are required to nominate structural items of the home such as rafter sizes, stud sizes, joist sizes etc in accordance with the Residential Timber Framing Code - AS1684. Any framing items required that are outside the scope of the standard will need to be designed by a structural engineer.

From this it can be seen that until a Building Design firm can study your requirements in some detail that an accurate or finalised price for developing your design cannot be given.
As an example at AusDesign we base our fees (June 2006) on $120 per square (10 foot by 10 foot).
Any required engineers computations are charged at our cost price plus 10%.
An 'initial meeting' fee of $55/hour is waived if we secure the project.
As a result of the initial meeting we are able to gauge the likelihood or not of requiring computations and can give an estimation of cost with a fair amount of accuracy but until the design layout is fully developed this is not always a certainty.

Selecting a Design Firm
There are many design firms to choose from. Some specialise in selected areas of the building industry, others have a solid knowledge base and experience across the entire residential sector.
Having a good rapport with the person who will be involved in your design is essential and having decided upon a firm an initial meeting will give the opportunity for both the client and the designer to 'size' each other up.
My advise is that if you don't feel that connection then don't proceed. This will be a major irreversable commitment on your behalf and selecting the right designer that is on your 'wave length' is paramount.



Building Regulations >>