FAQ 1. - Our Building Design Process

1. FAQ question What is your Building Design process ?
  FAQ answer We have a structured process on how we respond to each inquiry to hopefully ending up with a successful design. (Also read, the FAQ's - Services and Fees for further understanding.)
2. FAQ question Do you charge for your first consultation (Concept Design Ideas)?
  FAQ answer The first consultation is free of charge, our method is to use current available technology as much as possible. As nearly all building sites are shown on Google earth, we can very quickly give an initial verbal idea of possible responses to your design inquiry.
Google earth tells us such things as geographical location, street position, orientation in relation to the sun movement, and approximate position of: adjoining buildings, open areas, building and land lot size. These factors all contribute to a possible solution to an initial verbal design response.

We can also follow up with general Town Planning information that may be relevant to your proposed development, that is currently available on the Council/Shire website, where specific uses for your site are designated and overlays are specified.

If you provide us with extra photos (internal and external) and other relevant site information (copy of title showing accurate land size, scan PDF) via email, this part of the service can be further extended. (As stated above this part of the service is free.) For further information enter your details in the "Contact Us" form, from the menu above.
3. FAQ question What Happens after the initial consultation if we want to proceed ?
  FAQ answer After this initial design concept consultation, if you agree to continue, we will discuss and compile a letter of agreement for a fee proposal, and if you agree to the fee proposal we will follow up with a design contract that reflects the agreed fee, design services can be for the full service or in part only. (You might only want a design for your proposed structure and have the Building permit documentation done by others.)

As soon as you sign the standard design contract we will immediately begin the sketch design stage.(You can easily end the agreement at anytime by paying the amount of work done to date in agreement with the design contract.)

If your requirement is for a renovation to an existing dwelling, we will meet you in the comfort of your own home (limited to Melbourne and suburbs) and obtain a brief to arrive at a design concept. When agreement is reached on a design fee, we will measure up your existing premises, and discuss your needs, a design concept plus cost estimate (on a meter square rate) is derived.
4. FAQ question What is the next Design Stage after the initial Concept Design Ideas?
  FAQ answer The Sketch Design Stage follows immediately after the initial concept. It is important to note that this new design that we are proposing will influence your life on an average for five to fifteen years, (This is an average amount of time that people in Australians stay in one house) or it may be for the rest of your life, thus it would be unwise to think that the first design concept will be the final design. (If this a a commercial project this rule of thumb still applies, as any building project represent a large investment, and carefully planning is always to be respected.)

Whatever description you gives us of your requirements, and whatever design and views we generate from the computer model that we produce, the first design will be unlikely to be the building that you will build.

Generally it takes about three major revisions, and a considerable period of time before a result that is satisfactory to all stakeholders is obtained. This occurs because generally speaking, people do not think in three dimensional spaces, even if you are pretty sure of your requirements and our computer walk-through visualization respond positive to your ideas. The initial design (like all initial ideas) can always be improved, it is much easier and cheaper to change drawings, especially in this sketch design stage, then to change the design later or to change the building when its being constructed or after it is finished.

Or worst of all, to be finally disappointed with the final built result, because you did not give yourself enough time to consider possible variations at the sketch design stage.

We have found that quick on the spot decisions at this stage tend to be regretful towards the contribution of an final acceptable design. Thus, this is a process that should not be done quickly, you should discuss the preliminary design with all the people that make use of the building, and particularly you should give yourself time to digest the proposal. (placing the design on the fridge door so that trusted friends and relatives can make comments and suggestions for a few weeks for each revision have produce some very positive responses to some designs)

This stage is the most important in the design process, the big spaces, the orientation and the concept is decided at this point. From this point forward it will be a process refinement and statutory compliance. Seldom after this point will you be able to significantly change the broad design of you proposal without added cost of time and money this is the reason why you should look at various options to the point that you are very comfortable with your final decision, in this sketch design stage and ensure that you invest time, money and effort in this stage.
Generally, the Sketch Design is done to achieve the client satisfaction to ensure that what is proposed responds to the client expectations.
5. FAQ question How long will the Sketch Design take to complete ?
  FAQ answer This does depend greatly on the complexity of the design, sometimes it takes a considerable time to make a god design simple and to provide the required result. If you take into account that there is going to be at least three revisions separated by at least a few weeks at each stage, and if you add other day to day eventualities the time does tend to add, and if you consider that this is not a stage to be done quickly - three months would really be a good result.
6. FAQ question What happens after the Sketch design Stage ?
  FAQ answer The Design Development Stage follows the Sketch design Stage. Here, items like bathroom and kitchen design may go through design refinements. Generally this stage is to make sure that all the items that you are supposed to fit in the building actually do manage to fit and be usable in the proposed space.

Also, "Design Development" is done to achieve agreement with the Planning requirements as administered by the local council or shire. As all residential dwellings must meet the requirements of the Rescode in Victoria (Planning codes may exist for other states and, and countries) the proposal will now be checked for compliance to the local planning requirements. If a Town Planning permit is required it will be dealt with in this stage including any Planning overlays that may be part of this property.

Because a computer model is automatically generated during the production of the drawings we can quickly generate a "walk through" for each design, so you can get a good feel for the overall concept. This is important in order to understand design changes, Planning changes that may be required to comply with the finer points of the regulations and design refinements.
7. FAQ question How long will the Design Development take?
  FAQ answer The Design development varies greatly depending on whether the the project needs to go to town Planning and if the Planning Department determines that the project needs to be devised. From the advertisement objections can arise and these may have to be dealt with in a variety of ways. Thus this is the most open end of the design process, it is the most unpredictable stage and its is best to say that if the project needs to be advertised the time taken to resolve possible issue is uncertain. However if no advertising is required, and a lot of homes fall under this category the time for this stage varies a little on the project size and complexity but six to eight weeks is a good result.
8. FAQ question What Happens after the Deign Development Stage?
  FAQ answer "The Plans" or Documentation or Working - Drawings Stage
Working drawings, detailed specifications, engineer's computations, soil test and other required consultants are discussed and done in this stage, and, after agreement, these consultants are directly employed and paid by the client in accordance with their own contract.

This ensures that you are fully aware of the costs and also retain continuity and control of the project. Regardless of the relationship that you have with us you will always have access to your consultants and the documents required for you to build the building.

A plan check measure site visit, may be conducted on site with the project team to ensure the accuracy of the documents. When the plans, specifications and all the consultants documents have been completed the documents are submitted to the Local Council (or private Building surveyor) for a Building Permit. Specifications which are part of the Documentation stage describe the works in writing specifying materials and finishes and all schedules of fittings and fixtures. Specifications can be done in a varieties of ways depending on the client requirements and the nature of the project.
Documentation (Working Drawings) is done to provide information for the Builder to Build the Building, and the local authorities to give the required approvals for construction and a Building permit with an occupancy permit at the end of construction.
9. FAQ question What Happens after the Documentation Stage
  FAQ answer Tendering and Engaging the Builder.
When you employ a designer (Building Designer) to provide you with drawings to build the building, for that designated site, the drawings are owned by you. Builders will look at you job as a real possibility for work, and this is the relationship that you want a prospective Builder to have with your drawings. It is a little different when the drawings are done by a Builder (like a renovation building company where the drawings are bundled in with the building works) and the Builders name appears on the drawings. (this is when your let the Builder use his Building Designer or Architect) 
Seldom do other builders seriously tender on such information, although they will always give you a quote. They know that even if they have a competitive price they are unlikely to obtain the work, this is because there may be a question on the ownership (Copyright - is to the author of the documents) of the drawings and the Builder whose name appears on the drawings will always get the final shot at the work.
Thus, hoping for an accurate quote when you have "Builders Company Drawings" especially when they tell you that they give you a free design or a really cheap cost for the drawings is slightly optimistic. When you consider that if you save 10% to 20% in an accurate tender, over the cost of the project, the amount of money that you save, out-ways by far the amount of money that you may pay for the design services from an independent Building Designer.
From the day that you are thinking of building you should be looking for a Builder.
The Builder that should be building your building should be someone that you feel comfortable with, there will be a great deal of interaction between you and the Builder, regardless of the outcome, during the building process. Thus it would be best to start with someone that you are comfortable with, even if things change later on.
The best way to find your builder is by "word of mouth", talk to people that are building or have built in the near past, family and friends are always a good start, and walking in on any building site that is similar to what you propose and asking to talk to the Builder is also a well "tried-and-true" method.
(He may not be on site, but the information displayed on the building site should give you the contact details), Builders will seldom force prospective clients "away", they never know where their next client comes from, so they are generally very astute in the manner that they treat prospective clients. Seldom are they not appreciative of an inquiry, and may be help-full with alternative solutions. However, have an initial sketch design with you, this tells them that you a serious about building and you are not wasting their time as you are a possible client.
Furthermore, it is always good to look for a Builder that is in your local area, it is more important for the Builder to maintain a positive image in his local area, as any job that is constructed will reflect the Builder's reputation for as long as that Builder is in the area, and sometimes for a long time afterwards.
You should think carefully before agreeing to engage a Builder suggested by any Building Designer, even if the Designer administers the contract, this is because in the end it is you that will need to make the final decisions, so its best to have someone that has your loyalties rather than those of the Building Designer.
Another point to remember is that you should always check Builders previous work, and always use a Builder that has been practicing in his own name for at least five years. (The Housing Industry association and the Master Builders Association can provide you with details about a prospective Builder - only use a Builder in you state or country).
6. FAQ question When Do I pay the Builder ?
  FAQ answer This is an arrangement that is specified in the Building Contract, generally payments are progressive, that is, payments are made at certain steps in the construction process. Payments are generally made at pouring of footings, finishing of frame etc. You should read your contract carefully before you sign up with the Builder.