This blog post gives insight into the workflow we usually undertake during the initial stages of a project. It is not the complete project-management checklist used internally as part of our quality assurance, but rather an overview of the process and elements of the early concept design stages to help answer some early questions, as some clients unfamiliar with development can be intimidated by the process.
You've likely come into contact via a referral from one of our lovely clients or general web surfing and landed on the website. After getting in touch, we'll promptly arrange an initial 5-10 minute phone call to discuss high-level items such as the initial budget, scope and timeline targets for your project. You do not need to know each of these details exactly, but any information you can provide in the initial email/message is greatly appreciated.
Following the phone call, we will arrange a meeting on site to walk through the property and discuss in greater detail the scope of works, and characteristics of the site and gain a greater understanding of existing and impacted sun paths, view corridors and privacy concerns. A formal fee proposal can be prepared for complete services (concept design to the administration of the construction contract with the builder) following the meeting for you to consider.
After you've made the decision to engage Shore Architects, we need some data collection via a detail survey from a registered surveyor. This will provide all the external information we require to model the existing site conditions. We'll separately carry out an internal site measure with a laser measure and take several hundred photos of the existing conditions and site. For complex sites, sites that have been renovated many times or older heritage projects (where it's hard to know what's behind the walls), we may seek 3D point cloud surveys for fast, highly accurate information. Once all information is modelled up, we'll assess existing planning regulations to look at opportunities and restrictions on proposed designs based on your local planning authority's (Council) guidelines and requirements.
We'll also make an assessment on whether or not we'll likely be seeking building approval via a CDC (complying development certificate from a private certifier) or a DA/CC (development application from Council, followed by a construction certificate from a private certifier) path. This existing documentation capture and assessment is done before design commences so we know future design options discovered are targeted towards compliance. We don't want to fall in love with a design that a planning authority wouldn't support.
Now the fun begins. We'll spend a few weeks designing iterations via several media (sketches, 3d models, renders). During this time, the architect will be rigorously testing, dismissing and challenging design options to discover your project's greatest potential while keeping the budget in mind. The budget dictates everything! Ee can draw absolutely anything you like; however, our interest is in designing projects that can be built, not designs that get thrown away because of unfeasibility. We will then have an initial sketch design meeting. We use the term 'meeting' lightly here because it is a casual conversation about likes and dislikes. This is the first time you've seen plans, and we're not saying
"here is your project; it must be this way."
"Here's what we believe is the best option; what are your thoughts? What do you love? Are there any elements you would change?".
Before the discussion, we're generally aware of what is great about the project because we do it all day, every day, but as each project is client-specific and highly emotionally attached, we are more interested at this point if there is anything you think you'd want to explore further or tweak. As mentioned earlier, we've already thrown out several design options and can explain reasons as to why some things worked, some didn't and how we ultimately arrived at the initial concept we are presenting. We will compare your proposed design to other recent projects in terms of pricing and construction costs and talk about the approval path (CDC/DA) and any project-specific consultants we'll likely require (heritage, ecological, bushfire, arborists etc).
Following this discussion, we will modify the design and send it out for a professional costing estimate by either a licenced quantity surveyor or a preferred builder (if you have one this early - we can assist in finding a builder at any point if you like**). The updated design will be presented adjacent to the cost report, and you have now reached a significant step in your project. You now have a design (what does it look like?) and a cost (how much is this design costing?) and can make quantitative (budget) or qualitative (scope, size, quality) decisions.
We'll give you a week or two of thinking time where it's encouraged to look at the plans and casually talk between yourselves. Make it fun! Have a glass of wine and look at it one night, then don't look at it again for a few days. The thinking time is essential in this time slot as you've been bombarded with information during the early stages. It's nice to take a step back and look at how it affects your finances, way of life, entertaining capability, spatial requirements (now and in 10+ years) and comfort/luxury. During these early days, you'll notice and think about specific items each time you look at it, so don't rush it!
**A future blog post will cover the relationship between the builder, architect, and client. We prefer to have a builder involved as early as possible in the project via a negotiated tender during the early stages. There should not be a separation between the three parties, and if everyone is working together as a team from as early as possible, the three project targets of cost, quality and time can be better communicated and understood by everyone. It is nothing short of a disaster if you were to spend several months and thousands of dollars getting a design detailed and approved to discover it's 30%+ over budget 6-12 months down the track.
The Usual Next Steps
From here, we'll have a concept de-brief meeting to discuss any changes you wish to make to the scope/design and move towards the approval documentation stages. We have not stopped designing. There is allowance in our project structure to be continually enhanced and making improvements to the project. Every time the project file is opened, it is an opportunity to make the project better, and this is what has allowed our designs to be constantly developed and challenged and ultimately result in happier and happier clients. There is still a fair amount of work to carry out following the conclusion of the concept design stage (including authority submissions and consultant coordination), and the fee proposal document prepared at the very start will highlight the typical steps in these latter stages.
We hope that this brief introduction has answered a few questions about the earlier stages and opened the doors to how we typically run the first components of our project structure. It's a lot of fun making clients' dreams come true, and perhaps you can be our next happy client! Please reach out should you be interested in sustainable/Passive House development.