Home Construction Tips

Is it ok to design your own house without an architect?

Australia is quite unusual globally in that you don’t require an architect to design your home.

You don’t actually require any type of design professional.

You can draw up a plan yourself, get it documented in a suitable format by someone with the skills to do so, and get it approved and built. As long as you meet your local planning requirements, and national building legislation and standards, you are good to go.

Looking for the best home constructions? Look no further! Hitch Property Constructions has the ultimate list of home designs for you to choose from.

The common reasons why people don’t use architects

Home Construction Tips

They’re too expensive

Architects generally charge 10 – 15% of the construction cost of a project, based on how complex or large it is. Generally, the higher the construction cost, the lower the percentage. Their fees will also be linked to the construction cost – so if your building budget goes up, do their fees (find out more about that frustrating fee arrangement here).

It may seem too costly to hand over that much of your budget to an architect because you’ll have to go without in other areas of your build or reno.

However, that 10-15% is what it will cost to have an architect partner you for the entire project – right through to completion. Perhaps you don’t need that level of assistance from an architect? Perhaps you want help with your design only, and can then find less expensive assistance or manage the rest yourself? You don’t have to use an architect the whole way through, and can still get a far-improved outcome overall for their input at the right time (especially in the design).

If you’re planning a small project, getting started with the right strategy and design ideas can save you a fortune in the long-term. Most architects will charge $150 – 400 / hour for a consultation. There are very few projects I know of that wouldn’t benefit from an hour of expert assistance at the beginning and even partway through the project.

Don’t forget also that using a professional to guide and assist you can actually save you cash. In better strategies design-wise, eliminating mistakes, accessing discounted items, and exposure to far more of the industry than you can access alone. Find a professional who has demonstrated experience in adding value in this way.

They will design me something that’s over my budget

The experiences of many homeowners, unfortunately, support this one, and it’s not just limited to working with architects.

So often, I see projects commence where the homeowner has outlined a firm budget, and then followed a design process with their chosen profession. They get to the end, they’re in love with the result, and they get it to cost by a builder. And it’s 1.5 times, or double, or triple their budget. They throw in the towel, or start again, or massively scale back their plans. And everything feels like a compromise from that point.

As I said, this experience isn’t limited to working architects, and even if you don’t use an architect, it won’t make you immune to it for your project.

There are professionals who have a reputation for never meeting budgets, and yet they still get clients in droves. And some professionals deliver projects far beyond the clients’ expectations for their budget or less and everything in between. Check out our extensive range of home designs at Hitch Constructions.

How do you keep your project on budget?

  • Research your chosen professional well, so you find someone who has a track record for working to budgets.
  • Be clear about what it is, and don’t play tricks with your designer to ‘keep them honest’. It’s not conducive to building a trusting partnership overall.
  • Keep a contingency for potential overruns on site.
  • Listen to your chosen professional every time they say “that will cost more money” or “that’s not in budget”
  • Get your project costed early in the design process (as in, don’t wait until you have all your approvals to get a quote on its cost to build) so you can amend on the way.

They won’t listen / will only design what they want

There are some incredibly egotistical and arrogant architects out there, who won’t listen to you. There’s builders and building designers and craftspeople who are like this too.

And there are architects, and other professionals, who are awesome at understanding a client’s brief and designing an outcome for them that is not only what they asked for but totally exceeds their expectations for their home.

What’s key is that you find the right professional for you:

  • that you feel you share values with, that sees the world similarly to you
  • that shows good communication skills from the outset, and that has a reputation for working well with their clients
  • is collaborative in their style of working, and values your input
  • does work in the aesthetic style you’re seeking, or has experience in your type of project
  • that you do your homework in checking out their credentials with previous clients and projects

And that you then:

  • create a brief that shows what you’re seeking to achieve, and is clear about needs, wants, budget and timing
  • trust that your professional can use their expertise to expand your vision
  • have honest conversations about when you feel you’re being railroaded or not listened to

I or my uncle/friend/brother/builder has an interest in design

“Ask an Architect” used to be a website run by the Australian Institute of Architects, and when it began, it ran a fairly contentious ad campaign with slogans like:

  • “You wouldn’t ask a butcher about broccoli. So when it comes to building, askanarchitect.com.au”
  • “You wouldn’t ask a hairdresser about heart surgery. So when it comes to renovating, askanarchitect.com.au”

These are fairly dramatic, and you can probably see why they would have annoyed some in the industry. However, you may not be aware of this: Australia is very unusual globally in that you don’t need an architect to design or draw up your home. In most places in Australia, you can design it, and get it drawn up, however, you choose. No one will stop you.

However, if you were investing $50,000 (or more) in the stock market, would you rely solely on the experience of a non-qualified, untrained friend or family member? I think if they had demonstrated and repeated performance in investment, then perhaps you might.

Could the same be said if you were investing $200,000? Or $500,000?

Think about what you’re about to spend on your reno or build as an investment in the home you’re about to create – and the quality of life it will help you lead. What type of advice (and from whom) will help you be confident you’re making the best decisions for that investment?

An architect will just want to use me, and my project, to win awards

The challenge we have is that architects continue to be judged purely on the homes they produce. If you’re looking for an architect – or any other designer for that fact – you’ll look through photos of the homes they’ve helped create.

Winning awards is something many architects, and other professionals, seek to do because it helps them build their profile and their reputation, which in turn helps them get clients. It gets their work ‘out there’.

Some clients will select their professional purely on this basis. Some enjoy the status of saying an award-winning architect-designed their home, and it can add value for resale also.

Let’s look at the stats though …

There are over 11,000 registered architects in Australia (and to legally call yourself an architect, you have to be registered with the Board of Architects).

The Australian Institute of Architects runs the main industry awards for architecture. Only a small handful of homes receive awards each year, with each state probably only entering 40 or 50 homes at most.

Architect designed homes count for 3% of the 150,000 + homes built every year. That’s 4,500 new homes. We’re not talking renovations here either.

So there’s a lot of architects, and a lot of homes, that are not winning awards … and still creating great homes. And some that will be creating so-so homes too.

If you choose an architect, or professional, because of their awards, and don’t check with their previous clients to see how the experience was for them, you may not be doing your homework thoroughly.

Test and check any professional you’re thinking of working with to make sure they’re a good fit for you and your project – and that they’re on the same page as you for what you’re seeking to achieve. At HP Constructions, we have the best home constructions selection to make your house a dream come true.

I don’t want anything complicated

Think of some of the best-designed objects you know. The iPod, the post-it note, the safety pin.

Each would have started with a fairly uncomplicated requirement or desire.

Portable music that fits in your pocket. A bookmark or note that doesn’t stick permanently to things. A pin that doesn’t pin you.

But the design of them, the work that’s gone into creating them to be as great as they are – that’s a great design.

They’re simple. Useful. Functional. Fit-for-purpose. Beautiful. Make your life better. Easier. More convenient.

Even though what you want may not be complicated, I’d venture to say you want it to make your life better. To make the most of your budget and maximise every opportunity to improve your home and your life.

Getting the design right makes this happen. So, regardless of how uncomplicated you think your needs may be, getting a design expert to help you get it right will mean that what you create doesn’t complicate your life overall.

Hire a Certified Professional Building Designer

Another cost-saving alternative is to hire a Certified Professional Building Designer (also known as a Home Designer) to design your new home. Home designers do not have the same level of education or the same licensing requirements as architects, and their fees are usually lower. Nevertheless, professional home designers maintain professional certificates which demonstrate that they have completed coursework and achieved experience in the field.

What is a building designer?

Those who were once known as draftsmen are now building designers, a title change that reflects the way their roles have developed and changed over the years. A building designer can come from any number of design-related backgrounds, and some may have degrees or experience in architecture, but aren’t officially registered as an architect. A building designer doesn’t require any qualifications or credentials at all. In WA, NSW, SA, NT and ACT, building designers don’t even have licencing or registration requirements. However, it’s worth noting that work done by any building designer does need to comply with local building and planning regulations, or it won’t be built at all.

Advantages: Home designers specialise in private homes — not office buildings, shopping centres, or gas stations. For this reason, a home designer may have more experience designing houses than some licensed architects. A good home designer can create a customised home tailor-made for your family.

Disadvantages: Like builders and real estate developers, home designers tend to produce traditional plans. In general, home designers do not have the training to create especially complex or unusual designs. If you have special needs, or if you desire a truly unique home, then you’ll need to hire an architect.

When You Really Need to Hire an Architect?

This diversity means that architects can see possibilities and find solutions to your individual needs. While a builder or a home designer may make some adaptations at your request, a good architect will anticipate your needs.

What is an architect?

An architect spends about five years studying at university before undertaking practical placements and a registration examination before they’re allowed to practice professionally in their field. An architect can combine bespoke design ideas with the necessary aspects of building design to craft your ideal home.

Architects put together drawings, plans and renderings of your project. Still, they can also help you set a realistic budget and guide you through council planning processes, getting quotes for materials and labour and managing the consultants that need to be brought on during the production phase of your build or renovation.

Homes built by architects are highly sought-after in the current housing market due to their often unique layouts and integrating of sustainable or energy efficiency means, and superior material selection throughout the house. An architect can also instruct you on how to situate your home and layout the floorplan to maximise all possible views, sunlight, shade and aspect. Your architect can also oversee your entire project from start to finish, along with paperwork and administration. Architects all charge differently for different types of jobs, depending on what aspects of the project you have them managing and for how long. What an architect charge is also a reflection of their experience.

What Architects Do

For some projects, architects wear many hats. They may create the design, do the drafting, select the materials, and supervise the entire work process. Ideally, your architect will visit your building site and observe the direction of the sun, note the prevailing breezes, sketch the existing vegetation, and anticipate the best views. For renovation projects, an architect not only knows what will structurally work but will also appreciate symmetry and proportion.

For other projects, the architect’s role may be limited to drafting the blueprints. If you can find stock blueprints similar to your own dream house, you may be able to hire an architect to make alterations. Changing an existing plan is always less expensive than designing a home from scratch.

Before drafting a design, a good architect will spend time talking with you and other members of your family. Like any other professional, the architect will get to know how you and your family live by asking a lot of questions:

  • Who will live in the house? What are their ages? Who might you be caring for in the near future? Do you want spaces to promote group or family activities, like watching television?
  • How important is an informal and formal dining room?
  • Do you like to give parties? How accessible should the kitchen be to groups?
  • Do you regard the bedroom as a sanctuary where you spend many daytime hours? Or, is the bedroom simply a place to sleep?
  • Do you need a private area for your computer? Or, would you prefer a centrally located media centre where children can be supervised?
  • What bothers you about the house you’re living in right now? And what do you love about your current home?
  • Is your automobile part of the family?

Even if you are working within a tight budget, it does not make good economic sense to cut corners on design. Talented professionals will help you avoid costly mistakes—and can assure that the home you build is ideally suited for the way you live.

The Cost of an Architect

Unlike paying doctors’ bills, architecture insurance does not exist. The services of a professional architect may add 8 per cent to 15 per cent to the final cost of building a new home. For smaller jobs, like specific remodelling projects, an hourly rate can be negotiated. The architect will keep track of the “billable hours” and charge a professional rate that is usually based on the local economy — generally between $60 and $160 an hour. Remember that what an architect personally earns may not be what an architectural firm charges per. That is why Frank Lloyd Wright freelanced when he worked for architect Louis Sullivan.

Cost-Saving Options for Your New Home

The stunning homes you see in glossy magazines are almost always custom-designed by licensed architects. They are the unique creations of men and women with the skill and the know-how to explore new and unexpected possibilities. But, what if your own dreams are more modest? Must you hire an architect?

Maybe not. If your taste runs toward traditional, you may opt for one of these cost-saving alternatives.

Who should I choose for my project?

You can get equally show-stopping results from both architects and building designers, and the cost for the services of each are actually very similar. Less expensive and smaller projects are probably more suited to building designers. In general, an architect has more experience, is qualified and is more capable of providing a better level of detailed design when compared to a building designer. Architects are recommended for larger projects and buildings that will be more than three stories tall.

When choosing between an architect or building designer, you need to do research into their past projects and experience and understand their design style as these will factor greatly in whether or not the end result of your project is a success. Also take into consideration the size, scale and difficulty of your project. If you’re looking to build something incredibly large, bespoke, with experimental or difficult design features or fittings, it may be best for you to consult an architect. However, if you’re looking for a well-designed, functional and beautiful small to a medium project, you should look into a building designer.

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