How to brief your Architect

Working with an architect to design your new home or renovation?
Managing Director, Bill Katsabis, explains how to ensure the home of your dreams...

Building and designing your own home can be a complex and frightening challenge, but with the right architect by your side you have the opportunity to truly make your home your own and create a space that you have always dreamt of.

Articulating the vision you have for your dream home can be difficult and in order to ensure it becomes a reality, it is extremely important that you understand what is required and make sure your architect is briefed correctly to bring your vision to life.

There are numerous considerations when working with your chosen architect to guarantee that all aspects of your design are clear from the beginning:

1. Renovate, Demolish or Blank Canvas

Consider what you want to achieve and the type of project you are embarking on, as this will help you to not only determine your budget, but how long the project might take and any additional permits or requirements that may be needed along the way.

Are you planning on building on a new site, knocking down an old home for a re-build or renovating and extending an existing home? If you are unsure, your architect will be able to inform you of what is possible and what will be the most affordable option to bring things to life.

2. The Vision

Consider why you are going through the process of renovating or building a new home. Asking yourself some simple questions and communicating honest answers to your architect to describe what you want is critical to achieve your desired result.

Understanding what you want and why, how much you can afford to spend, realistic timeframes, aesthetics and any special needs will assist with the formation of the brief.

3. Scrapbook of Inspiration

It is important to do your research and explore all the opportunities available to you. Start looking in magazines, newspapers, online websites and social media pages to get inspiration for what you want your future home to look like. Write notes and save images in a folder or scrap book that you can refer to when speaking with your architect as it will provide them with a great point of reference.

Just as critical, are images and items that you do not like. An architect understanding your dislikes, is as important as one who understands what you do like.

Details cannot be too large or too small here, so be sure to share images of your likes, aesthetic considerations and preferred styles – anything from larger home designs or external aspects you admire to the smaller and finer details such as tap fixtures and fittings and colours for the interior.

When reviewing your scrapbook of inspiration, your architect will be able to offer you advice on what designs are feasible for your budget, space and needs. Remember that a good architect will be able to provide you with alternative options that fit within your physical and budget constraints, but still meet your vision.

4. Functional Requirements

Make a list of what you require in your new home. This is everything that is a functional necessity, rather than what you want. Consider how many rooms you need for yourself and your family, size needed to be comfortable, the minimum number of bathrooms and other items your house has to have, inside and out. Write a list of all these items and then create a separate ‘wish list’ of all the features you would ideally like to have included if budget allows. This will help inform your architect on where they can potentially be flexible with the design and the items they cannot change under any circumstances.

5. Budget

When embarking on a project you need to think through what you can realistically afford to spend.

We recommend all our clients establish a clear budget and are open with us from the start about what their financial situation is and what they can afford to spend. This will help us to determine what options (designs, materials and inclusions) are available and allow us to add value where possible without compromising on the desired end result.

Remember when determining your budget, it needs to allow for consultants (beyond just the architect), authority fees and unforseen costs. We recommend that a buffer of 10 – 15% be incorporated into your budget for these expenses.

6. Time Frame

A realistic timeframe needs to allow for all facets of the design and construction. Consideration of planning requirements, allowance for design documentation stages and tender process to procure a builder. Remember it is not only the architect’s time to consider, but a client needs to understand what will be required by them. Times for meetings, decisions and adjustments to the designs all need to be factored into a client’s schedule and availability.

Timeframes should be discussed with your architect to have a realistic expectation of when you will be able to move into your new or renovated home. It will assist to make decisions about rental agreements, settlements on existing residence or current living arrangements.

7. Future Proofing

Remember to not focus on what you want and need right at this very moment – designing a home can be a long and careful process, particularly, to ensure your home will last long into the future. Consider designs that will stand the test of time and not go out of fashion as this will help you market your home should you need to sell it in the future.

It is also important to not only think about your current needs, but also your future ones – will your family grow larger? Is the home suitable for a young child? Will your children move out in the future? What other things could change for you in the future?

8. Share a little bit about yourself

Don’t be afraid to open up and share information about yourself with your architect. The more they know about your interests, lifestyle and personality, the better they will be able to design and create a house that truly feels like a home. Do you ride a bike as a hobby and therefore need a bike rack in your home? Are you an artist that requires an art studio? Are you passionate about sustainable design and recycled materials? These are all interests and lifestyle choices that could influence the design of your home.

9. Level of Involvement

Before you embark down your home design journey with your chosen architect, consider how involved you would like to be in the design process. Do you want to brief your architect thoroughly from the beginning and then be very hands off or would you like to be involved in helping brainstorm every step?

By letting your architect know this right from the start this ensures they provide you with the level of service that suits you.

10. Familiarise yourself with the architectural process

The architectural process can be quite technical so it is important to ask your architect to break down the process for you and explain the documents that you will need to become familiar with. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of items you are not sure about, or request additional information to explain a design. Ask them to provide three-dimensional drawings and visuals alongside two-dimensional technical plans so that you have a full picture of what each space will look like and how they connect.