Things to consider when engaging a designer for your new home or renovation

Having decided to undertake a renovation of your existing home, or to build new, you may consider engaging someone to design and draft your new home layout.

There are a number of alternative designer services available in this regard;
  • architect
  • building designer or drafter
  • builder; who offers a building design and drafting service
With the design of your new home or renovation having a significant impact with regard to the environment that your home provides, and importantly the budget required to build it, the decision on who to engage to design and draft your home should not be taken lightly.

Here are some considerations;

1) Can you communicate with the designer?

No matter what the qualification of the person you engage, it is imperative that you are able to effectively and openly communicate with them, and that they understand what it is that you are looking for.  If, in the first meeting, you do not get a sense that the person is willing to listen to your needs or ideas, then very quickly find someone else.  Your new home or renovation should be about what you want, and what your family needs; it is too large an investment for it not to be.

2) How are the plans drafted?

Plans are either hand drafted or drafted using Computer Aided Drafting (CAD) software.  The look of the product that you receive will be different with each.  Often CAD drawings are printed on A3 paper (for residential projects); hand drawn plans are often drafted on A1 paper.  The advantage of CAD drawn plans is that they can be electronically circulated to builders and contractors for quoting and they can be clearer to read when printed on a laser printer.  Ask the designer how they will draft the plans (hand drafted or CAD drawn), what size the plans will be drafted on (A3 or A1), how many copies you will be provided with, and in what form (paper or electronic or both).

3) Does the designer's area of specialty match your needs?

Before engaging a designer it is important to be clear about what you may want.  For example, if you are seeking a home that is energy efficient, you should choose a designer that specialises in this area.  By selecting the right designer, in the right area of specialty, your new home design should have the best there is to offer.

4) Does the designer know how to cost a project?

The design of the home will impact the ultimate cost of construction.  Ask the designer about their experience in costing projects, and how they will consider this during the design phase.  It would be disappointing to design a home that is costed for construction beyond your available budget.  Be clear, open, and honest with the designer about your available budget and expectation in this regard, and be sure they are prepared to design a home that will meet your budget.

5) What sort of plans will be drafted, i.e. Concept, Construction or Both?

Some designers may start your plans as a concept plan.  This concept plan will provide a general layout of the design, and provide a general feel for how the building may look.  Once this concept plan has been agreed, a more detailed construction plan will be required.  The construction plan will detail dimensions, material selections, and other specific details.  This construction plan will be required in order to build the home, and you should factor the cost of both the concept and construction plans when engaging a designer.

6) Will construction specifications be provided?

Before a home can be constructed from a design or plans, a detailed construction specification will also be required.  These specifications clearly outline for the builder or contractors what is required to complete the build to meet your (the clients) needs.  Without these specifications, it may not be clear what is expected, and the prices provided to build the home may not be truly reflective.  Ask your designer if they will prepare a detailed construction specification to accompany the plans to allow you to seek quotes from builders and contractors.  Also clarify if there is an additional cost in preparing these specifications.

7) Do you require a project manager during the construction of your new home?

Some designers also offer a project management service, to liaise with the builder on your behalf through the building of your new home or renovation.  This can be a good option for people who do not want a hands-on role in the building of their home.  It will, however, add an additional cost to the overall build of your home and it is important to consider this in your overall budget.  If you think you may want someone to provide the project management role, ask the designer if they can offer this service and what it may cost early in the design phase.

So whether you choose to use an architect, building designer, drafter, or builder, to design your new home, remember that one of the cheapest and most effective ways to create a home to meet your lifestyle needs and create an energy efficient environment, is at the design stage.