University of Tasmania School of Architecture + Design exhibition opening - future architects

Architects – The First Date (part one)

Brad Wheelerby author page

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Talking budget with your architect

In my last column we talked about why you might use an architect to design your home or addition – basically because they give advice and ideas you may not have thought of and because it lowers your risk of something going horribly wrong and costing you a lot more than the fees of an architect would.


I am now going to assume you have taken the plunge and found an architect you like. You are now about to walk in to your first real meeting with him or her (your first date – there’s a feeling of anticipation and the pressure is on to show a bit of substance if this relationship is going to have legs). At this point it’s worth noting it may take 6 to 12 months to finalise your design before you start to build – so you really are getting into a long-term relationship.


So, what does your architect need to know? In a nutshell, your architect will want to know what you want and how much you want to spend – easy, right?


Let’s deal with what you have to spend first.


Many architects think in terms of project cost, which means they talk in terms of the construction budget . That means they are not necessarily including everything you are when you tell them your total budget. It’s important that you clarify this at your first meeting. It is always worth making sure that you make clear either what your total budget is, including their fees, furniture, whitegoods, etc., or, you put allowance for that to one side and just allow the construction budget in the conversation. Like any first date the wheels will come off at the end of the night if there’s uncertainty over how the bill is getting settled.


While we are on money – Architects start with talking about cost per square metre of your home- it’s a rough guide only to begin with. They can get more accurate costs from a Quantity Surveyor as your home design takes shape, but even the QS (as they are known) often allows a variance of plus or minus 5% to 10% – that can translate to quite a difference but unfortunately the cost isn’t more certain until a builder has given you their price.


If money is a really important – and of course it is – and you need more certainty as you design your customised home, talk to your architect honestly about this. They will have some suggestions about how to control your costs including more regular checks with the QS, getting a builder involved during the design process and more.


In summary, like any relationship, open and frank communication is the key to being successful.


In my next column we will talk through the second part of your first date – to quote the Beastie Boys, “Whatcha, Whatcha, Whatcha Want”.


Brad Wheeler is president of the Tasmanian chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects


This article was previously published in The Mercury and appears with the permission of the author


Disclaimer: Any advice contained within this blog is of a general nature only and cannot be relied upon. Details provided are in good faith and relate specifically to this project. Any author will not be held responsible for advice or information presented.

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