Rara + Blog = rar-og = Rarog
Rarog = is Slavic for 'Fiery Demon', depicted as a falcon,
and since Rara has a common bird theme, we thought it was only too fitting
and since Rara has a common bird theme, we thought it was only too fitting
After some recent discussions on a Facebook group called "Building, Renovating and DIY Forum" about what next to discuss, it became quickly apparent that there's an interest in learning more about the process of building... well actually, the bit before the building part. So i'm going to give you a guide through this process, what you can expect, and what you should look out for when undergoing this process.
I've broken this up to multiple blog posts to keep the articles short enough and to avoid information overload.
Feel free to comment or ask questions.
Step 1: Choosing your Architect
Architect vs Draftsperson
There are many articles on the subject of whether one should use a draftsperson or an architect. Unfortunately, most of these are written by folks trying to place the draftsperson on an equal footing and inevitably end up undermining the gained skills of the architect in the process. Let's set this straight.
a) An architect has completed 5 years of training to learn HOW to design - this includes how to respond to challenging briefs, history, construction law, construction methodology and environmental impacts. In contrast, a draftsperson has spent 2 years in training and is taught how to draw, not how to design.
b) An architect manages the whole project. After designing the building, their job is to make sure the builder knows how to build it and, that after it's built, it stays standing. The architect finds the engineers and organises all the permits for the job, then goes on to make sure the builder has everything they need during the build. A draftsperson will draw your house, hand it over to the client and, well, they then have to figure out the rest. Sometimes, clients justify their choice for a draftsperson because of the lower fees. Often, during the permits stages, there is a need to make changes to the drawings to meet compliance. Clients should factor in that they will often pay the draftsperson double, if not triple the quoted fee for making these changes, not to mention having to wait in line because the draftsman is busy for the next 3 weeks.
c) like a lawyer, architects have a code of conduct and an Act. Like a lawyer, we have to meet stringent requirements to be registered, pay insurance and registration fees, as well as maintain professional development training. Why does this matter? Because as architects, we take on the responsibility of what gets built. While draftspeople also need to be registered, their obligations and indemnity is lower. This point highlights how seriously architects take their client's projects.
One of the most frequent questions I get asked when speaking with a potential client is, "Have you worked in my Council before?". I'm here to explain that it doesn't matter. All architects registered with the Architect's Registration Board of Victoria (ARBV) are qualified to work in any Council jurisdiction. Also, the planning scheme guidelines are very similiar, and any responsible architect SHOULD conduct a council pre-application meeting before they lodge, so you have nothing to worry about. While all architects are qualified to do all jobs, they tend to drift into particular niches - medical centres, shopping centres, houses, skyscrapers and offices generally won't all be mastered by one architect (except for the huge firms).
Instead, what i would ask an architect is, 'how many projects have you done in my budget range?'. If you have a high end budget, you want to make sure that the architect understands what you expect in terms of the detail, and if you have a low end budget, then you want to know that what they design is indeed realistic and not crazily over. The same applies to any particulars of your project - how many medical centres/ subdivisions/ owner-builder/ 3+ storey, etc.
Circle peg for the circle hole
When you interview your architect, make sure you get along. Unlike the structural engineer (for example), your architect will determine how you live, where you keep your socks and what you look at when having breakfast - if you all don't see eye-to-eye, then find someone else - there are plenty of great architects, but the whole process will be frustrated if your architect thinks there needs to be a banquette and all you want are dining chairs, or if your architect keeps choosing black finishes (Guilty) but you want daisies and melon walls.
I may get in trouble by my fellow architects if i am too specific - many architects charge differently.
The spoken rule of thumb is that architects charge around 10% of the total construction cost.
This is an old rule and architects are constantly confronted by baffled clients who had this expectation. In the past few decades, architects are slowly being asked to produce more and more. You will all know this if you have access to the original hand drawn architect drawings completed in the 70's. The whole house could be drawn in 2 or 3 pages. Architects back then charged 10% of the construction cost. Famous ones a little more.
Today, a contract package includes about 40+ pages of contract drawings, 2-500 pages of specifications, engineers documents as well as the planning permit drawings, which now require several 3d drawings and multiple revisions to cater to the quickly changing construction laws. Architect's fees should be sitting around 14-15% for jobs between $400k-$1.2m. The percentage then rises as the job gets smaller, and drops as the job gets bigger. Typically, the same hours of work is involved in a $250k job as with a $700k job.
If you happen to have two adjoining properties and your total spend is greater than $1.6m, expect to be quoted for 2 separate $800k jobs, since these will involve separate permits and drawings.
This percentage is then divided by the various stages (see future blog post regarding stages) and often billed monthly based on how much of that stage was completed. It's all a bit confusing. Even more so when the cost estimate of the job creeps up and subsequently the fee gets adjusted to reflect the new budget.
Some architects charge hourly, especially if the job is small or the final outcome not entirely known. Expect hourly rates to be in the area of $200 per hour.
Some architects, like my practice (www.raraarchitecture.com.au), charge a fixed fee. So clients know how much they need to budget for the architect from the start of the project - this is often important because architects fees tend to be paid off before the construction loan has been approved by the bank. Of course, if there is a change in the scope, the client will need to pay for the extra time spent making adjustments. In our office, the fixed fee also includes responding to Council, consultants and the building surveyor (who grants the building permit). Look out for sneaky architects who only quote up to lodgement (to Council or building surveyor), then charge hourly to address these responses - often the hourly fees paid addressing responses exceeds the original fee. Also, check the wording of what's included in the lodgement packages - more of that in a future blog post.
There's often a question of "who owns the drawings if..."
Ultimately, the architect always owns the copyright of your home design. You're then given permission to use that copyright one time for the site it was designed for in exchange for an agreed fee.
So let's say, half way through the building permit a client decided not to go ahead with the build and due to their changed circumstances, decided not to pay the invoice due to their architect, but they have a Council planning permit that their architect completed (and that the client paid for) which might boost the sale of the house. In this instance, the client's copyright license is revoked until ALL unpaid invoices are paid in full.
If the client completed a stage that was paid for in full but then decided to carry out the rest of the project with a draftsperson (a choice i would never encourage), they may do so as long as they get a 'release', which is just a letter from the architect, confirming that they have indeed paid in full and retain an express license to use this design. Some architects find terminating the contract midway through the project disruptive to their workflow, especially if it's a small practice or it's a large project, so they may have a termination clause involving a termination fee to be paid to the architect. Most architects I know, however, won't have this.
Cart before the horse
Moments after signing the agreement, i'm often asked "when do i get to choose my carpet and tiles?" as the client waves their phone with a Pinterest page at me. clients shouldn't be offended if the architect avoids entertaining them. There are many steps (and many months) involved in the project. Everything will happen in the necessary time - the architect will address what is required at that stage - otherwise, the architect will spend hours listening to requests that aren't relevant to one stage, then have to listen to them all over again at the future stage.
The future post will run through stages and what's included.
PS. there are a so many fads these days - often clients will have 1 choice at the beginning of the project and completely change their mind by the time construction commences.
Ok, i trust this covers the main questions people have when looking for an architect. Look out for Step 2 - Stages coming soon.
The team at Rara are a dedicated but diverse group of individuals who love architecture and design. We each have different sources of inspiration that come together when we collaboratively design your homes and businesses.