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Updated: Aug 10, 2021

Written by Alex English

So, you have “ummmed’ and “ahhhed” at the consideration of engaging an Architect for your project.

Finally deciding to take the leap, you pull out your phone and begin rapidly scanning Google, whilst in the midst of your Architect search binge you realise that you have absolutely no idea what to expect once you make the call.

Well, this article is aimed at those of you who are ‘first timers’ engaging an Architect. Hopefully this will provide you with a little founding knowledge on expectations, so when you and your newly appointed Architect finally dive into your project, you can hit the ground running.

So, what can you expect from an Architect?

I can already feel the raised eyebrows from fellow Architects reading this article. Sitting back into their chairs, arms crossed, noses slightly thumbed, whilst intrigued at how I may even begin the attempt to describe the service outline they offer.

Architects and their services can range vastly depending on numerous factors; project type (ie. Commercial, Governmental, Residential), project nature, services agreed for project and so on. Therefore, for the purpose of this article I am going to aim to respond to the ‘typical’ residential project, breaking up the response into the major stages of a project:

  1. Pre design

  2. Schematic design

  3. Design Development / Town Planning

  4. Contract Documentation

  5. Tender

  6. Contract Administration

It is paramount to first understand that no two projects are the same, sure some are similar, but when working within the ‘custom’ line where all designs are essentially prototypes, it’s fair to say that processes can deviate from the linear. This is a very generic and brief overview of one possible path that a project can take, it is not uncommon for projects to adopt all sorts of irregularities.


The initial meeting should be just a general chit chat about the project. A non-stress, good old yarn about the project and your intentions. The purpose of this initial meeting is essentially to see if you, your project and your potential architect are a good fit.

Think of it like a blind date, but without the expectation; everybody is just doing their best to test the team chemistry, detect any abnormalities, project their best persona and praying for a good experience. This is exactly why I personally run this meeting free of charge to ensure that it remains a relaxed environment with zero expectations (not yet anyway). Should everything at the meeting feel hunky dory, the meeting will conclude with the Architect to respond with a Fee Proposal in the near future.

Assuming that you have accepted the Architect’s fee proposal, it is time to dive in and start looking at the project in detail. First things first we need to begin developing a design brief. “A design brief?

A design brief is an invaluable document which denotes your requirements as the client, a document which creates a point of reference for both parties, a document which enables everybody to agree exactly what it is they are trying to achieve. By maintaining a quality and detailed brief, you minimise the chances of any miscommunication between both parties! And let me tell you, just as Dr. Phil would say, communication is everything in this relationship!


Let the fun begin! After becoming well acquainted with your project, it is now time to put pen to paper. Now simply put, after absorbing all of the project information thus far, with the design brief at the forefront, your Architect goes to work. From me personally, you can expect a range of hand drawn schemes and responses communicating the Client’s design intentions. The rubbery style hand drawings at this point are very effective at testing a number of ideas fast! Plans, sections, perspectives and models are just some of the media to expect in the initial stages.

This is an extremely fun stage, where you can dream away and throw ideas around. Ever had those conversations after you buy a Tatts ticket about what you would do should you hit the jackpot? Your imagination starts running wild with all kinds of ideas. I find the schematic design phase to be a controlled

derivative of this scenario, except with a much greater

chance of obtaining the dream!

Your Architect will also begin liaising with a number of consultants required for your project. This liaison will continue throughout the entire project until completion.


A scheme has been selected, drawings slightly refined, it is now time to peel another layer of the design onion. Your Architect and yourself will now begin refining the concept with specific considerations, such as;

“how are we actually going to build this thing?”

Typically, in this phase you really drill down to the nitty gritty of the scheme with plenty of drawings, packages, sketches, details and any other media useful to assist in resolving the design and preparing the scheme for documentation.

Simultaneously, whilst design resolution is being carried out, it may be applicable that a Town Planning Permit will be required for the project. This process can be lengthy and is dependent on the project’s nature. So your architect will also be producing drawing packages ready for submission whilst also organising meetings with your local shire or council. Some Architects at this point may even suggest to engage a Planning Consultant, as planning is known to become a little messy from time to time.

I have personally been involved with projects that have obtained planning permits within a few weeks compared to other projects that have been in planning for 3+ years! It is throughout this stage that the Architect can be involved with a whole bunch of tasks which tend to be ‘behind the scenes’, with Planning meetings, Site meetings and liaising with Consultants can become very time consuming. I like to think of it similarly to a live play or musical, all the viewers see (the Client) is the performed acts, but there is a whole other system at work behind the scenes in order for that performance continues to entertain the crowd.


Out of the design studio and into the machine room. Following the resolution of the design, it is time to document the project into a set of documents which will form the contract.

At this point you can expect your Architect to be head down combining all information revealed from the previous stages into a detailed instruction set of drawings and specification combined with all the consultants’ documentation ready for Tender. This is a fairly labour intensive stage.


Tender is generally a relatively brief stage.

This involves yourself and your Architect selecting a Builder for the job. There are a number of ways to go about this stage, some people have a Builder in mind who can be brought onto the project during the initial stages, others prefer to run the traditional game of fair competitive tender. Either way, in a nutshell this is the time where you chose the Builder who is going to transform all these ideas, information and knowledge into something real. If you weren’t already, it’s time to get excited!


From theory to practice. Down goes the pens, up comes the hammer, nail bag, short shorts and loud radios. With a Builder selected, contracts all signed, it's time to dive into the construction.

Your Architect at this point changes hats and is now the contract administrator, which put simply, is the umpire / referee to the client, builder game (contract). Its not uncommon for people to option for a contract only between the client and the builder, however I do suggest you proceed with caution. Just begin to imagine an Essendon vs. Carlton semi-final without an umpire, sure you’d buy tickets for the night’s entertainment of no rules footy, but you would hardly expect a fair and decent match. The only difference being large amounts of money being tossed around instead of a good old Sherrin.

The Architect is to act as an impartial third party to the contract, to ensure things stay fair throughout construction and the final stage. You can expect your Architect to adopt this role (contract administrator), whilst maintaining their original role (client’s agent) until the completion of your project.

So there you have it, a barebones typical project outlay.

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