The Top 5 Questions to ask before starting your construction project

Considering a new residential building project can seem complex. We have prepared the following answers which may help you in thinking about your project.

1. How does the design / building process work?

The main stages are as follows:

Concept Design - listening to your brief, and generating the initial idea

Design Development - refining the concept idea and incorporating more detail

Documentation - producing construction drawings and specifications 

Construction - the building of the project

We have produced a separate document, the Design and Construction Process, which gives more detail about each of these stages and the tasks involved. Please contact us for more details.

2. How much will it cost to build?
Construction is a complicated process, and there can be many factors influencing how much something costs to build. Some of the main factors are:
- the extent of the construction
- the quality of build
- the conditions of the site
- the complexity of the project
- the selected builder
- the conditions of the market (which can be highly variable)
- changes to the design or build after work has already been done
- and several others

Budget is understandably a crucial factor for most people, and we work with you and many other consultants to help determine what the cost will be at key stages. In the initial stages, we generally use square metre rates to get an indication of possible cost. However this is only a rough guide, so we would always work with a Quantity Surveyor, who is an independent professional, to help understand the likely cost of the proposal.

The important thing to note is that you have a level of control over the budget well before you get to construction, primarily through making decisions regarding the brief. Whilst it can be difficult to determine right at the outset, the budget and scope become more refined as the project develops, and we will work with you throughout to help understand this.

It is also important to note that the costs involved include not just the cost of construction itself, but also professional fees for consultants and authority application fees. You should also allow for contingency in case of unforeseen issues. We can give you an indication of these likely costs in our full Fee Proposal.

3. How long will it take?
Again, building is a complex process with many people involved throughout. Factors influencing the length of time a project may take include the following:
- The scale of a project
- The complexity of a project
- The alignment of brief and budget
- Changes to the brief that require changes to the design
- Approvals from Authorities
- Coordination with other consultants
- Availability of builders and subcontractors
- Unforeseen issues discovered on site
- and others

Although the length of a project is highly dependent on the above factors, in general for an architecturally designed residential project, you should allow approximately 1 year for design, approvals, and documentation, and then approximately one year for construction. This is dependent on the nature / scale of the project, and smaller projects may be quicker.

4. Why is the design process important?
Resolving issues in the design phase is a comparatively easier and much lower cost than doing so during construction. It is therefore more cost effective to resolve as much as possible prior to starting building work, and this takes time. It involves the coordination and incorporation of many specialist consultants’ work into a unified design, rather than discovering such issues onsite. This results in a higher quality outcome for the final project. The design process being broken down into stages also allows for key points throughout for tracking and approval of budget decisions, giving you control over the cost of the project.

7. Do I need planning approval, and how long will it take?
For a new building or alterations and additions to an existing building there are two possible approval processes:
Development Application
Development Applications involve a two stage approval process. The first is approval of the Development Application by the local Council. This involves submitting planning documents to your local Council. These are assessed against your local Council’s Development Control Plan (DCP), and NSW Legislation - Local Environmental Plans (LEP). We usually allow for 6-8 weeks for a Development Application to be assessed.
The second approval stage is the “Construction Certificate” (CC). Whilst this can be done through the Council, we usually find that it is faster and easier to go through a “Principal Certifying Authority” (PCA), who are private companies authorised by the Council to issue Approvals on their behalf. Once the CC approval has been obtained, construction of the project is authorised to begin.
Complying Development Certificate (CDC)
This involves submitting planning documents to Council or a Principal Certifying Authority (PCA). Planning documents are assessed against the exempt and complying development policy under NSW legislation. CDC is designed to be more straightforward as it skips the DA process allowing you to obtain planning approval and CC in one approval process. However the requirements to achieve consent are more restrictive and often not suited to many projects.

We also offer a consultation service to discuss idea for your home. This involves a visit to your home by two of our directors for one hour to see the house and talk about your plans. We also undertake some research prior to the visit, so that we can discuss initial options. If you would like to enquire about this services, of if you're thinking of starting a project for your own home, please get in touch with us by clicking the button below.