Let’s Put Architects in Perspective


Why use an architect? There are many good reasons, according to local architect Suzie Hunt, whose columns will be regular features in POST Property. In her first column, Suzie discusses the age-old dilemma of a “champagne brief on a beer budget”.

Many people tell me they cant afford an architect, or they relate a story about an architect who blew their “friend’s” budget. To demystify the architect-client relationship and allay fears you might have, let me begin by saying that architects work on residential projects of all sizes – big and small – and across all budgets.

We negotiate our fees based on varying service levels, and in my experience, problems arise from a disconnect between expectations and reality.

A client might intend to build a large house and nominate a ball park figure of $500,000, asking an architect to draw up plans from sketches.

We call this a “Champagne Brief Beer Budget project”. Of course we love it when clients bring in their ideas and participate in the design journey, but it’s important to be realistic and understand the need to priorities.

This is where architects add unique value: They can offer clever design solutions to help refine your brief in line with your budget, perhaps by creating multi-functional spaces or reducing expensive materials in less important areas.

As registered architects, we are duty-bound to provide honest, professional advice while calculating the build area and attributing a realistic square-metre rate to arrive at a cost.

We often use a quantity surveyor to provide professional cost advice during a design and documentation phases.

Hobbs Ave

Also, where a project home builder is likely to quote the Cost of Works to build, an architect is mindful of the Total Project Cost, which includes construction works plus extra costs such as regulatory fees, consultant fees, landscaping, soft furnishings, cabinet work, tiling and floor finishes- all the good stuff that makes a house your home.

Naturally your architect will design a home that is low-maintenance, environmentally and financially sustainable, and that reduces long-term running costs.

They will also deliver “unexpected delight”, for example in the way of morning light enters your kitchen, or by placing windows to frame a view.

These aspects will make living in your home a joy, year after year.

Designing your home is a bit like a marriage and relies on a good working relationship, so it’s important that you and your architect are on the same page.

Do your research, first online and then conduct an interview.

Explain what you are trying to achieve and how you envisage working together. Visit some previous projects and speak to the owners.

A mutually respectful relationship will result in a successful project, and you can pass up the expensive French champagne and the cheaper craft beer to settle happily on a fine wine in your beautiful new home.

First published in The Subiaco Post 240318 | Architects Brief with Suzie Hunt