What’s the Approval Process for your Project?


We’ve already discussed how an architect can add value to every stage of your building journey, and now we’re ready to get to the exciting part of a project: when pen hits paper and together we design your new home or addition.

The production of working drawings will generally be transferred to computer, but importantly this phase sees your vision become a reality!

However, before the shovel hits the dirt, there are approvals to be obtained. Whether you are working with an architect or a building designer, everyone has to go through the same processes to obtain two types of approvals from your local council before commencing work onsite.

Talking it over

First is the Planning or Development Approval (DA), which most councils require for new homes and major renovations involving exterior walls. Before lodging your DA, your designer will make an appointment to meet your council’s planners and determine whether your block is subject to any special policies or rules other than the residential design codes (R-codes).

The DA requires a set of finalised sketch design drawings that convey the scale and scope of the project. They must also have information about the way it will affect your neighbours in terms of privacy and overshadowing, how much of your site will be covered by the building, the height of the upper storey, how the plans fit the R-codes, and any other policies that apply to your area.

If your house is in a heritage zone, check whether it is on your council’s municipal inventory – it doesn’t necessarily mean you cant renovate or even knock down the existing house, but you need to know the ground rules before taking any actions.

Once you obtain your DA – a process that can take anywhere between 60 and 120 days – you can proceed to the detailed design phase, selecting materials, hardware, fixtures and fittings. This period can be a little daunting but with a good architect it can be so much fun!

Having finalised your choices, your architect will work with a structural engineer and other consultants to produce working drawings that your building will use for construction – this phase is called contract documentation.

You may elect to provide these drawings to an estimator or quantity surveyor to price the job before putting it out to tender. This is the time to ensure your budget and expectations are in alignment. When you are happy with the overall scheme, the materials and the cost, the contract documentation is lodged with council for the building permit, along with additional reports, such as energy-efficiency approval, structural engineering certification and relevant heritage reports.

You may wish to get a building surveyor to certify your drawings for a Building Licence or Permit before submitting them, which speeds up the approval process. Once the Building Licence is issued, your architect tenders your project and appoints a builder.

Bear in mind that the process outlined here takes many months – we generally tell clients to allow up to 12 months from the first design meeting to turning the soil on site.

You can accelerate your project by being realistic and providing timely feedback to your designer’s questions. And remember, the hard work that you put into the briefing, design and documentation phases of the project will ensure your project runs smoothly on site. It reduces the build time and gives you a beautiful well-considered home to live in. Who can argue with that?

First published in The Subiaco Post 300618 | Architects Brief with Suzie Hunt