2. Finding a designer – Design & Construct Builder – Melbourne

Designing and building your own home or extension is one of the biggest investment decision that you and your family will ever make. So it’s absolutely essential to make every step a winner.

Most errors are made at the first design stage also known as the ‘sketch design’.

The 10 biggest mistakes made by DIY designers

  1. Not interviewing at least 3 qualified designers or designer builders.
    Just chancing on the nearest designer or builder is usually the first mistake. As with the ‘Idea’ (discussed in previous article), homework is required for knowing which
    questions to ask. Also, the more experts you talk to the more knowledgeable and empowered is your final choice
    of designer.
  2. House is too big.
    Builders charge by the square metre (m2), so the bigger the house the higher the cost. In true ‘Grand Design’ style don’t let your dreams get the better of your reality.
  3. The house has too many rooms
    Seek fewer but larger rooms, especially the living, dining and kitchen rooms.
  4. No outdoor living consideration
    The house is an expansive single story which leaves no room for outdoor living.
  5. The house has too many bathrooms.
    Why the average house / family would need more than 2 toilets is difficult to comprehend. Whilst builders charge by the m2 they also charge for each bathroom, kitchen, and laundry based on complexity, fixtures and size.  So don’t think you’re m2 metre rate won’t change if you add a bunch of bathrooms.  In fact each full bathroom is likely to add between $15,000 and $20,000 and at least 5 m2.
  6. The use of inappropriate or inefficient materials.

    Flat roofs and double brick are yesterday’s news on the scale of practicality, efficiency and sustainability.

    Once again, builders will increase their m2 rate for more expensive or laborious materials or methods of construction.  Sometimes, if it’s too complicated, they won’t even want the job.
    This is one area Designer Builders understand particularly well because they have used most materials and know which ones work and which to avoid.

    Avoid re-inventing the wheel with weird and wonderful materials, the building industry uses certain materials because they have been proven to be efficient and cost-effective.

    Also, with new innovations emerging in building and sustainability, the old school, commonly accepted use of materials no longer applies. Make sure your designer is up to date with these new methods of construction.

  7. The house is not oriented to the north
    Designs need to use the orient correctly so that if can maximise solar access and weather protection.
  8. The house does not flow
    You need to think about how the home will flow around the family’s movements.  For example, bedrooms off living areas and or in separate areas or blocking access to outdoor areas from living areas.
  9. The house is not designed to a budget.
    There’s nothing worse than spending $5,000 – $6,000 on a set of drawings only to find out it’s going to cost $700k to build instead of the $350K you were budgeting for.  Don’t underestimate how expensive building is.
  10. Nobody says you have to conform, but don’t be too quirky!
    Make sure you think through your building ‘features’.  If your home has lots of weird, unconventional, impractical personal touches which detract from its appeal and resale.  A lime kitchen with timber veneer may look trendy this year, but may send your guests into spasms every time they visit!

Every day, people send Builders their own plans. Plans they have asked a designer to draw to their requirements without understanding the basic rules of design, use of materials or having a clue about the cost of their project.

Builders immediately recognise these awkward, amateur attempts as pipe dreams that almost never happen. Most DIY designers only discover this when they struggle to find a builder who is to prepared to quote.

Without design experience it is not possible to design a home or extension well, so it is important to listen to advice from qualified professionals.

If a Draftsperson, Architect or Designer builder is prepared to draw exactly what you ask for, without giving you advice, they just want your money for drawing you a picture and most likely lack experience and care.

How to recognise a good designer, architect or designer builder.

A good designer will first of all listen to your basic requirements and extract your ideas, as per part 1 of this Blog “The Idea”.

They will:

  • listen for your interior space requirements
  • ask for a copy of the Title
  • mostly know the regulations but also check any potential regulatory requirements
  • ask about outdoor space requirements
  • ask about the budget and keep drawing your attention to it as you add things.

They will know and be prepared to explain about:

  • Orientation / solar access, start with outdoor spaces.
  • The footprint of the house in relation to the boundaries.
  • Advantages and disadvantages of single and two-storey buildings in relation to the block.
  • The most efficient use of materials, the flow and proximities of all the areas/rooms and how they work together for best liveability.
  • Energy efficiency, the look, the style and how all this relates to your budget, your budget and your budget.
  • Architects Registration Board Victoria
  • They should have a good understanding of the cost of building.

Most Architects and Building Designers are not usually up to date with building costs or are expert estimators.

The advantage of dealing with a Designer Builder is, they will know the cost implications from the earliest design stages and throughout.

If dealing with an Architect or Draftsperson the need to get advice early on from a builder or quantity surveyor is important. Without a voice in the background keeping an eye on the budget, there grows a monster of costly, complexity.

A building designer / builder must be: Registered, Attentive, Experienced and Reliable.

Last but not least, someone you feel comfortable with. Someone who will listen and do the right thing by you.

Peter Harnischmacher, heads up Capital Building Contractors in Melbourne.  They are a design and building business based in Melbourne specialising in making existing homes new again for less than the cost of a new home.

Experts in sustainable design and construct and registered building practitioners with the Victorian Building Authority. .

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