All designers and architects have their own style and personal preferences. You’re the only person that knows what’s going to satisfy your needs for your building project. The design task will be made easier if you find a designer that’s sympathetic to your aesthetic.   

The best way to commence the design phase is to have very firm ideas about what you want.

Begin at the Beginning

Gather lots of information to share with the designer:

  1. Copy images from the web (HouzzInstagram & Pinterest are all great) or tear out pictures of what you love from magazines. It can sometimes be tricky explaining exactly what you're after - make it easy with examples.
  2. To be clear in your mind, and your partner's, create a written description of the non-negotiable elements. For example you might say “Extension under $450k with 2 bedrooms, one ensuite, hydronic heating and double glazing is also a must”. Do you need terracotta tiles on the roof ? OK, make sure to write it down.
  3. Dollars. How much are you going to spend? To avoid wasting everyone’s time you need a firm idea of what funds will be available. Do you have the cash? or, do you need to speak with the bank?

Also consider your motivation for the project. Are you building your ‘forever home’, something to wow friends, or is it just a first foothold in the market?

Are you at risk of over-capitalizing? It’s wise to talk to real estate agents about the market, how your building project will impact the value of your investment and what features buyers are looking for in your particular area. Unless you plan on being ‘carried out in a box’, understand the impact of this building project on the resale price of your investment.

It can be a little like going to the barber. If you can’t tell the designer what you want they’ll likely give you what they do.

Designing & Drafting

It may be a crude over-simplification, but an architect is a specialist in design. A building designer and draftsperson are more involved in documentation, drawing and delivery.

The hierarchy looks like this: architect, building designer then draftsperson at the bottom (sorry draftspersons!). A great building designer, draftsperson or architect can all produce good design and create suitable drawings for your building project. There’s a big difference though in education, qualification, expertise, consumer expectation and cost.

Regardless of who produces them, you’ll need specifications and drawings, which are essential to create your tender pack, obtain permits and to instruct the builder.

Note also, there are lots of ‘pro forma’ designs available to consumers that are ‘architect designed’. Many ‘volume builders’ have multiple stock designs that appear to suit the need of a great number of Australian home buyers.


The vast majority of Australian building projects don’t employ architects to create their bespoke ideal. Why? Cost.

At risk of over-simplifying things, architects have extensive university-level education, high consumer expectation, insurances and ongoing licensing costs. And so they're more expensive.

If money were no issue most of us would probably prefer to drive a Mercedes rather than a Gogomobil. But we make compromises in one facet of our life to satisfy another. The question you have to answer is this - how important is amenity and design to your project?

Architects are specialists. As are heart surgeons. If you want the best possible outcome from heart surgery most people will choose the heart specialist, not their local bulk-billing GP.

However, we all have additional considerations that may compete with excellent design and amenity. It’s a decision only you can make.

Where to Find the Right Designer Firstly, be aware that some of the best architects and designers do little advertising as they obtain much of their work from referrals.


You’ll find a database of qualified architects who are Registered with the Architects Registration Board of Victoria HERE There’s also some great consumer advice about utilising the expertise of an architect HERE 

Building Designers & Draftspersons

All Victorian Building Designers Association members can be found HERE

For more detailed advice on this topic read the Victorian Consumer Affairs page HERE

Pro Tip: It’s a good idea to make an initial call to your local Council or Shire to ascertain any initial ‘heads-up’ on localized Planning or Building Scheme Overlays that may affect your build.

Important: Always check with the VBA to verify that the Building Designer or Draftsperson is registered as a building practitioner under the appropriate category. 




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