Consultants and the Design Process

Updated: Jun 1

You will need some professionals like engineers and building certifiers, but when is the right time to get them on board?

Also check out the great explanatory video at the bottom of this article!

How consultants and contractors fit into the process of designing a new home or renovation can be complicated and stressful, so to help we've explained a streamlined path in the paragraphs below.

First let us list the people involved and what sort of cash you'd need to get the design ball rolling.


The list below includes typical consultants in a chronological order and the price you could expect to pay for their services. These are approximate prices based on a typical custom residential new build of basic project complexity.

  • Architect / Building Designer (Click here to read about our fees)

  • Surveyor’s Detail Survey: $1,000 - $2,000

  • *Town Planning Advice: $500 - $1000 or DA report: $3,000 - $5,000

  • *Possible Planning Approval: $1,000 - 3,000

  • Structural Engineer: $5,000 - 10,000 plus 4x $300 inspections.

  • *Possible required specialist(s) eg Bushfire Report. $2,000+

  • Soil test $500 or Geotechnical engineer $1500+

  • Building Certifier and energy report $3,000-$4,000

  • Plumbing Approval approx $100 per fixture. (dependent on council)

  • Builder, See links below

  • *Demolition Contractor: $10,000-15,000

*If required

Try these guides of typical construction costs of the “house” alone.

Design Process

1. Who will you start with, a Builder or an Architect?

If you are friends with a trustworthy licensed builder, they can guide you through the process, making for an easier ride. Custom home builders usually have their own contacts to take the project from start to finish, appearing as one stop shop. It’s important to note, some builders specialise in only “altering” designs from their catalogue, while others are comfortable providing totally unique homes from scratch. Alternatively, you might not be 100% set on a builder yet, or would like the opportunity to meet with multiple builders, allowing you to compare prices and be more confident in what’s included and their timelines. For this second option you’d need to coordinate many things yourself or find an architect/designer to lead this journey. For the most flexibility and arguably the best design, we'd recommend taking this option. The creative journey with an architect can be at your own pace and reveal things you just wouldn’t have considered. If you lead a busy life, you can let the architect take responsibility to develop the ideas you have clearly communicated, while you get on with other things, knowing that they’ll have your best interests at heart.

It is important to note, architects aren’t in a rush to have you start construction, as they are getting paid to design. If a builder is managing the process they’re likely to want you sign their big contract asap so they know they’ll get paid.

2. Collecting important information (2-4 weeks)

The below are items that need to be produced fairly early on. This will help avoid holding up the project later when more people are involved or when it’s too late to make basic changes.

Detail Survey

Although you can get various forms of free property data online, there will be specific information you will need a professional for. A detail survey is a comprehensive record of your property’s current physical attributes in the format of a scaled drawing. This can be provided by a surveyor and will be required ASAP regardless of the above builder or architect model. Your architect or builder will have a list of specific inclusions they will want to see on this drawing, such as site boundaries, topographical contours, existing structures and services. If your project needs special planning approval you might even want neighbouring window locations identified so you can design for privacy.

Local Planning

If you’d like to push the local planning codes to maximise your build-able land, you might like to speak with a town planner or experienced designer to identify the constraints and opportunities your property inherently has. These might include, considerations for carport, third storey or basement, building closer than usual to your boundary. Other examples might be, designing to obtain a view that would otherwise be out of reach or dealing with protected wildlife living on your property.

Soil Test

For typical projects, this can be done later with the structural engineering, however steep sites or those with expected problematic soil should be investigated earlier rather than later, to expose important factors the building design will need to allow for.

3. Design Brief/Design Concept (2-6 months)

Dealing either directly with your builder or your architect, this stage allows you to communicate your ideas and wishes for the project. This is called the “Design Brief”. Builders will give you very factual feedback and help you achieve something inline with what they have understood from your brief. Their draftsman can prepare drawings for you before the builder calculates the construction price and writes up a contract. The builder will mostly likely act as a middle man for all the other constants listed above and ideally offer a turn-key product, being your new home.

If you have chosen the architect led pathway, this will be a slower journey where you’ll engage in a conversation to establish your project’s brief and concept design together. You’ll learn more about your site’s unique characteristics and what that means for your potential house. Through a series of design drawings, you’ll discover what you really need out of the floor plan and what opportunities were previously not considered. The design should be tailored to accommodate the growing needs of what’s most important to your family, lifestyle and future.

Like the builder, the architect would typically be your main contact and can guide you through, or manage, the other consultants as your project progresses through its later stages.

3.1 Planning Approval

As mentioned in second stage of the design process, you may wish to seek some relaxations from council or gain planning approval to do something special. This optional extra step takes place here. Just know it takes time but that it could be the difference between having an extra view, carport or more space. You will likely need to negotiate with council back and forth, so its best to do this before the design has been finalised. This stage will require research and discussions with your designer or builder or town planning consultant to decide how adventurous you'd like to be in your application. If you analyse how big other houses in your neighbourhood are and how they have been situated you'll start to understand what you can apply for too.

4. Design Development (1-2 months)

In this stage, you’ll be excited by the drawings you’ve seen of your new home’s layout and even its architectural style and its now that the project takes a more technical turn. New consultants such as a structural engineer, geotechnical engineer and possibly even specialists like bushfire consultants will provide feedback and their technical documents to support and inform the architect’s plans. You could coordinate all this or have your architect/builder do so. Also, if you’re planning to install major equipment like an elevator or have a large boat in the garage, its in this phase the architect will confirm these dimensions with you. So by consolidating all the technical information, your architect or builder should be ready to draw up the plans for building approval.

5. Building Approval or Tender Documents (2-4 months)

If you are using an architect but set on one builder, and trust their standard level of finish, you may be happy to keep the architect’s service to a minimum. In this case, they can provide the basic amount to kick off construction, known as a set of drawings for building approval. (AKA a BA Set)

If however, you’d like the architect’s design to be realised to its full potential and/or want the ability to tender to multiple builders, you’d need them to provide more drawings so less is left to the builders’ imagination and accurate comparable quotes can be calculated. This would include documenting the designs for kitchens and bathrooms, plans of electrical items, material selections and essentially anything a builder might need to allocate a price for. Even the doggy door will be on these tender drawings. You might also have an interior designer work with the architect if they don’t offer the service of selecting your taps, tiles, carpet etc.

Note on Building Approvals:

They are actually linked to the builder and typically valid for 24 months. This means you can only obtain your building approval when you committed to the builder. Often the builder or architect is commissioned to managing the back and forth administration with your building certifier for you.

6. Construction (6-12 months)

During construction you may feel comfortable with you builder to follow the plans and work out any unforeseen circumstances with you directly or independently. Although, many clients choose to keep their architect’s eye on the job throughout the construction of the project, as this reduces the risk of mistakes going unnoticed and provides design support when something unforeseen occurs. Often you’ll find yourself having a last minute change of heart about a particular room or something has been built incorrectly and undoing it will take too long. Its times like this the architect can produce new drawings quickly to allow the job to keep moving forward.

Please note, the above is a general summary and not tailored advice for your individual situation. Feel free to discuss your unique project with us today.


BYOfloorplan can offer as much or as little help as required and specialise in leading the project through its stages and coordinating all the consultants involved. Feel free to contact us to arrange a meeting to discuss your unique project in detail.

Design and building explained with LEGO!

Home Wasn't Built in a Day (By "thecheckout")

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