Helpful Stuff


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download our Design Checklist

If you're a little unsure as to how the design process works, then this guide is for you. Our approach encourages you to be fully engaged in the design process, ensuring you get the design you want with no hidden surprises. Here's how it works:

1. Initial Enquiry - Introductory chat about your project and invitation to evaluation meeting. 

2. Evaluation Meeting - Free 30 minute consultation to discuss your project in more detail. It's also a chance for you to find out more about us. 

3. Prepare Quote Letter - We provide a written quote which details the project brief, our fee, scope of works, time-frames and payment terms.

4. Acceptance - By now, we hope you're convinced that we're the architectural practice for you. Payment of deposit is due. 

5. Pre-Planning - Before we put any design ideas on paper, we do our homework. We gather all relevant information about the project, including site visit, a more detailed brief, property files and building controls from Council, Topographical and Site Services plans, Geotechnical Reports etc. 

6. Concept Design - The design stages of a project are all about ideas. There is lots of thinking and discussion, revising and discussing again. Initial sketch plans prepared with the focus on siting, room layout and room sizes. We discuss the design (and the ideas behind it) with you, and after you've had time to think it over, the design is revised in line with your feedback. 

7. Developed Design - The design is developed further to include roof shapes, window sizes and positioning, kitchen and bathroom layouts, material choices, etc. Again, there will be discussion and revisions in line with your feedback. 

8. Sign-Off Design Stage - Once the Developed Design has been completed to your satisfaction, the working drawings can be started. On larger projects, we usually invoice for a progress payment at this point.

9. PIM/Resource Consent Drawings - With the design process completed, the emphasis goes on to preparing the technical plans, details and specifications.  First the site plan, floor plans and elevations are prepared, ready for PIM and/or Resource Consent (if required). It is not mandatory to apply for a PIM at this stage, but in some instances it is worthwhile - we will advise you if this is relevant to your project. A copy of the drawings goes to you for further checking.

10. Working Drawings to Engineer - The rest of the structural working drawings - roof plans, foundation plans, cross-sections and bracing plans - are prepared and sent to the engineer for structural design (and other consultants as required). It usually takes around 3 weeks from sign off of the design stage to prepare these plans, and a further 3 weeks or so for the engineer to provide the structural calculations. Again, on larger projects we may invoice you for a progress payment at this point.

11. Complete the Working Drawings - after we receive the engineer's calculations, all the architectural, structural and weather-tightness details and notes are added to the drawings. From here, it usually takes  2 - 3  weeks to complete the drawings and other documents.

12. Checking - Drawings are checked by another experienced team member, and copies are sent to the engineer for structural checking (and providing a producer statement PS1 if required). 

13. Other Documents and Plan Printing - The plans, specification, product literature, bracing calculations and H.1 Thermal Efficiency calculations are all printed off and collated. We also prepare the building consent application forms for you. Now that the drawings are complete, we will invoice you for the final payment.

14. Lodge Building Consent - Most clients are happy to lodge their building consent themselves, and our fees are calculated to reflect that. However if you'd prefer us to do it for you, no problem. Either way, our fee always includes dealing with Council queries while the building consent is being processed. 

If you require clarification about any of the processes described in this guide, please contact one of our offices and we'll be happy to help out. And be sure to check out the other helpful downloads we have posted on our website.

It’s important to make the right decisions when building. Here’s some information designed to save you time, money and heart-ache… and ensure you get the home of your dreams.

Size does matter… but not as much as you might think. 

When considering your building budget, it's logical that a small building will cost less than a big one. However, while cutting 20 square metres off the floor area will save on floor, walls and roof materials, if you still have the same number of rooms, doors and windows; the same kitchen appliances and bathroom fittings; the same lights and power points; the same plumbing and drainage; the same building consent fees; etc, etc. then the savings will be slight.

Keep in mind that site costs – driveways, letterbox, washing line, patios, lawns, retaining walls, planting – have nothing to do with the size of the house, but still need to be factored into your overall budget. 

It’s true that size does matter, but there are other, more significant influences – read on!

Budget Blow-outs – Inevitable or Avoidable?

Most people will have heard stories of building projects that have gone over budget – sadly, it’s almost an expected part of the building process. So why does it happen so often, and what role can your designer play in avoiding it?

The main reasons building projects go over budget are:-

  • Poor design – not recognising the cost implications of design decisions

  • Upgrades – upgrading to materials and fittings that are more expensive

  • Unforeseen circumstances – e.g. council services not being where they are shown.

  • Poor building contracts – not clearly identifying who is doing what, for how much.

The cost of your project can be divided loosely into ‘non-negotiable’ spending and ‘discretionary’ spending. The building must be structurally sound, durable and weather-tight – this is non-negotiable spending. But the size, complexity, material choices, fit-out and level of specification; etc. are up to you and your designer.

Before the plans are drawn, it is common to use square metre rates to estimate the cost of building. While this is not an exact science, a competent designer should know from experience whether your proposal is within 10-15% of budget.

Don't assume that the designer will automatically make your project meet budget. It is critical to know how design decisions impact on the budget before you get too far down the track. Ask your designer if your budget is realistic.

Unforeseen circumstances unfortunately do crop up from time to time. Generally speaking, building on a new site in a green-fields sub-division should be pretty straight forward, whereas adding on to a heritage building in an established suburb can be a minefield of unexpected costs. Whatever your situation, seek good advice and allow for a contingency fund just in case.

 Choosing the wrong type of building contract can inadvertently cause cost overruns, often because it is not clear where each party’s responsibilities begin and end. There are a number of different types of building contact - we discuss them in more detail later.

 Getting good advice from competent people early in the design process is vital to avoid budget blow-outs.

Double glazing is mandatory now, isn’t it?

Back in 2008, the ‘H.1 Energy Efficiency’ section of the Building Code was updated, and there is now a common belief that double glazing is mandatory. 

In reality, double glazing is only one method of complying with H.1. However, in Auckland and Northland, single glazing will often perform to the required standard. This requires the designer to calculate the potential heat losses and gains of your building on your site. It requires the designer to do a bit more work, but the cost savings for a new house will be several thousand dollars.

Of course, this is not meant to put you off double glazing, merely to let you know that you have a choice. Be aware, though, that additions to older houses (which have less, or no, existing insulation) may struggle to meet the new minimum standard without double glazing.

Sometimes installing double glazing will make good sense, but - in our temperate climate, and with good passive-solar design- it may not be necessary. The choice is still yours.


Resource consents for non-complying work. 

A resource consent will be required if the proposed building work is not a permitted activity under the Council’s District Plan. Common examples in residential building would be excavating near a boundary, removing trees, and building into yards or over the ‘height in relation to boundary’ restriction. Often you are required to seek approval from affected parties, which are usually your immediate neighbours.

There is a common perception that, if your affected neighbours don’t give approval, your proposal will not be allowed, but this is not entirely true. It is certainly much easier for Councils to allow a project to proceed if your neighbours approve. However, any objection must relate to a genuine impact, not just because they don’t like you (yes – it happens). The important points are the degree of non-compliance, and how well you can show that any environmental or social impacts are minimised. 

For example, excavating adjacent to a boundary (with a suitable retaining wall) would usually have no impact on neighbours, so consent is usually a formality. Building through the ‘height in relation to boundary’ restriction and overshadowing your neighbour’s deck obviously has genuine impact, and would therefore be more difficult to have approved.

Often it depends on how you frame your proposal. For example, a design might be 100% compliant yet obliterate your neighbour’s view, or it could be redesigned to protect their view in return for it being non-compliant in places with less impact. Given that choice, your neighbour would probably be happy to give their approval.

Resource consents take time and money, so we recommend taking a design-led approach to avoid them where possible. If resource consent is unavoidable, ensure that you minimise any environmental or social impacts. And if you want to do something really off the wall, get your neighbours on-side first, and be prepared for a long and expensive process.


Which type of building contract should I use? 

There are many different types of building contract, and it can be difficult deciding which type best suits your situation. These the most common variants. 

  • Full Contract quotation:- The builder gives a fixed price to supply labour, materials and project management.

  • Full Contract quotation with PC sums:- The builder gives a fixed price to supply some labour, materials and project management, and provisional cost (PC) allowances for the rest.

  • Labour-Only quotation with Management Fee:- The builder gives a fixed price to supply labour and project management.

  • Labour-Only quotation:- The builder gives a fixed price to supply labour.

  • Charge-up:- The builder charges out at an agreed hourly rate based on the time taken.

There are risks associated with running a building project – weather delays, price increases, mistakes and omissions, quality control, unavailability of materials, sub-contractors not turning up on time, etc. – that will end up in somebody’s lap. The type of building contract determines whose lap that is.

A Full Contract quotation means that the builder takes care of the entire project, and therefore assumes all the risk. He will expect to be paid a premium for that service, and if you have neither the time, experience or stomach for running a building project, it will probably be well worth it. Generally, you will need to spend a lot of time finalising details before construction starts, so that the contract accurately reflects what is to be built.

A Full Contract with PC sums is distinctly different from the previous example. The full contract part implies that the builder is assuming all the risk, but in reality the PC sums are only an estimate, and if they are wrong, the client ends up paying more. PC sums are great for things like kitchens where you want to have flexibility with material and appliance choices based on their cost. However, for things like earthworks and foundations, PC sums pass all the risk on to you. Be alert.

Labour-Only with management means that, in theory, all the day-to-day work on site, including organising and scheduling, is the responsibility of the builder, which leaves you to concentrate on choosing suppliers and sub-contractors, and paying bills. This gives you some flexibility, but make sure that the builder is kept informed of who the suppliers and sub-contractors are, and that he is also acting as your quality control adviser.

Labour-Only without management appears on the surface to be the cheapest option. Essentially the owner takes on the role of head contractor, and the builder becomes just another sub-contractor. You can certainly save on the project management fee, but things will quickly turn pear-shaped if you are short of time and/or experience. Labour-only builders expect to turn up on site and work, so you need to be sure that you won’t jeopardise that. Labour only contracts can also suffer from not clearly identifying where the builder’s role stops and yours starts, resulting in confusion and frustration on both sides. However, if both you and your builder are relaxed about a bit of give and take, a labour-only contract can work.

Employing a builder on charge-up can work well on some types of projects (such as restorations and repairs), and will usually require at least one of the following conditions:-

  1. It is too difficult to price the work accurately.

  2. The builder will be pricing in a large contingency sum to cover uncertainties.

  3. You trust the builder and/or will be on site a lot of the time to check and advise.

  4. You want to retain complete flexibility, and use the builder as a hired gun to fix/change things as they crop up.

Charge-up removes all the pricing risk from the builder so he can just get on with what he is good at – building stuff. The down side for the client is that there is no price certainty, but the projects where charge-up works well are often those with the least price certainty anyway. If you have a good relationship with a collaborative builder, charge-up could be a suitably civilised arrangement.

So, as you can see, there is a different type of building contract to suit every occasion. We don't advocate one type of contract over another – they can each be appropriate depending on the work to be done and the people involved. Whichever type you enter into, be sure to check the fine print, make sure you understand everything and seek independent legal advice before signing anything.