When a client engages our design services for their new build or renovation, the excitement for the impending project has them instantly focusing on what the finished project will look like. We fully appreciate and understand our clients excitement, after all that's what it's all about right, the look?!
Most clients are keen to discuss within the first few meetings what the finishes are going to be. They ask questions such as... Are we going to have a tiled or metal roof?... What are the windows going to look like?... What type of taps are we using in the bathrooms?...What does the kitchen bench top look like, what colour are we going to paint the walls??
This is the point where we as the Designers need to reign that initial excitement in and implement the correct game plan to ensure the project is a success. The selection process of the finishes and fittings is certainly the fun and exciting part however there are a few steps in the process that we need to nail before we introduce the clients to the finishes.
DESIGN NOTE: Although we have paused the discussion of the finishes at this point in the project, behind the scenes we have a fair idea as to what the 'look' of the end result is going to be. The style and finishes are brewing in the back of our creative minds whilst we move through the crucial first few planning stages...
So let's take those few steps back and discuss the whole design process, as each step plays a crucial role in the success of the project.
For our clients we define the design process in 5 clear steps.
STEP 1. THE PRE-DESIGN PHASE
DEFINE THE DESIGN PROBLEM
A design process encompases the conversion of an idea into reality.
For us, the design process ultimatley centres around solving a problem our client has been living with.
After our services have been engaged, we sit down with our client again and review the 'brief' we took from them at our initial meeting. We ask further detailed questions about the property, we ask the client about their likes and dislikes, what works for them and what doesn't. We ask again, what they would like to ultimately achieve. We ask more questions around the purpose of their renovation or new build, we discuss their lifestyle. We dive deep into what they really need and determine if it is in line what they would like. Now this may sound a little odd however a need out weighs a want ten fold. When it comes to design and construction, it's usually the 'wants' that make you lose focus and can blow a construction budget well and truly out of the water.
Equally important, we discuss the building budget. Some clients are hesitant to discuss what they wish to or are willing to spend on the build. However, it is crucial the budget is discussed as this is often not inline with the clients vision. Clarity around the budget needs to take place before moving into the design and drafting phase.
STEP 2. THE SCHEMATIC DESIGN PHASE
BRAINSTORMING NEW IDEAS
After taking the clients brief, we move into the next stage where we, as the design team begin to work with the clients wishes. We draft concept layouts to scale, showing possible new floor plan options. The new floor plan layouts indicate where the new Kitchen, bathroom, laundry, living spaces, bedrooms etc are to be located.
Behind the scenes, if it is a renovation, we have pulled the place apart and put it back together in the form of new drafted (to scale) layouts. Our aim is to come up with the best possible spatial layout for our clients (within their budget) in an effort to solve their original design problem. We present the options to the client for discussion. After consideration of the options presented, one of the layout options is selected to move forward with. On occasion, the client may blend some elements of an alternate layout with their chosen layout option.
STEP 3. DESIGN DEVELOPMENT
THE DETAILED DRAWINGS
THE INTRODUCTION OF FINISHES
Design development is where our design intent manifests as detailed plans and elevations. If the project requires a structural engineer, we engage an Engineer at this point. Stage 3 is also were we present to the client both preliminary exterior and preliminary interior finishes. Let's highlight this point...it is not until stage 3 that the 'look' in relation to the finishes are introduced. A whole lot of design and drafting and client meetings have taken place before we start getting into the finishing details.
It's worth noting, finishes can greatly affect the total cost of a construction project (as well as the project schedule/timing), the introduction of finishes must be handled in a timely manner and with careful consideration. At this point, a more realistic cost estimate will come into view.
STEP 4. CONSTRUCTION DOCUMENTATION
THE DESIGN BECOMES A REALITY
Step 4 is where we make any amendments to the design (usually minor detailing), that the client may have requested and prepare to finalise the design drawings with every little detail ready for the Builder to not only quote on with accuracy but also to construct from. It is in this stage that we also finalise the interior and exterior finishes as well as update the drawings and schedules to reflect the final selections.
Once the detailed drawings and finishes are completed they must be signed off with the clients approval. These design documents can then be sent out to a select group of builders to price the works. This is called the tender process. With a tender, we recommend our clients engage no more than 3-4 Builders for this process.
Having engaged the services of a qualified Designer your final construction documents will have an incredible amount of detail in the form of plans, elevations and finishes schedules. The detailed drawings ensures the Builders tendering on the project will have little to question about the design. Not only that, there will be less guessing & interpretation (leading to higher margins) and more chance of a realistic price comparison. Comparing 'apples with apples' so to speak. The more detail that goes into the design documentation the smoother the construction will go.
Some projects will require council approval.
These are the new home builds and the major renovations where we are adding a new level, extending, moving or adding new windows/doors.
There are 2 ways to tackle this stage. When seeking council approval for major works, we advise our clients of their options in the beginning of the design process in step 1. We let them know there are 2 ways to submit plans to council for approval of your development here in NSW. One is a DA (Development Application) and the other, a CDC (Comply & Development Certificate).
In general, most minor development projects won’t need approval beforehand, and this is known as exempt development. However, these projects will need to meet specific development standards and land requirements.
You can find out exactly what sort of changes you’re allowed to make without planning approval by using the Department of Planning and Environment’s interactive building tool,
We've had clients, requesting modifications (generally a compromise on their part) to their design specifically so they don't have to go through the processes of council approval or at least go with the least complicated and quicker path of CDC. This is all good and well so long as you are still able to resolve the problem & achieve the outcome you set out to achieve.
Getting excited about how your project will look is a given and will most likely be the most pleasurable component of your renovation. It's not to say that you cannot think about it throughout the design process...go for it!
The key here is to not place such importance on the finishes aspect of the project until the design is resolved & you are happy that your issues have been resolved. The last thing you need is to be distracted by all the shiny things and losing your focus!