There are usually four stages in designing and delivering a building:
Sketch design – Analysing the site, brief and budget and creating the concept design. This is usually done over 2 – 3 stages with client feedback in between each stage.
Detailed design & planning permit applications – Developing the design and producing more detailed drawings sufficient for application for council planning approvals.
Construction Documentation – Producing drawings and specifications to run a tender process, obtain a building permit and start construction.
Contract administration – Administering the contract between the builder and the client during construction.
Every client has a brief and a budget. Problems occur when designs proceed pursuing the wish-list without real assessment of the budget. We help our clients create realistic cost plans throughout the design process empowering them to make informed decisions on their brief and the design.
We have extensive experience with many local councils and have a high rate of success in obtaining planning permission for ambitious projects. We are knowledgeable in what can be achieved within the planning controls and identify the constraints of each site in the early design stage. We have found that Councils are often supportive of our designs when they appreciate the environmentally sustainable design philosophy underlying our proposals.
We have a pool of excellent builders of various sizes and specialties who we have worked with and trust to execute our designs. To select the builder we run a competitive tender process with three or four contractors all pricing a comprehensive set of construction documents.
When construction begins we administer the contract between the Client and the Builder. The ABIC contract (a fixed sum contract produced by the Australian Institute of Architects and Master Builders Association) empowers the Architect to be the arbiter on any issues that arise. We act as the liaison between Client and Builder allowing all parties to enjoy a productive and amicable process. We conduct regular site meetings to resolve construction issues as they arise and provide expertise assessing the Builder’s monthly progress claims.
If the Builder requests a variation to the cost or extension of time it must be assessed and approved by us. We have extensive experience managing contracts and scrutinize variation and time extension requests. This gives our clients comfort that they won’t incur any extra cost or time delays that aren’t legitimate.
We provide a fixed fee proposal for each project based on the size and complexity of that particular building.
Some do, but we don’t. Percentage fees protect the architect in the event of the scope and budget increasing (which often happens) but they make it difficult for clients to know what the end fee will be. They can also create distrust because it appears that it is in the architect’s interest for the budget to increase. Trust is the most important element of our relationships with our clients and budget planning is pivotal to our project management process. We have confidence in our management of budgets and so are happy to fix our fees.
There are many aspects of Sustainable design – passive design, thermal performance, material selection, energy use and water use.
PASSIVE DESIGN We creatively use passive solar and natural ventilation techniques within constraints of a site. For example at Brunswick solar house, on a tiny 121m2 block, the form rakes northwards for passive solar gain while a clerestory louvre window pops up southwards catching cool breezes over neighbouring rooftops.
THERMAL PERFORMANCE Energy ratings simulate thermal performance, and therefor energy use. Rather than just doing one rating after a building is designed, we do multiple ratings throughout the documentation process to help fine tune the performance and energy efficiency of our designs and enable cost-benefit analysis of various sustainable materials and techniques.
MATERIAL SELECTION We investigate materials for high thermal performance, renewable sourcing, embodied energy and occupant health. At The Westgarth Timber Project we rigorously sourced recycled, re-milled, salvaged and radially sawn timbers. We challenged accepted norms in sustainable design, eschewing use of concrete for thermal mass because of its high embodied energy. Instead we opted for a timber structure, well oriented and heavily insulated (with batts made predominantly of recycled glass) creating a low embodied energy, thermally efficient building.
ENERGY USE Passive design reduces energy required for heating and cooling in the first place. For the supplementary temperature control that is required we research efficient systems and where practical we also include on-site energy production. Brunswick solar houses is an example of integrating on site energy production as its’ roof was designed to incorporate solar power and solar hot water.
WATER USE We reduce water consumption through use of on-site water harvesting, grey water recycling and selection of efficient fittings and fixtures. At Brunswick Solar House we measured average water consumption as being around half of Yarra Valley Water’s target for personal daily use.
“Ben has worked with us through all stages of our home renovation – design, development, council approval, documentation, tendering/negotiation, and project management. He has brought imagination, knowledge, solid experience, an eye for detail and a good work ethic to the project. He has listened to us, but brought extra back – which has given a better result than just agreeing with us or telling us what (we thought) we wanted to hear. Arrangements and relationships have been refreshingly transparent and respectful.“
“We enjoyed working with Ben – it was stress-free; and he was very good at presenting and discussing different options and ideas as the project progressed. We had confidence in his advice plus the advice of other professionals he had helped us choose. They worked well with Ben. We have no hesitation in recommending Ben as an Architect and Project Manager.“
“We hired Ben to design and project manage the building of our beach house. Ben did a fabulous job and we would highly recommend him as an architect and project manager. He is a good listener and took our ideas, combined them with his experience, knowledge and creativity to produce a plan we were very happy with. He helped us find a great builder and worked with him to make a beautiful house that we love. From start to finish Ben was very professional, well organised, good with deadlines, a good communicator, he looked for solutions and was flexible in his approach. One of the challenges which he handled very well was working with us long distance as we were living in Europe, he was based in Melbourne and our project was in coastal Victoria. He was able to work with us via telephone, email and the occasional face to face meeting and it all went smoothly. Similarly with managing the project long distance, Ben worked very well with the builder. It was overall a very good experience.”
“Ben listened to our needs and budget and produced functional and beautiful living areas that we are really enjoying. We love the light and height as the raked ceiling captures the morning light and protects from the western heat. The space is beautifully warm in winter and maximises its north facing aspect. With four kids we thought we would need two storeys, but to meet our budget Ben designed a single level alternative that comfortably accommodates our family with enough space for communal living & privacy when needed.“
“Ben Designed two houses for me in Alphington. I am currently living in house 1 and building house 2. Ben was a joy to work with! He was very flexible but gently reined me in when I was getting too fanciful. He has the ability to listen carefully to the brief and come up with practical and beautiful solutions. House 1 is a joy to live in – everything is so well designed that it works brilliantly. There are a couple of features that make the house extra special – they weren’t particularly expensive but really added value to the house. He created an energy-efficient, peaceful environment that everyone enjoys. I can’t wait to move into House 2.“