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.
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. An example is The Westgarth Timber Project where 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. For example Beyond house uses an efficient electric heat pump hydronic heating system when required and produces much of that electricity on site.
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.
“We hired Ben to design our new home in Northcote and we could not be happier with that decision. From the outset he listened and understood the brief of light; trees and breeze with connectedness and retreat. Sustainability and our budget were always masterfully matched. Ben is an excellent communicator and we were so thankful he project managed the build which meant much less stress for us and an exceptional end product. We would highly recommend Ben to deliver a brilliant design; a transparent process; an eye for detail and all delivered with calm efficient professionalism.“
“From the first meeting, we were inspired by Ben’s creativity, openness, and ability to look at things differently. Ours was a difficult project – a south facing, dark, single fronted terrace with a heritage overlay. Ben’s solution – to curve the roof upwards to allow in northern light – was both beautiful and practical. The design delivered all the things we wanted in our renovation – more light, more space, more openness. But also a stunningly beautiful space to admire every day as well. Ben was really easy to work with. He was always open to our crazy ideas, never precious about his own, and added in a tonne of little details that make living in our place such a pleasure now. We’d certainly recommend Ben.“
“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 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.“