How to Choose a Builder, Designer or Architect
It is critical to choose the right expert to help you with your home - as the wrong choice could be costly.
Some Advice From the Experts
"Whether you're looking for an architect, builder or designer, there are numerous ways to find the right people for the job," says Robert Caulfield, managing director of Archicentre, the building advisory service of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects. "The first thing to do is to ask family, friends and colleagues for recommendations - it's always good to have someone that comes by referral."
Another step in the right direction is to take note of properties and renovations that appeal to you as you drive around the area you reside in. "If you've seen work that you like, it's generally not difficult to find out who the architect or builder was," adds Caulfield. If you're in need of an architect, Caulfield points out that you can take advantage of Archicentre's client/architect matching service. "When people call, we discuss their budget and what exactly they want to do, and we will match them up with a registered architect in their area, someone who will know local builders and subcontractors, understands weather and environmental conditions in the area, and is familiar with local council regulations."
A similar service applies for builders. The building and construction industry is presided over by the Master Builders Association of Australia, and your relevant state or territory branch of the association will help you to locate a registered Master Builder in your area.
"There is a licensing system for builders in every state, and your number-one priority should be to make sure the builder you employ is registered," says Caulfield. "You can contact the Builders' Registration Board or the equivalent board in your state to check registration."
When looking to hire a builder, be alert to anyone who suggests you take on the owner/builder mantle for a discounted price. "This will often indicate that the builder is not registered, or has been struck off for bad practice," Caulfield warns.
Interior designers and decorators best come personally recommended, advises Caulfield. "You do not need to be qualified or registered to set yourself up as an interior designer or decorator, so ask plenty of questions and make sure your consultant is qualified and is completely independent and not receiving any kickbacks by selling products," he says.
The key to making a confident choice is to always get at least three quotes. This will give you some insight into what different companies have to offer in terms of the service they provide. In addition, price can vary enormously from company to company, and having this knowledge can give you some bargaining power.
Once you've spoken to a professional about a quote, you want to obtain as much information about the services they provide as possible. The most efficient way to do this is to have a list of questions ready. Things you need to know include:
1. Whether the business is licensed and insured.
2. Exactly what the quote covers and how long it is valid for.
3. Whether the quote covers DA applications.
4. Whether the architect or builder has access to a network of licensed professionals (electricians, plumbers etc).
5. A clear outline of fees, which should be itemised.
6. Whether references are available and if you are able to view previous work.
7. Whether the company has a lot of experience in creating the look you are after (whether it be modern or traditional).
8. Whether the company uses eco-friendly design principles that save on energy and water.
You should expect your consultant to be able to answer all queries without hesitation, and they should also be asking questions - it's a sure sign they have experience in meeting the needs of their clients.
To avoid any unpleasant surprises when building or renovating your home, it is imperative you understand that the process from design to completion is necessarily long and all parties involved must have a clear understanding of each other's position.
"For starters, the client and architect or builder must have a clear brief and a fee agreement in place. During the building phase, you need to have concise and accurate working drawings and a contract that is sufficiently detailed, includes start and finish dates and fees, and states that there are unlikely to be any variations," Caulfield explains. "That way, you can proceed with confidence."
It's essential that any architect or builder you hire is registered - this guarantees you are hiring a professional. All architects in Australia, as well as being fully qualified with a university degree and around two years of practical experience, must be registered with the Architect Registration Board, or equivalent body, in their state. Builders are licensed in most states and should also be registered, which guarantees they are qualified to do the job.
To find an expert to assist with your building project or home renovations, contact the following organisations:
1. Archicentre - the building advisory service of the Royal Institute of Architects. For helpful advice, you can ‘Ask an Architect' on the website. Visit www.archicentre.com.au or call 1300 134 513.
2. The Building Design Profession provides an Environmental Design Guide, which is written by independent experts and gives up-to-date environmental knowledge across the building industry. Visit www.architecture.com.au/edg
3. The Design Institute of Australia offers an online referral service that can match interior designers to your specific project needs. Visit www.dia.org.au and click on ‘DIA Referral Service', or call 1300 888 056 .
4. The ECOdirectory is an online resource that will help you find eco-conscious architects, builders and designers. Visit www.eco.com.au/directory
5. The Master Builders Association of Australia has an online facility that helps you to ‘Find a Master Builder in Your Area'. Visit www.masterbuilders.com.au