On the basis that you already have a site to build on, or you are looking for a site, or you want to improve your existing home, arrange a meeting with the designer on site to discuss the merits of the site or the existing house. Important issues such as orientation (northern aspects most important), site levels and contours, views, features such as existing trees, neighbours properties and buildings, access to services (water, sewerage, power and gas). This meeting can take place before any designs are discussed as the above issues may have some influence on the outcome of the design.



After the site meeting, the design meeting can take place whereby the client will speak of their requirements for accommodation, style and budget. Often the client has seen homes that may be close to what they want or they have prepared their own sketches. All of these are particularly useful as they give an insight as to the personality and needs of the client as the design progresses. A family lifestyle questionaire will help the designer understand the needs of the client. At this point it is a good idea to arrange a contour & feature survey of the site as it will provide an accurate 'picture' of the site in terms of the north point, dimensions of boundary lines and angles, levels, contours showing slopes, retaining walls, existing trees and landscaping, position of all the services, existing buildings on site and neighbouring, condition and position of fences, condition of street verge including footpaths, kerbs and crossovers. This contour and feature plan becomes an essential part of the future process for Planning applications, Building license applications as well as for site preparation costings.



The designer will then, with the knowledge gleaned from the site and design meeting, make an assessment of his costs and provide a written quote, as a best estimate, broken into various stages: 
•    Design. 
•    Planning/Estimating. 
•    Construction.
Fees are based on either an hourly rate ($132.00 per hour inc. GST) or a percentage of the construction contract figure (varies between 2% to 4%). The fee would then be assessed on the complexity of the job. There is no charge for any work done up to the confirmation of the fee by the client. The site and design meetings are not charged for until the client approves the fees. The work is invoiced after the completion of each stage and the client can withdraw at any stage and is only liable for work done.



Following confirmation of the fees, the Designer will prepare a sketch based on the early site and design meetings as well as the family lifestyle questionaire. Consultation with the client will occur during this process so that the design is developed with their approval. Although the budget is important, at this preliminary stage getting the design working is most critical. A preliminary brief specification is prepared. It is possible at this stage to approximately assess the cost of the design by using a square meter rate and this will allow some control over the process.



With the general acceptance of the design and specifications, a meeting should be arranged with prospective Builders who have expressed an interest in being involved in quoting the job. This may include the clients own Builder and it is up to the client to nominate who else they would like to quote. The Designer may also suggest Builders that would be suitable and competitive for the job. The Builder or Builders will prepare a preliminary costing based on the preliminary plans and specifications. Consultation may then occur with the client and the Builder to discuss the cost and attend to any budget overruns. These overruns can be addressed by a review of the design or the specifications. Sketch revisions can take place to bring back to budget if required.



The next stage in the process is to prepare a Planning application for the Council concerned. Not all jobs require a Planning application and this can be determined at an early stage. The biggest drawback for the Planning process is the amount of time taken by the local authority to approve (or otherwise). However, the process may involve consultation with neighbours, if it is intended to seek variations on the Residential Planning Codes for elements such as height, proximity to boundaries, privacy and or overshading. However, it is useful to remember that these requirements are in place for your protection as well as your new neighbours. Some Councils can take up to 60 days for this planning process and it can be a frustration to the eager prospective new home builder. However, this time can be used to finalise specifications and any minor details in the design so that you are ready for the next part of the process.


Prepare estimating drawings from the final sketches and Planning application drawings. The estimating drawings will provide enough information to allow the Builder to present an accurate price to the client. An addendum to the specification will also be upgraded to present a full inventory of the materials and finishes to be employed. Consultants, Engineer, CDC, Energy Efficiency, Electrical, Hydraulic etc., can be approached to provide quotes for their services.


With estimating drawings, specifications and addendum, the job can be let out, or tendered to select Builders. On receipt of the prices, the client can negotiate with the Builders to make a final selection and any final adjustments to the design and specification.


With the finalization of design and price, the construction drawings can now be prepared. Consultants will be engaged to prepare their drawings. On completion of the drawings, the CDC (see below) and Energy Efficiency Certification (see below) can be arranged and may then require drawings to be adjusted to comply. All local government authorities in Australia require each new building or renovation to comply with the National Construction Code (NCC, formerly the Building Code of Australia) and to meet certain energy efficiency regulations (‘6 STAR’) before they can be granted a building permit. 


A qualified and registered Building Surveyor can certify that a building permit application meets and achieves relevant building regulations, requirements and applicable construction and design standards through the completion and signing of a Certificate of Design Compliance (CDC). The Permit Authority is then able to issue the permit within the prescribed time 10 Business day time frame.

A building permit application may be made to the permit authority without using a registered building surveyor to certify compliance with the applicable building standards. This is referred to as an uncertified application. A CDC is not submitted with an uncertified application and the permit authority must appoint an independent building surveyor to check the proposal and provide the CDC. An uncertified permit application can take up to 25 days compared to a legally enforced 10 days for a privately certified application.
A CDC is prepared using a BA3 form.



For residential buildings, there are 3 accepted methods in use that demonstrate energy efficiency compliance in Australia, and 1 new method that is being introduced in 2016.

1. 6-Star method
The House Energy Rating (6 Star Rating) method is the most common form of assessment for its ease of understanding and quantifiable assessment rating. The assessment process involves modelling the proposed building using thermal modelling software. The final result is a star rating, which correlates to the amount of energy required to heat and cool the building to a comfortable temperature year-round. The higher the star rating, the less energy is required by the building. Since 2010, a 6 star minimum efficiency rating has been the requirement in most of Australia, however variations of 5 and 4 star standards have been in place since 2003. The house energy rating method is the fastest and easiest method for demonstrating energy efficiency compliance.

2. DTS method
The Elemental Provisions method, previously known as the Deemed-to-Satisfy (DTS) method, came into usage in 2003 when energy efficiency provisions were first introduced in the Building Code of Australia (BCA). The assessment process involves comparing the proposed building's construction to the standards prescribed in the NCC. The assessment results in a strict pass or fail result with no flexibility.

3. VURB method
The Verification Using a Reference Building (VURB) method has become an increasingly popular method of assessment that combines the practices of the House Energy Rating method and the Elemental Provisions method. The assessment process involves modelling and comparing the proposed building to a reference building that is compliant with the elemental provisions. The benefits of the VURB method are its flexibility and cost effectiveness for compliance for certain building types. Due to its increased complexity, the assessment does take a little while longer to complete than the other methods.

4. VUSV method
The Verification Using a Stated Value (VUSV) method is rolling out in 2016 as a simple assessment method that compares a building’s efficiency against a baseline thermal load metric. Similar to the house energy rating method, the process for a VUSV assessment involves modelling the proposed building using thermal modelling software. Unlike the house energy rating method however, the final outcome of a VUSV assessment is simply a pass or fail result.


With all documentation prepared, including architectural drawings, specifications, Engineer drawings, CDC, Energy Certificate and any other consultant drawings, the selected Builder can now prepare the Building Contract with the agreed contract figure for the client to sign. There are a variety of Contracts, fixed-price through to cost-plus, so before signing the client must negotiate with the Builder as to what suits them best.


The Builder is now in a position to submit all documents to Council, including architectural drawings, specifications, Engineer drawings, CDC, Energy Certificate and any other consultant drawings. If the CDC has been submitted with the BA18, then the building license will be issued to the Builder in 10 working days. This approval time can only be extended if there is any further information required by Council.


The adventure begins. The Builder will have indicated the expected time for construction and a happy, cooperative relationship will make the experience a pleasant and fruitful one. Good luck.