Frequently Asked Questions
- What is an architect?
- What does a consulting architect do?
- What fees do architects charge?
- Will my project be approved by council faster if I use an architect?
- If I use an architect will that guarantee approval of the submitted design?
- What is a professional?
- What does an architect design?
An architect is usually a university qualified, multi-skilled professional who, in order to legally use the title, is required to pass government sponsored examination and then be registered with the Board of Architects in the particular State or Territory where the work is undertaken. The various State Boards of Architects administer specific consumer protection legislation which is contained in each state’s Architects Act. The architect is therefore a building design professional accredited by the government to meet at least minimum standards to provide building design, documentation and contract administration services to the general public.
Whilst the popular view of the architect’s role in a project is to provide only the design, architects are skilled in a wide range of facets of the building industry and process. In order to obtain maximum benefit from your architect, your should engage your architect to provide full services giving the opportunity for the design intent to be fully expressed in the completed project. Full architectural services involve the architect in site evaluation, assisting in formulation of the brief and a realistic budget, design, documentation, authority approvals, tendering the work and contract administration. Throughout this process, the architect can be involved in the co-ordination of other consultants and cost and quality control. As with other professionals, architects tend to specialize and it is generally wise to engage an architect experienced with the type of project you are interested in building.
Many architects are able to provide other specialist services such as landscape design, interior design, building diagnostics, measured surveys of existing premises, heritage and other reports including building compliance, dilapidation surveys, fire reinstatement, feasibility studies and expert witness.
Architects’ fees are commonly charged as a percentage of the project cost, an agreed lump sum or a time charge. However, they may be a combination of these. A percentage fee is a proportion of the cost of the project. All the ways of an architect being compensated for the work done will be based on a number of factors including the size and complexity of the project. Importantly the fee will also reflect the education and qualifications required to be an architect and the particular architect’s skill and reputation. Small or simple projects will normally attract a lower total fee than those that are large or complex. Usually it will not include the services of other consultants or authority fees.
It should be anticipated that expenses which are unusual or outside the original agreed scope of the engagement and not included in the base fees, will occur during the provision of architectural services and should be clearly identified in the Agreement that you sign with your architect. These are usually referred to in agreements and invoices as either reimbusables or disbursements and can include things like courier fees, additional copies of documents, fees paid on your behalf to authorities, 3D representations of the proposal usually called perspectives and the like.
The short answer is no. There are no express lanes for submissions documented by architects, or by anyone else for that matter. Councils have approvals processes which have finite or even statutory minimum time frames such as advertising, internal assessment and reporting and scheduled council meetings. Nothing can be done to hurry the process except with the assessment and reporting process. An architect who is diligent in the time consuming process of ensuring all the documents and information council requires is available from the first moment the application is made, will have made the best effort in encouraging the actual approval process is as short as possible. Delays in approvals occur when council officers have to request additional information, clarification or more complete documentation. Apart from having to wait for replies, the assessor will have to re-familiarise himself with the particulars of the project when the information is finally made available and the application once again becomes next in line, all of which takes extra time.
Council has to assess each application on its merits. An architect will give a project every chance of being approved through the pre-lodgement processes adopted. These processes can include being familiar with the council codes, planning instruments and regulations and applying them to the particular design. Pre-lodgement meetings with council will also help in making the eventual assessor of the application conversant with the design, the aspirations of the architect and client and the particular interpretation of the regulations. There will be times when, despite the best efforts of your architect, council does not see eye-to-eye with your proposal or the interpretation of the planning rules. At this point there are three options; abandon the project, acquiesce with council and change the design to a submission with which council is able to approve or submit the design and expect to have to justify it to a higher authority once refusal has occurred. In all states there is a court of review of local government decisions where applicants can ask to have the refusal reviewed and determined. Both the applicant and the council put their case and the subsequent judgement is final.
Architects are trained to be and are bound to act as professionals. Modern usage has the term “professional” being applied to anyone who has a job or makes money from what they are good at. We now have professional surfers, professional footballers, professional buskers and even in the national newspapers mention was made of a professional racing pig! The pig is the professional not the trainer! To properly describe someone as a professional is to say that they put their client’s and the community’s needs before their own. In short, they are there to do their best for their client without consideration of self advancement. This is not to say that an architect is not to be properly and fully compensated for applying their knowledge, training and reputation during the time spent on a client’s project. It means that the fees received will be the only reward directly gained from a commission. Recognition of a job well done by the wider community is an unexpected but welcome bonus.
An architect designs the spaces, both internal and external, which accommodate the requirements of the client, referred to as the brief. The relationship and connection of those spaces, horizontal and vertical connections, the partial or full enclosure with walls, floors and ceilings of those spaces are part of the process. The requirement for physical and visual transparency of the surfaces by including windows, doors, roof lights and so on in the enclosing surfaces are all important elements in the way the building reacts with occupants. The external image of the building not only has to satisfy the client’s brief but also the community’s expectations contained in local government planning codes which the architect has to consider to finalise an acceptable design. The aim of the design is to build a useful building. The drawings produced are only a way of explaining the design to the client, the approval authorities and the contractors.