We’re big fans of efficiency, in both design and process. When we launched Robeson Architects, we wanted to do things a little differently from other firms we had worked at. So, we chose to focus on what matters the most – the design – and reduce superfluous busywork and unnecessary back and forth.
The solution is our systematic design process, which is outlined below. We require clients to sign-off on the work completed at each stage, to minimise re-work and ensure programs are met. Project cost estimates are also provided at several key points in the process, as no one likes surprises when it comes to budgets.
We are all for modern technologies and work practices; we work from a cloud-based system, use an integrated project management system and the most advanced BIM modelling software available, Revit.
Please email us for a PDF detailing the stages summarised below, along with stage deliverables.
Stage A. Pre-designThis stage is all about background research prior to putting pen to paper. We work with you to develop a detailed brief outlining the way your family lives, everything from where you drop your bag when you walk into the house to how you want to feel when you wake up in the morning. We’ll also help you gather images that visually represent the look and mood you’d like your new home to have.
This deep dive also involves detailing the programmatic brief and determining what type of rooms are needed, how many and at what size. We spend time here considering the different zones, how they’ll interact, and yes, how to design around that grand piano you’ve had in storage.
We’ll look into the property particulars, such as any easements and restrictive covenants, relevant local council planning policies, town-planning schemes, R-codes or other requirements from authorities such as Heritage, Water Corp, Western Power and MRA. We have a strong understanding of the boxes that need to be ticked for each authority; this ensures fewer surprises down the track.
Finally, we carry out a detailed site analysis, considering the views, prevailing breezes, site levels and neighbouring buildings, and arrange for it to be surveyed. We collate all the information collected into templates for your records and then commence the fun stuff – concept design.
Stage B. Concept designEnter trace paper! This is where we’ll start to develop a design concept, by way of hand-drawn sketches, 3D computer models, floor plans, elevations and other drawings. We’ll determine the general layout, organise the required rooms in a logical and efficient manner and look for opportunities to create some special spaces and highlight features. We’re anti waste, so we like to keep circulation areas such as corridors to a minimum so we can allocate the budget to areas you’ll actually use.
This stage also involves environmental and sunlight studies to track how the sun enters your home through the seasons. Passive design principles are integral to our work; sustainability is not just a buzzword to us! Good design always takes into consideration the direction of the sun and any breezes to ensure a home is as comfortable as possible with minimal mechanical heating and cooling.
We’ll research construction methods and core building materials and products to determine which will be most suited to the project. The final concept design is then presented, with floor plans showing the approximate size and location of rooms. 3D perspective images will reveal the intended bulk and form of the building along with external materials, finishes and colour scheme. Based on the feedback we receive, the design will be developed and refined until it’s something the client is excited about. To date, we haven’t had to provide a second concept design – although we’d happily do so if the first one didn't hit the spot.
Stage C. Design developmentOnce the concept has been approved by the client, we’ll start locking in all the external building elements such as room dimensions, ceiling and building heights, windows, doors and external materials and finishes. The design is built in our computer modelling software, Revit. This allows us to navigate around and walk-through a 3D render of the proposed structure and show what it will look like from every angle. The software also allows us to forecast the amount of winter and summer sun that will ingress into the home – a useful tool for planning passive heating and cooling.
We’ll then prepare the Development Application set of drawings and documents for submission to local council. This is the first major milestone and it generally takes 2-3 months to get to this point. The local council assessment period can vary greatly as it depends on the council's current workload, the opinion of the assessor, and whether they require neighbour consultation periods. We recommend allowing a minimum of three months for this process.
Stage D. Construction documentationOnce we have Development Approval (yippee!) we’ll charge on with the nitty gritty: the documentation stage. This sees the preparation of drawings and specification with enough detail to allow for pricing and construction. The 'tighter' the documentation, the more accurate the pricing will be and the less room for interpretation during construction.
We invest time here to deeply consider how the building will be put together so we can provide a high level of detail to assist the builder and streamline the construction process.
This stage also sees us design all landscaping structural items, paved areas, stair details, ceiling plans, wet areas and cabinetry layouts – the whole shebang, in other words. We’ll also document the electrical layout; considering the best locations for power points and networking and smart home technologies. We’re suckers for a good lighting scheme, so we’ll think about every detail and fitting, down to the most user-friendly locations for the light switches.
We’ll also coordinate a host of other required consultants, such as the structural engineer, energy consultant and building surveyor. We then work with you to finalise our architectural specification (usually in the order of 40 pages) detailing every finish and selection in the building, along with instructions on their installation or treatment. This final drawing and document package is then lodged with local council to receive a building permit so construction can start. This suite of documents also allows the builder to provide a detailed cost estimate. Allow up to 3 months for this stage, pending the schedule of consultants and clients.
Stage E or F. Tender or negotiated contractThere are two ways to select a builder: through what is formally called a 'negotiated contract' or by a tender process. The first involves shortlisting and selecting one builder to work with early in the design process – usually at the Concept Design stage. The benefit of this approach is we can check-in with them throughout the process to ensure the design is within budget, and receive their valuable construction advice along the way.
A tender involves shortlisting three builders, whereby they receive the final drawing and documentation package that has been produced and submit a bid. It can be argued that a tender process pressures builders to provide more competitive pricing; the flipside is that a lower price may mean omissions, and hence variations down the track. We prefer to engage builders on a negotiated contract, and always advocate paying a fair price for quality construction. This approach results in fewer surprises, as you are not waiting until the documentation is complete before obtaining a final price.
However, we can manage either approach on behalf of the client. We can recommend suitable builders, plus negotiate their fees and those of any sub-contractors. We do this day in, day out, so can very quickly ascertain if pricing is fair. Our expertise also allows us to offer suggestions on where money can be saved, in addition to where extra spend is justified in order to get the best quality product.
Stage G. Contract administrationAka construction! This is when the design comes to life and things get exciting. We carry out various tasks during this stage. Our main job is to attend regular site meetings with the builder and ensure the project is built in accordance with the documentation package. This involves resolving any issues or queries they may have. There is only so much information a 2D drawing can express about a 3D object (your home!) so queries are expected and normal.
We also assess progress payment claims submitted by the builder, to ensure you are paying for what has been built. We take both written and photographic records of all meetings and building progress. We’ll review mock-ups and assess work samples, such as testing an area of a polished concrete slab, or a feature brickwork sample prior to work proceeding. Drawings from trades such as the cabinetmaker or steel worker also need to be reviewed and approved prior to fabrication. Inaccuracies are common, so engaging us to keep a look out at this stage is a sound investment.
While we encourage our clients to attend the regular site meetings, we understand that's not always possible. We will always attend in order to represent your interests and keep you updated on all progress.
This stage culminates in handover day, the date when the builder gives you the keys to your new home. There is usually wine involved.
Stage H. Interior designThis stage is included in our Full Service package, but can also be offered as a stand-alone service. We love interiors, and have won a bunch of awards for them in recent years. We believe the inside of your home should be an extension of the architecture – an important consideration when producing a cohesive, high-quality house.
We will design every in-built cabinetry piece, including selecting the materials and finishes. Detailed drawings reveal every tiny detail, down to the benchtop edges and handles. Every aspect will be completely customised to suit your preferences, and the project.
Not surprisingly, this nitty-gritty stage requires another detailed briefing – we’ll need to know how many pairs of shoes you have, your preferred ratio of hanging space to folding storage, and whether you’re a collector of obscure kitchen appliances. We believe an organised home is the pathway to happiness, so we like to make sure all your treasured items are right where you need them to be!
In addition to the cabinetry design, we’ll also present options for tapware and plumbing fixtures, lighting, floor and wall tiling and paint colours. It’s a comprehensive package and involves plenty of grunt work to research and curate the selections for your approval. Of course, you’re welcome to be hands-on at this stage too – we’ll even accompany you to the showrooms and help you make the selections.
We have a curated list of suppliers we use regularly and can recommend. A bonus of engaging our interior design services is our ability to pass on our access to trade pricing, for a small service fee. Usually this stage runs concurrently with the Construction Documentation stage.