before you build

The Design Brief: What Service Should Your Architect Provide?

  • Creation Date: Thursday, 09 May 2019

 Building a house is a huge investment that hopefully will grow to well beyond what you paid.

Like your investment manager, your architect has the responsibility of giving you a return on that investment both financially and in lifestyle.

The first issue that your architect should be dealing with is your choice of building style.

This could be anything from a modern steel and glass structure to a modest 50 sq m cottage. In today's world, there are a number of really good alternative building systems on the market, one of which will suit the look you want to create, your lifestyle and your budget. Your architect should be presenting these choices to you and assisting you to weigh up the merits of each one.

One or other building system may also be more suitable for the plot that you are looking at building on. The design of any system should take the surrounding area into consideration as views, sunlight wind and rain all play an important part in design. It will also play an important part in maximizing the investment potential of the property.


The next issue would be to look at designing that structure around your lifestyle.

It is no good designing a large kitchen if you are a microwave cook, or a small kitchen if it is traditionally a family gathering place. (See “Designing and Building your Kitchen .”) If you live both indoors and outdoors, then the access and flow to the patio and braai area become important. If you like entertaining then the design should take this into account. This exercise should be taken right through every room in the house including bathrooms, bedrooms, laundry, storage areas and a few others that you can think of.

Apart from the physical placing of walls and creating spaces, light and ventilation play a huge role in making the living spaces comfortable and the placement of windows is an important design consideration. Lights too can make or break even the best of designs and this is a really important element that your architect should be spending a lot of time on.

There are also the many areas in your home where the proper design will create that “wow” factor for you and your architect should be looking at introducing these items into the design for you.


Then comes the drawing.

The more detailed the drawing the more accurate the builder's quote will be. This could save you thousands.

More to the point, your architect should produce a full specification for your project. (See “Your House Specifications .”)

This will give the builders a fixed document to quote on and you will have a good comparison when looking at the various tenders. Without it your builder could be quoting on and building anything.

The phase that you will be paying all your money out on is the building phase and if your architect is not going to represent you by keeping an eye on the construction from start to finish, then you will be at the mercy of your builder. In the building industry you definitely only get what you are prepared to pay for. Your architect will, in any event, be required by law to certify that what has been built is in accordance with their drawings and that the building meets the requirements of the National Building Regulations.

The last point that I want to ask is whether you are prepared to pay the fees an architect normally asks in order for them to provide you with all of the above?  If you take those fees in relation to your peace of mind and the size of your investment then it is worth considering. (See "How to Avoid a Bad Building Experience.")

Building can be a good experience. It just depends on how you approach it.

Articles and Photographs Courtesty of:

Les Abbott. PrArch.

L  A Design Studio