Key ActivitiesPrint

​​​​​This stage will be more intensive for you if you are building a Custom Design house, as the design will be unique to your project, rather than based on standard design options. Below are the differences in the concept and preliminary design phase between the three main procurement options.

Custom Design
Designs are unique and tailored to fulfil your needs. You must play a more active role since you need to work alongside designers to achieve optimum results. 

Design & Build
The degree of customisation increases depending on what is agreed with the builder. If the builder has a set of standard plans the options may be limited, but if a designer is engaged the project may be adjusted to your needs.

Group Housing
Clients choose the option that best suits their requirements  from a set of standard designs. The degree of customisation is minimal.

Once a design team is engaged, both you and the design team take on the responsibilities below.


Hand over documents
Before designers can begin they need to review the documents you have gathered in preparing for your project. These may include council documents and reports from external advisors hired in the process.

Going through the Design Brief with the design team at this stage can provide new insights into existing requirements and point out gaps in the Design Brief. 
Get involved
Being an active part of the design process is essential, but allowing designers to develop their ideas is just as important.

You can request visual aids to better understand how the project is evolving. Simple 3D computer models or fly-through​ such as those produced in Sketchup are excellent tools and act as a reality check.

You will need to sign off the design at key stages, and at these points you should discuss all aspects of the design with your design team. Only accept proposals that you completely understand. It is important to remember that changes become more costly and time consuming as the project advances, so clear and timely feedback in the early design stages is vital.
Review the project team
At the end of this first design stage, take time to review the designers and question if they are the right team to continue the process. Keep in mind that the most complex part of the design process is still ahead, and a tough decision at this moment can avoid more complicated problems in the future.

In addition, revise the list of sub-consultants or separate consultants and, if they are not yet engaged, discuss with the designers the right time for them to get involved. If you have opted for an integrated design process, it is likely that input from other parties is already being included in the design. 
Keep written records
Regardless of how your relationship with the design team evolves, keeping written confirmation of key decisions is a good way of tracking progress and could help settle disputes if they arise. This habit is also useful for interactions with the council. Keeping track of the requirements and issues that need to be considered during the consent application process will prevent the team from gathering incorrect or insufficient information.

Using an online resource like a blog or Facebook is also a good idea, as it allows you to store photos and includes the date that information was uploaded. This can be very important if any disputes arise.

What to expect from your designer

Establish project milestones
In order to have a fluent design process it is important to define key stages for interaction between you and the design team. Communication can be kept casual for most of the process, with periodic meetings to inform you about progress, review alternatives and receive feedback.

However, it is important to define the formal moments where stages are signed off, and after which making significant changes will incur additional charges. Agreed decisions should always be recorded in meeting minutes, no matter how informal they may seem.
Analyse the site
Responding to the site’s features and characteristics is essential for good design. Understanding the opportunities and limitations the site presents will help designers produce a house that belongs to the site and makes the most of it. Talking to neighbours during the design stage and factoring in their concerns in the design response may also improve the outcome, in addition to nurturing what will be a long-lasting relationship.

Design Statements​ are a good mechanism for designers to record what they have learned about the site (site analysis) and present their findings to you in a clear and simple way. A simple set of drawings can be used to convey understanding of physical characteristics of the site and an ‘Opportunities and Constraints Analysis’ can summarise key elements that will influence future design decisions. 
Define primary elements of design
After they have discussed the Design Brief with you, any doubts or issues have been raised, and the site analysis has been completed, designers should have a clear idea of how to approach the project and should be able to produce alternatives for you to review. Diagrams, models and general drawings will be helpful when exploring the different possibilities. These will later be assessed with you to determine which one provides the best solution to the Design Brief and context.

After deciding on a general form and layout, the design team can begin to refine the proposal by adding more detail to the drawings, including dimensions, key materials, and allowance for special systems. 

Prioritise passive design

Finding ways to make the most of the surrounding environment will be cost-effective and will have a great impact on internal comfort and future energy use. Passive solar is a key element of good design and can help your project to: 

  • capture the sun’s energy for heating and wind for cooling
  • retain the sun’s warmth using adequate window placement and thermal mass.
  • reduce or eliminate the need for heating and cooling systems and the energy to run them
See the Sustainability​ hub for more information on passive solar design.​
Coordinate sub-consultants or separate consultants
Sub-consultants or separate consultants can be engaged to complement the design and provide technical solutions to the house’s different systems, e.g. heating and water supply.  The design team should determine the correct time to involve them, take them through the project to ensure they fully understand it, coordinate their progress, and incorporate their input.

The early stages of design are essential to developing integrated solutions that minimise the impact on the design and building process,  and maximise outcomes, so good communication and a coordinated approach are vital.​

If you are pursuing certification, sustainability consultants will play a key role from the start of the project as the design is likely to be influenced by the scheme’s requirements. They will be able to advise on the required features to meet the objectives and the right time to incorporate them in the design.​
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