• A chartered architect has studied a 5 year degree, obtained work experience, passed a board entry exam and is registered with the RAIA. Building designers generally have a building background and/or some TAFE study but no specific qualifications are required to call oneself a “building designer”. A member of the BDA (Building Designers Association) must demonstrate a degree of competency in the field, hold Professional Indemnity Insurance and undergo CPD (Continuing Professional Development). Most councils will accept house plans prepared by a designer with no qualifications (you can even design your own house), a few councils only accept BDA members or architects.

  • Yes, if we’re talking housing. I don’t do commercial buildings or multi storey units. I submit plans to council that look just the same as architect prepared drawings.

  • Passive solar is just sensible design that doesn’t necessarily cost any more up front. If you’re building for the poor, you have to design passive solar because they can’t afford the high running costs of bad design.

    If you’re having trouble meeting budget – reduce the floor area, not the passive solar benefit. Allowing $2000/ sqm. for conventional construction, a bit of design work on floor plan reduction can save a lot of money.

    Plenty of modern materials are compatible with passive solar.

  • I don’t have any particular look in mind. Often the client has stronger preferences than me so I’ll use that as a guide. I insist that a house is functional and thermally comfortable. My creative juices flow around what the house feels like to be in. I’ll think about daylight, materials, ceiling changes and the relationship to the landscape.

    Most architects I know are mostly interested in what it looks like from the outside. You want to be careful not to get sucked into an industry that is obsessed with image. Many clients are bullied by their designer to build a house they can’t afford or isn’t actually very good because the architect is going for a smick looking portfolio photo.

  • It’s hard to say because “the devil is in the detail”. Detail takes time and time is money. If you checked out the “Services” section of this overcomplicated website, a full package using everything listed there might cost you 3.5- 5% of the construction cost. So our fee for a $300 000 house might be $11,000 – $15,000. Fees are charged on an hourly rate up to a cap, after which you pay no more. So a smooth and easy job should be a bit cheaper.

    Consultations are $100/hr including travel. A common service is 3hr on site + travel for a garden consult.

    Some things I do for free:
    Show people around my garden by appointment and have a chat about permaculture.

    Discuss a project you have in mind, including a site visit if local.

    Advise and mentor students and young designers (or old ones learning new tricks). If you need a lot of help, then I might charge for consultancy, which should be passed on as a cost to the client.

    If you are DIY designer on the cheap and need just a bit of help: That’s OK, I could consult.

  • The brief is where you write down what you want from the project. It’s the big question, the problem that needs solving. Easy, isn’t it? Not usually. If you use too many words and go into all sorts of detail then the central goals will get buried amongst a thousand other wild and less important ideas. Most people aren’t good at economically explaining the essence of the problem. Or they give a whole lot of solutions that don’t define the problem. Don’t worry, we won’t grab the first thing you say and run off to work. More likely you’ll lie on the couch, relax and talk the whole thing through. We’ll nod attentively, comment perceptively and start when everyone is sure of exactly what you want. Seriously, it’s worth spending the time to get the brief right. If the brief is wrong, you probably won’t get what you wanted.

  • We meet up, determine scope of work, I quote, you accept, we define the brief. The first stage of design involves talking, sketching, arm waving, domestic arguments (sometimes between clients, sometimes between designers) and throwing around a whole lot of wild ideas. A concept takes shape and is built into the 3D computer model which gradually develops in quality and detail. We’ll meet at intervals to discuss and refine the concept. When you agree that you’re happy with the concept I’ll develop working drawings – i.e. adding more detail relevant to council and the builder. It rarely happens but if you significantly change the concept at working drawings stage, you might be charged extra.

    Occasionally I am asked to project manage or supervise. The installation of insulation is critical and I’d recommend contract advice and supervision of that.

  • As far as you like if you pay for travel. Keep in mind that design is best with plenty of face to face time, so there may be some disadvantage there.

  • Sorry, not for you (I build at my own place only. Same for gardening). We put you in touch with good builders that we trust.

  • Either.

  • Any or all of the core services of building design, landscape design, water/wastewater design. If you are using another architect for house design and want us for landscape/water, a better result can be achieved with a collaborative process where we are involved during the design process (not at the end).

  • “Permaculture (Permanent Agriculture) is about designing sustainable settlements. It is a philosophy and an approach to land use which weaves together microclimate, annual and perennial plants, animals, soils, water management, and human needs into intricately connected, productive communities”. (Bill Mollison)

    Permaculture aims to grow the maximum amount of food near the household using the minimum amount of labour and imported resources in the minimum amount of space. Thus, as much land as possible can be returned back to nature.

  • Would love to – bring it on!

  • I’m glad you asked. Yes, generalists and opportunists will inherit the earth. In nature a specialist (e.g. an orchid) has a highly refined solution to a specific set of circumstances. They are successful if the circumstances remain predictable. A generalist is suited to variable circumstances – they make decisions on the fly, experiment and learn new strategies. They need decent brain power to operate in a flexible manner.

    As our environment is increasingly degraded, specialists are most vulnerable and generalists are more likely to adapt. We don’t like a lot of generalists, like cockroaches, rats, seagulls and crows although we begrudgingly acknowledge their survival skills. Other generalists include bower birds, bears, killer whales, beavers and … humans.

    Modern human society has organised a division of labour of specialists, most of whom are suspicious of generalists. Maybe they think that only a specialist can do a decent job. But to survive the environmental Armageddon, we need generalists. We need thinkers who observe a whole set of changing circumstances and react in new ways. Sustainability is multi disciplinary – it’s impossible to manage the subject properly without a multi disciplinary approach. Failure is often a result of a specialist not understanding the entire problem. Permaculturists are generalists and proud of it!